My best friend Traci drove with me from New York to Los Angeles in five days.
I take that back. It was more like four days because we spent the first seven hours crawling along in a blizzard. Eventually we turned off the car right in the middle of the highway, bumper to bumper with vehicles stretched out for miles. Nestling under sleeping bags, we fully expected to spend the night there in my little PT Cruiser. (Yes, we had to pee on the side of the road. No, I never thought I would live to see that day.)
When we finally reached Arizona, despite our extreme 17-hour driving days (should’ve made a reality TV show), we excitedly hurried an hour out of the way to see the Grand Canyon. With only an hour to spare for sightseeing, we scurried to the overlook, cameras fully charged for the most incredible sight of our lives!
Holding my breath I sidled up to the guard rail for the spectacular view of……..
That’s it. Just fog.
So thick and deep that I literally could not see past the guardrail. There I was on the edge of the Grand Canyon, but I still hadn’t seen it.
Sometimes that’s what it feels like to take a step of faith.
It feels like you are stepping off the edge of a cliff when all you can see is fog. It’s like free falling without knowing what you’re falling toward. (I mean this figuratively, of course. I would never actually step off the edge of a cliff.)
And sometimes it feels like you just showed up at the Grand Canyon on the foggiest day of the year. It didn’t work out quite like you expected, when you expected everything would immediately fall into place. After all, you stepped out, didn’t you?
Moses tried to walk into the calling God gave him…and boy did it backfire!
He knew he was supposed to rescue his people from the Egyptians, so one day he went for it. Only, he was driven out of Egypt and had to live in the desert for years, just to save his life! Now that wasn’t supposed to happen, was it?
Years later God told him to go back and rescue the Israelites. I can picture Moses saying, “No way, God! I tried that before and it didn’t work. Why would I try it again?”
For most of my life, I assumed Moses stepped out too soon, or in his own timing and strength, instead of waiting for God.
I still think that could be true…but only to some extent.
One day my mom provided a different perspective. She said we like to explain away his failure by saying it wasn’t God’s timing, when maybe God was pleased with him for his courage and tenacity.
Perhaps our steps of faith don’t always work out the way we imagine…
…at least, not at first. And perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
In the same way, often we focus on Peter’s failure when he stepped out of the boat only to begin sinking beneath the waves. Instead, Mark Batterson wrote that we should be cheering because he actually got out of the boat! Did you see any of the other disciples get out? Nope. They sat there too afraid to try. But Peter took the step!
Last year I left my job in higher education,
freeing up my time to speak more often. I settled into a new apartment, released my book, and then began pursuing speaking engagements. Only problem being: hardly anyone wanted me to speak, and I needed to pay rent!
A few weeks later I began applying for dozens of jobs. Though I was overqualified, I never heard a word. Finally I took a job that I absolutely hated, only to find that, in spite of the job, I was so broke that I had to move back to my parents’ house.
I wrestled with this apparent failure.
Had I made a mistake? Should I have stayed in higher education? I really thought I was supposed to speak full-time!
At my wits end, I skyped with my parents, nearly in tears. That’s when my dad came up with a plan: my first book tour.
The seeming failure was not a mistake after all.
I had to take the leap before I found the answer. That’s what faith is about, taking the step we sense God wants us to take before we see exactly how everything will pan out.
Now don’t misunderstand: My parents and I are practical dreamers. My dad’s idea for a book tour was set up in such a way that it worked financially, particularly because I’d been faithfully paying off my debt. Wisdom is just as important as passion.
However, the pieces of the puzzle did not fit together the moment I stepped out in faith. I had to step before I saw how they’d work. Then I free fell for what felt like too long. And after it seemed I had failed, God opened the door.
My pastor’s wife put it this way: Many times, discouragement does not mean you’re going the wrong way; it is just part of the journey.