Recently I learned a very important lesson from a very tiny tree.
My husband told a story during one of his sermons that I surprisingly had never heard before (I’ve heard all of his stories). He told the kids about weed eating his yard one day when he was younger and finding a strange, bushy plant he assumed was a weed. For whatever adorable reason he liked it and decided to not end it’s short green life. When he showed it to his dad it was revealed through Papa Jeff’s wisdom that this weird looking “weed” was actually a sapling Maple tree.
The tiny tree was then lovingly dug up and planted in a pot on the front porch. Matt took care of that little tree; he watered it, moved it into the sunlight, probably sang it songs, and helped the tree grow. Eventually, as all good trees do, it got too big for its pot. Matt and Jeff moved it from it’s tiny tree home on the front porch to a brand new hole in the back yard.
That Maple is still alive and well in Jeff’s back yard. Now it’s too big to reach around and taller than the the house. It’s a very good tree.
The lesson? Trees grow where they are planted; whether on the front porch, the back yard, or deep in the forrest.
My whole life I have been promising myself a big, scary adventure. My whole life I have had others tell me of the great work I would do for the kingdom. My whole life I have equated risk and adventure and thrill with God’s will. I watched “The End of the Spear” when I was in fourth grade. I was ready to pack up and move to Ecuador at 10. TEN.
Where did God decide to plant me?
At home, Southern Illinois, right back where I came from.
California, Texas, Florida, Rhode Island, West Africa, East Africa, New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine, Puerto Rico… Bible College graduates have covered the globe reaching the unreachable and loving the unlovable. I wanted to be counted in that number. The number that stood up and shouted “Where you go, I go!” “Here I am, SEND me!”
I find myself in the MidWest. The Bible Belt. The land of Republicans and Religion (and really good custard). We live life at a relaxed pace and have fun traditions. We seem pretty neat and tidy. It seems like a pretty safe place to raise your kids. It’s a nice place to live but it’s not where I wanted to serve.
God must be giggling to himself. When he moved so strongly in Matt to bring up back home I stomped my feet (and probably pouted) and protested most of the way.
Anywhere God, but not here.
I promised him a life of services. A life that would cross the ocean and live in poverty and adopt any number of orphans and learn another language. I promised to give my whole life to kingdom work and to go wherever he would send me. Why did he ask me to stay?
I look with a bit of envy at those who have gone, my friends and classmates who are impacting the world, who are risking their safety and comfort to take the Gospel where no one has gone before. Why can’t I go too?
I love the people in my home town. These people are godly and devoted to kingdom work. They are my mentors and friends and raised me in the Word. They have done great things for the kingdom. They have snatched others from the flames and led them to Calvary. They have changed the spiritual landscape of our quiet little community. They have shouted “You’re people will be my people!”
I don’t like confessing this. I feel conceited and prideful. I feel embarrassed to let you know how selfish my heart is. I was so focused on changing the world that I forgot about those who changed my world: the people who taught me the Bible, the ones who showed me love when I was unlovable, the ones who stayed where they were planted and produced good fruit.
I wrestle with my wandering spirit. I question if the desires of my heart are to serve God or fulfill my self-made destiny. Am I missions minded or adventure minded? Do I desire to seek God and save others or to seek my own happiness and mask it with “service”?
But I have no choice.
I have a Jonah complex. I’m running and kicking and screaming for God to send me somewhere else. I tried to fight it but he keeps bringing me back. He holds back the laughter as he tries to gently show me my errors. He’d send me back in a big fish if I threw myself into the Mississippi.
I can’t hide from Him. I can’t deny my promises. I told him I would serve him, it wasn’t my place to say where. I said “send me” and he said, “I’m sending you back.”
And it’s right here, home, that I have been so blessed and totally privileged to share God’s Word with some amazing students. I’ve been entrusted to disciple students who are just as confused and as desperately in need of love as I was at their age. I love those kids so much. God has allowed me to minister alongside my husband and love a community easily missed.
I repent of my pride. I’m asking forgiveness for my stubbornness. I’m confessing that I’ve been so wrong and so blind.
God is allowing me to speak into the lives of my family members and friends. I get to encourage the same people who poured their lives into me. I get to introduce my daughter to the same people who taught me how to sing the Books of the Bible and she gets to play at the same camp where I found Jesus and made all of those promises to serve him.
One day God may gently dig up my roots and put me somewhere else. I might get too big for my pot and in his wisdom he could place me somewhere else. But for now I’m going to soak in the sun and dig in deep.
I get to serve Jesus right here. Home. On my own front porch.
Have you ever felt stuck? Do you forget to praise our Father for where he has you right now? Or are you currently serving far away from home and wish you could be on your front porch? Comment and tell me your story. Let me pray for you and share in what God is doing with you right where you are.