This is a long post. That’s probably not surprising to you. But this one is especially long. I think that’s because it’s about the lifelong outworking of God’s sovereignty in my life, which by nature has to include a lot of details. Whether or not you should keep reading depends on what your priorities and responsibilities are today and the amount of time you have to do what God has for you. But there is a point, just so you know. And that point is very meaningful to me right now.
While I was driving home from seminary on Friday morning, I called my good friend Cameron Knox. Cameron was leading an Outreach Week team to Bear Valley Springs Community Church in Tehachapi, California. I spoke at their high school camp this summer on four of the most radical sayings of Jesus. I wanted to know how the week was going and how I could pray. Cameron gave me a brief update, and then gave me the encouraging news that a few of the high school students that were at summer camp had expressed how God impacted them during our week together. This was obviously a delight for me to hear. But then Cameron pointed out something else to me. He said that he was excited to hear the news, too, because he remembered the email that I sent out to the Oak Manor Servant Leadership Staff this summer asking them to pray for the Lord to work through my preaching at camp. He had prayed—in July, in New York—and now he was seeing—in October, in California—how God answered those prayers. I knew that Cameron was leading the Outreach Week team to Tehachapi, but I had forgotten that I had sent that email this summer, that Cameron had received it and had prayed according to my requests, and that he was now going to have the amazing opportunity to see in person what God had done. I ended the phone call by telling Cameron that I would now pray for him as he ministered in Tehachapi. We were both well aware that these prayers meant something. They meant something because God is sovereignly weaving together a redemptive tapestry that is seen most often in hindsight.
Saturday night I led some singing (in Spanish) at the inaugural Bible study that is designed to kick off Placerita Baptist Church’s Hispanic church plant. Steve and Karen Borders, ABWE missionaries, are the main church planters. They asked me to play the guitar for them because (1) I go to PBC, (2) I play the guitar, and (3) I’ve basically been part of their family from my earliest years in college. I arrived fifteen minutes early and Karen quickly taught me three songs in Spanish. One was “Jesus Loves Me,” so that one wasn’t difficult, but it was a challenge to learn two brand-new songs in a different language right before leading a group in singing them. Of course, Karen co-led the singing with me (actually, I co-led with her) and made things go quite smoothly. As I was standing in front of the seed form of this Hispanic church plant singing next to Karen Borders (her son was my roommate in college and the best man in my wedding) and looking at her husband Steve Borders (a church planter for decades), I was once again amazed at the sovereignty of God. I met their son Ben in 1998 when I was a freshman and he was a high school senior visiting the wing I was on in Slight Dorm. We were roommates my sophomore year, fellow staff members my junior year, best friends through our senior years, and in each other’s weddings in the years following college. I spent numerous weekends and holidays at his family’s house, and his three sisters are the closest I’ve ever gotten to actually having a sister myself. So as I stood next to his parents playing the guitar and praising God in Spanish and playing a tiny role in helping plant a desperately-needed church, I caught another glimpse of God’s incredible sovereignty. All I had to do was rewind the tape of my life and watch it in slow motion. God had been doing stunningly intricate things all along.
Sunday afternoon Cindi and I drove down to Westside Bible Church in Los Angeles to see our dear friend Anthony Kidd installed as senior pastor. I first met the WBC body my freshman year (1998) when I went there for Outreach Week. Four years later, Cindi and I were seniors at TMC and wanted to attend an inner-city, international, or ethnic church for a year. After racking my brain and asking for references for a few weeks, I remembered Westside (predominantly black). I went to my files and found a bulletin from the Sunday I was there for Outreach Week. I called the number on it, one thing led to another, and we ended up attending there for one delightful year. We grew so close to the Kidd family and we respected them so much that we asked them to do our pre-marital counseling. Both Anthony and his wife were in our wedding, as well. Then on Sunday, we saw Anthony commissioned to the highest of callings—to serve as an undershepherd of the church that Jesus Christ purchased with His own blood. On the drive home, Cindi and I agreed that when we leave California, the Kidd’s are some of the people that we will miss the most. That we have known them and been blessed by them over the past five years is a grace that we could never have predicted or brought to pass. But God in His good pleasure has done so, orchestrating the melody of His perfect will and the harmony of designed circumstances and the cacophony of trials into a sovereign symphony which has brought delight and strength to every generation of His people.
If you run in the theological circles that I run in, you’re well aware that the sovereignty of God is spoken of well and often. And so it should be. God is gloriously sovereign, to such an extent that this sovereignty rules every detail of life. Furthermore, one of the most blessed things about being a new creation in Christ is that we can actually see this sovereignty played out in day-to-day details. This doesn’t mean that my experience and observation of God’s overarching control are what define the doctrine. But it does mean that I have the eyes to see the beauty of the outworking of God’s eternal plan every day. That is a great blessing. It also means that the longer I live and the more I watch Him unfold His plan for my life, the more I am convinced that His supreme reign and His good pleasure are truly being fulfilled, and that because I am in Christ by the grace of God, the fulfillment of His plan is working for my good.
There is one last situation: Judah. His adoption has been a long process. We started in January, and things moved quickly. Then they slowed down. We thought we’d get his birth certificate in mid-spring. We got it in July. We thought we might get to pick him up as early as June. Now December would be a miracle. We thought our final application would go through smoothly. It was put on hold. We thought we’d get him a few months before his first birthday. We’re now expecting him to be walking and maybe talking by the time we see him for the first time. Our baby room is decorated, but it’s empty and silent. Applications are on hold, government officials are holding out for bribes, deadlines are looming, court dates (for other couples trying to pick up their children) are being consistently delayed, and one wife and mother has been in Uganda since March waiting for a court date that was first scheduled seven months ago. Things are not going according to plan.
Or are they?
Every day we wake up with a choice: a choice to live by faith or to live by sight. A choice between what we see and what we know. A choice between a persuasive appearance and a concrete reality. This choice is simple, but it’s not easy. Sometimes it’s easy, when faith and sight match up: God is good, and we feel good. But often it’s not, because often we don’t feel good. Often God wraps the black blindfold of uncertainty around our heads, cinches it tight, and says, “Walk… and smile… and sing.” Is He cruel to do so? Only to the man who trusts in himself and wants to be comfortable more than he wants to be spiritual. But the man who knows God and who knows himself knows that God only blindfolds His children because the place He wants them to go is so beautiful that He will do anything to get them there, and sometimes the path is hard enough that they might not walk it if they could see it. But both are in God’s perfect plan: the path, and the destination.
Things are always going according to plan. Not just in hindsight, and not just in heaven. The question is which blueprint you’re looking at, whose map you’re following, and whether or not you’re willing to walk with a blindfold… and smile… and sing.