This morning, listening to the radio, I hear a song by Chris Tomlin, "I Will Follow." The chorus said, "Where You go I'll go, Where You stay I'll stay, When You move I'll move. I will follow."
Though only partly listening, the chorus caught my attention and I realized that while I've always pictured following God as being related to a location, that isn't necessarily the case. Actually, based on my experience over the last few years, following God may have nothing at all to do with a physical location and everything to do with the heart.
Let me explain; God has called me to journey into an emotional and spiritual desert. He hasn't left me alone, thankfully. But sometimes it is very, very lonely. And I haven't always embraced this journey as enthusiastically as I would if He called me to Africa or Thailand or Alaska (I have enthusiastically followed God's call to all three locations, for short term assignments) or somewhere I wanted to go. I haven't followed my Savior into this desert with the same excitement I might have, if the desert was a physical location, rather than an emotional experience, either. With a physical location, people can support you, encourage you, recognize the sacrifices you are making, and celebrate your obedience. With a spiritual or emotional desert, no one celebrates. Few understand, and fewer still celebrate. I certainly haven't.
I've sung songs like the one by Chris Tomlin, many times, with great sincerity. But, I'm not sure I'll sing them quite the same way again. Obedience is difficult; painful, even. It requires sacrifices that aren't always obvious, or easy. The benefits are definitely worth the sacrifice, and the rewards outweigh the pain, but pain and sacrifice are frequently involved.
When my daughter was invited to go on a mission trip to Africa, it required little pain or sacrifice (unless you count the shots required); she wanted to go. When we served lunch to the homeless at a local shelter, it required nothing more than time, and the blessings far outweighed the investment. Telling kids at the fair about Jesus as we painted their faces was a blast. When we help someone move, or help at an Operation Christmas Child collection center, or deliver a meal to a family recovering from illness, the sacrifices are minimal, the discomfort limited, the rewards abundant. My culture and community applaud my investment of time and energy, I feel good about what I've done, and (most of the time) I've had fun in the process.
When I love and nurture a very fussy and mostly miserable two year old, or hold a panic-riddled preschooler while she screams because something caught her by surprise, or explain to my dyslexic daughter what an "a" says again, because she can't remember and traditional teaching methods aren't working, it doesn't feel good. Nobody applauds my efforts. The sacrifices are tremendous (like personal time, reading for pleasure, or getting things done, just to name a few), the rewards (appear to be) minimal. It is not fun.
Yet, as I listened to Chris Tomlin's song, I realized that this very much is "where" God has called me, and I need to decide if I really meant what I said all those times, or not. Am I really willing to go anywhere God calls me to go, even if it is to an unpleasant place, or through an unpleasant experience? Honestly, I don't know. The journey I've been on has proven to me that I can trust God to take me where He wants me to go, and to walk with me every step of the way. But it isn't easy, and I don't always like it. I struggle with embracing "where" God has called me to go. I really do. But, by God's grace, I'm taking one step at a time along this path through the desert. And I can truly say I'm a better person for what I've experienced; I truly am.