Where are you right now? What are you going through that has been tough? Maybe it hasn’t been recent. Maybe it was years ago and you went through something that, in the moment, you just didn’t understand why you were through it. Sometimes those things or moments are bad, painful, hard, or even things you wish you could wipe from your memory. Other times those things are fun, joyful, enjoyable and, if you could have you would have stayed right there in that moment as long as you possibly could. So, what is it… or what was it for you?
Recently, I sat down with my dad (Pastor and boss) to talk a bit about this transition I will be going through. If you are just reading this blog, let me catch you up. I have recently resigned from a full time position as an Administrative/Executive/Discipleship/Family (and whatever other “title” fits) Pastor. I will be moving to Xenia, Ohio in February of 2020 to begin a career as a farmer and starting a ministry (for pastors) that will be called Restoration Farm. As my dad and I sat and talked about this move over lunch, he reminded me that God is methodical. Ok, maybe he didn’t say it in those words exactly, but that’s what I took away from it. See, the farm that I will be going to work on is the same farm that I worked on when I was 13 to the well after High School. The methodical movement of God is something that we humans miss or just don’t understand.
My dad calls these things spiritual markers. Spiritual markers are those things you go through that, in the moment, you don’t know why, understand or see why you’re going through them. However, in God’s perfect timing, He reminds you of those time periods and allows you to see why you went through them. For me, when I was 13, I began working on the farm for a job. During my time there I learned much more than just farming. Believe it or not, you can learn a lot about ministry, scripture and even the Lord while you sit in solidarity in the cab of a tractor, combine or even doing some other kind of work with your hands. The farm taught me a lot about patience, trust, diligence and even obedience. Working with and for people without first learning any of those lessons on a “God-level” is near impossible.
So, here I am, some 20+ years after going through the experience of working on a farm. Now, I’m going back. The time that I spent on the farm 20 years ago prepared me for life and ministry. I think that if I would not have had that experience then, the thought of being a farmer would be so scary and foreign that I would not have even considered this as a possibility from God. I was just reading a book called The God Dare by Kate Battistelli this morning and she says, “Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way to come back a short distance correctly.” She goes on to say, “He will take us out to bring us in.”
I loved my time on the farm. Honestly, after I left to start school and study for ministry, I wished many times that I would be able to be back to the farm. I would see tractors or combines out in the field and I would get this aching in my heart to be back doing what I loved. As I have moved to different churches to serve, I still loved my visits to the farm and sometimes wished I was back there but felt totally content in my place and calling to serve. Although there was a desire to be back there, I never pursued it. What I mean by that is I never pushed for that to happen. I never tried get back there. I have learned to be content in where He has placed me no matter what my circumstance. But He has always given me times and places where I have worked with my hands like I did when I was on the farm.
The farm was and is a Spiritual Marker for me. God brought me through it to bring me back to it. Only He could see how something like fields of dirt and crops, corn and soybeans and a small herd of cattle could be a ministry to ministers. Only He could use that time and place to springboard me into ministry and bring me back to that place to minister to others.
There are a few stories in scripture that have helped me understand this example of Spiritual Markers. Take Moses for example. He was raised in the palace and grew up in royalty as a “stepchild of Pharaoh”. After killing an Egyptian who was beating up a Hebrew, he was fearful that he would be ratted out and ran away. He became a shepherd for 40 years. 40 years!!! One evening while tending his sheep, he sees this bush that’s burning but not being consumed. He goes over, checks it out and hears God calling him to go back to the very palace he ran away from and free the Israelites who are in slavery there. He is a bit reluctant (insert sarcasm) but eventually ends up doing what God asks him to do. His familiarity with the inner workings of the palace made him perfect for approaching his “brother” to free the Israelites. He spent 40 years as a shepherd to livestock in the desert before leading God’s chosen people out of slavery from the palace and then through the desert for another 40 years.
Or take Saul… Saul was a Pharisee. Pharisees knew the rules and regulations inside and out. They treated their ‘beliefs’ as more important than the written scriptures. But as Saul had an experience on the road to Damascus where God encountered him, things began to change. Saul was a guy who, in Acts 9:1-2 we learn was a pretty tough dude! “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” This guy who knew the ins and outs of the law used that knowledge to persecute Christians. After his conversion and name change to Paul, we learn about some of the crazy things he then did FOR christians. Acts 9:22 says, “22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”
See, Paul was able to use what he was well versed in to make an impact for the Kingdom. God was able to turn his focus from persecuting Christians with the law to increase in strength with law and proving that Jesus was who He said he was. His past was a Spiritual Marker that changed the future for generations.
My hope is that the Spiritual Marker of the farm I once worked on will become the grounds upon which Christ will bring about huge changes for His Kingdom.
So, I ask again, what is it YOU are going through? Where has God led YOU in the past? What has He lead YOU through so that you can make an impact in a bigger way in the future? Today is the last day of 2019. We are on the brink of a new day, new year and new decade of possibilities. Take some time to look back over where God has led you and where he is leading you. Allow Him to strengthen you from the valleys you have gone through so that you can serve Him stronger.
Lord, thank you for the Spiritual Markers you have led me to and through. Many of them I can’t even recall but I know that when necessary you will gently remind me of their importance in my past. I pray that you will do the same for many others as they are challenged to look back at where you have led them to where you are leading them. Remind them that as long as you are their number one priority and they are fervently seeking you, you have been in control and will continue to lead them. Remind each one of us that no matter how we feel about our current situation, you see the whole picture and know what is best for each of your children. Good things are in store for us as long as we stay in step with you. Amen.