Moves are hard, even for someone like me who dearly loves a change of scenery. I’ve moved countries twice in the past two and a half years. Our most recent move has been to Stellenbosch, South Africa, which is a postcard-perfect university town, surrounded by breathtaking mountains and picturesque vineyards, and only half an hour from Cape Town, another one of the most beautiful and fantastic places on the planet. I ask myself on a regular basis how I got so lucky as to actually get to live here.
"Stellenbosch fan Papagaaiberch grut" by Fmalan at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
But there have also been exhausting things, stressful things, things weighing on my mind. We spent our first ten days in a small one-bedroom flat, and it was very hot, and very small, and we were all sick, and no one was getting enough sleep. Then we moved into our current digs, a lovely two-bedroom house where I actually have a whole study to myself and can work looking out at a lovely garden. Bliss. But this place is only available through the end of the month, so there’s been the question of where we are going to live after that. And the question of where our income is going to come from next month. And who is going to take care of our children while I earn an income and my husband is a grad student. And… the list just goes on.
I’ve realized I’ve felt hesitant to talk to my American friends about our current state of affairs. I guess I feel afraid that we will be judged for being irresponsible, not having our act together. Did we really move to another country, with two children in tow, without knowing where we were going to live or where our income was going to come from? Yes, yes we did. And we have felt and do feel that we're doing the right thing. Which isn't to say it's been easy. I’ve been extra thankful for my African friends during this transition, as they’ve walked with me through the uncertainty and doubt. They’re much more in touch with the fact that life is for the most part not in our control, and that if God doesn’t come through we’re all really in trouble. Witnessing their faith, and hearing their generally awesome stories about how God has come through, does so much to build my own.
I’ve been reflecting this week on Mark 4. Jesus is in a boat with the disciples, and it’s so stormy the disciples are afraid they might capsize, and Jesus is asleep. What struck me this week is that the disciples’ fear is not that Jesus can’t do something about the storm before they all die, but that he won’t. They don’t say, “What if he wakes up and tries to calm the storm but can't?” Their fear is that he won’t wake up in time to do something, and so they wake him up and ask, “Don’t you care?” Then, of course, he turns the storm into still water and then asks the disciples, "Why were you afraid in the first place? Do you still not have any faith?"
I’ve really related to the disciples in this particular brand of lack of faith. I know God can do anything. But I fear he won’t help us — that somehow he’s asleep on the job, not really tracking with our circumstances and our needs, that we’ll sink because he just didn’t bother to get involved in time.
I had a big reminder of God’s absolute mindfulness of us last week. Out of the blue I got a request to do a small project, as soon as possible. (I’m currently working as an independent consultant, but don’t have a steady income, and so far, don’t have enough work.) The project was only a couple days of work, but on top of a larger project I was already working on it was enough to put our finances in the black for this month, and it was perfectly timed with my schedule availability. I clearly felt God saying, “See? I've got this.”
And yet, I’ve still been battling anxiety on a daily basis. I can think of so many times when God has moved mountains on my behalf — when, as now, I didn’t have a back-up plan, and I knew that the blessings and provision that came my way were 100% and only from God. Yet I’m still afraid that this time he won’t wake up in time. And that we’ll be penniless and homeless and all kinds of terrible things which I shouldn’t even write about, because that’s giving them too much power.
So, our housing situation. I’m nine days away from leaving on an international trip, and we need to find a new place to live by then. We’re actually hoping to buy a house, but need housing for several months while we work that out. We have been running into an absolute brick wall in trying to find a place to rent short-term. No one wants to do it, and the fees for breaking a lease early are sky-high. This morning we were supposed to go look at a place that was unfurnished, and was too much money, and too far out of town, but it was available for only six months, so it seemed like our best available option. Right as we were leaving I called to confirm that we were coming, and was told we couldn’t come until later in the day. So I went back to my study and pulled up Gumtree (the South African equivalent of Craigslist) and started scrolling through the ads to see if there was anything new.
I nearly fell out of my chair. There was a new listing — for a very affordable, 3-bedroom, furnished (and incredibly cute) house available for a short-term lease. Long story short, we were viewing the house within an hour, and by noon we’d signed a three-month lease. We came back and talked to our current landlords, who agreed to let us move out next weekend and refund us our rent for the second half of the month. Settled!
Sometimes I feel like God has one of those big red Easy Buttons they sell at Staples.
A situation in life can seem so complicated and challenging and impossibly knotted up, and then God just presses the Easy Button, and almost instantly the knot is cut and the pieces fall into place and something totally incredible and amazing and clearly supernatural happens...and it’s solved.
I would often prefer, in my very limited wisdom, that God would deploy the Easy Button sooner or more often. Still on my list of things we need from God really soon: Work. Wisdom about whether we should buy a house, and which house. Someone to look after our kids and help keep our house running.
But I know that in his infinite wisdom God always does things at exactly the right time, and that while I stew and worry and stress and wonder if/how/when he is going to come through, I am learning more about the life of faith. And while the life of faith isn’t always easy — it often involves letting go of things I hold very dear — I do know that God has promised to provide for all of my needs, period. I want to learn to live with the faith to believe that he who watches over Israel (and my family) never slumbers or sleeps, and will not let our feet slip (Psalm 121). Actually, it’s hard to open my Bible without running into promises for people in situations exactly like mine. I need these constant reminders that I can trust my God, and that whatever seemingly impossible situation I'm facing today, it’s not a dilemma for him.