There were late nights when I wondered if I was a crazy fool, wasting time and money on a venture that would never pan out. I questioned the sanity of my friends and family, the ones who supported me even when my ship seemed to be sinking like a rock.
But the ship has survived and steadied itself — flourished even. Now I find myself content and comfortable. But like an old sailor who has been on land too long, I am getting that feeling in my bones again; the desire to dive back into the deep water, when the only thing I was sure of was an amazing adventure and a God who would not let me drown. It’s not a reckless urge; I have a mortgage and a kid now. But there is a confidence that comes in having made it through a terrifying storm, and seeing daybreak on the other side.
I wonder what God and I could do together next, perhaps even more amazing and world-changing than just building a company that helps others and provides for my family.
And so recently I’ve been bugging him.
“Let’s do more. I want to help even more people. I want to make a bigger impact. Use me.”
And a few months back, by myself on the majestic heights of the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction, I got a response. In typical God fashion, he replied with just one word. And like a grain of wheat, that one word contained within it fields of meaning. That’s how I’ve experienced God, at least. He doesn’t send me convoluted fortune cookie riddles that need to be deciphered by a prophet or priest, but rather very simple, concise messages that speak right into my heart.
I was off the beaten path, nestled between two great orange rocks overlooking a valley blotted with a patchwork of roads and homes. Wispy clouds graced the bright blue sky. I’d been hoping to have a conversation with him all day but my mind was too noisy and my will too weak. Finally, on that outcropping of stone, I was able to settle down enough to share what was on my mind. The tiny houses below me became symbols of all the people I’ve been able to inspire, encourage or entertain in some way over the past ten years. I became incredibly grateful that God could do so much good stuff with a regular kid from little ol’ Peru, Illinois. And then it struck me that even though the town in view contained a sizable population, it was obviously just a blip compared to the whole world. “There are so many people who need you,” I thought.
“I wanna help,” I offered. “I can do this. Let me help even more people.”
I had unloaded. I had made my request.
And then, nothing.
No peals of thunder. No massive earthquake. No clouds that magically spelled out a message in the sky.
“Ok,” I thought. “Well, the offer stands. Thanks for everything you’ve done so far.”
And then, as I got up to leave and head back to civilization, he responded in a whisper with one simple word: “Pray.”
And somehow, I knew exactly what he meant by it. It was not a yes or a no, but an instruction. Pray. As in, “Show me how much you really want this.” And more specifically, “There will be new and harder challenges up ahead. In order for this to work out well for you, you need to have a stronger foundation than you do now.”
See what I mean about getting a mountain of meaning out of one simple word?
God’s good like that.
Upon further reflection in the months that followed, I thought about scuba diving. Metaphorically, I mean. I’ve never been scuba diving, but I know it’s not something you just decide to do one day, jumping into the deepest part of the ocean to have a look-see.
To play out the metaphor, at this stage in my spiritual life, I’m a pretty good “swimmer.” That is, God is important to me, I have a relatively strong prayer life, and I’ve withstood some challenging tests. Now I’m asking for more; to go deeper. But in order to do that, I need to use scuba gear, which requires a different level of training. Trying to go deeper without the proper equipment and training will literally crush me, and God knows it. Although he would love for me to take the next step, he won’t let me until I’m ready. The choice of whether or not to take scuba lessons is entirely mine.
I think that’s how God works. He’s always calling us to a new level in our relationship with him. He is terribly patient and never pushy. He’s thrilled when we want to take the next step, but he never gives us too much to handle (with his help.)
And so my word of the year is “Pray.” I am trying to be more consistent, more committed. I don’t know what comes next (or when), but I am training. I’m learning how to scuba.
And when the time comes for me to jump off this boat into the swirling deep blue sea of the next adventure, I know I’ll be ready.