Fair Winds and Following Seas! or Thoughts on Leaving America

Fourteen years ago, Bridget and I sold our house in Houston, packed up our two children and moved across the pond to Oxford, England. I believe that's where I first had someone wish me, "Fair winds and following seas."  As I write this post, we are spending our last night in the U.S. before getting on the plane for an adventure of a different kind.  However, some things have not changed.

Leaving the U.S... Then and Now

In 2001 we had two children and took them both with us. Today, we leave those two children in the U.S. and travel with their seven younger siblings. In 2001, we moved so I could continue my education. Today, we move so I can help launch an institution that will advance the education of others. In 2001, England was our final destination. Today, we head to England for a 2 1/2 week preaching tour prior to departing for Zambia. It's as though God is giving us a reminder of the last journey through which he guided us. Oh, how we need that!

How God Used the England Move Prepare Us for This One

This journey has been filled with trials and difficulty, and, were it not for our previous experience, it would have been easy to doubt God along the way. However, our last journey taught us a great deal about what it means to “walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)  

Walking by faith means we must trust God to be who he says he is. Early on, we saw walking by faith as more of a ‘mystical’ experience. Every time something happened, we tried to poor a mystical meaning into it. The house didn’t sell when we thought it should… is that God saying no? But I got into the program I wanted… doesn’t that mean he’s saying yes? The endless rollercoaster was exhausting! Eventually, we had to learn to take God at his word… literally. We had to learn to view God through the lens of Scripture as opposed to the lens of our experience (or, worse yet, the lens of someone else’s sensationalized testimony about following God).

Walking by faith means we must wait on the Lord. Looking back on our past journey, we can see how God did all things in due season. Most often, that did not mean he did it according to our desired timetable. Nevertheless, it all got done. As the old song goes; “He may not come when you want him, but he’s always right on time!” We have been reminded of this truth again and again. Even now we have yet to secure our residence in Lusaka. Nevertheless, we wait on the Lord.

Walking by faith means little when there is no pain, hardship, or disappointment.  Granted, there are times when the Lord chastens us.  There are also times when our sin and foolishness bring consequences.  However, this does not mean that we are to view all difficulty as a sign of God's displeasure.  There is much more to it than that.

Walking by faith is is’t own reward. For the Christian, trusting God is not a means to an end; it is an end in itself. We don’t trust God ‘if’ so-and-so happens for us. We trust God because he is God. We trust him because he has not only demonstrated his faithfulness to his people, but because his character is unchanging. God has always been faithful, and he always will be. Therefore, we remind ourselves of our Lord’s words:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Where That Leaves Us Today

We have sought the wisdom of many counselors (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). We have counted the cost (Luke 14:25-35). We have submitted to those in spiritual authority over us (Heb. 13:17). And we continue to seek, ask, and knock (Matthew 7:7-11). Now, we must continue to remind ourselves that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)

We don’t know exactly what lay ahead. All we know for now is that, Lord willing, we leave America at 11:20am on Wednesday, August 5th, headed for Manchester, England. Then, after a time of ministry there, we board an Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner on August 23rd and arrive in Lusaka on August 24th. After that… we’ll see what God has in store, and we’ll walk by faith.