Are you someone who enjoys the journey or do you anxiously await your destination? As much as I would like to be a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of traveler, I’m much more a destination-seeker. A planned route known far in advance is my type of life-travel. Unfortunately, life doesn’t fit a perfect mold nor does it follow a step-by-step process. It’s messy with ups and downs, twists and turns, the unexpected, and out-of-the blues.
There’s a short story told in the Bible that is about one of those unexpected, out-of-the blue moments and how to respond when called by God.
It’s the story of Elijah, the Lord’s prophet, anointing Elisha, a farmer, as the next generation’s great prophet. The Lord appears to Elijah to give him direction on whom he is to train to succeed him. Elijah journeys out to find this future prophet plowing a field with yoke of oxen. Elijah approaches Elisha as he’s working in the field and anoints him to be the Lord’s prophet.
With only a moment’s hesitation, Elisha agrees to follow Elijah and embraces the call God has placed on him. But he doesn’t have much time to transition into this new life-journey. He hardly even has a proper farewell with his family and friends. Instead, he takes his oxen and slaughters them. And then he burns his plowing equipment. He proceeds to cook the oxen over the burning wood and gives the meat to his family and friends. At first read, one may wonder why Elisha takes such drastic measures when saying good-bye to one stage of his life and hello to the next.
The reason behind Elisha’s elaborate actions served a purpose; a purpose we could all learn from and adapt into our own lives (without the unnecessary burning of animals… that’s a thing of the past 😉 ). When Elijah anointed Elisha to be the next great prophet, Elisha wasn’t a prophet-in-training; he was a farmer. That was all he knew. Up until Elijah’s arrival, farming was Elisha’s calling in life. Not prophesying.
But God called him to something new, something greater, and if he was going to truly embrace this new calling, Elisha had to say good-bye to his life as a farmer.
If he had just left the oxen and plowing equipment, he would have something to fall back on the moment his new calling as a prophet got too difficult or uncomfortably stretched him in his Faith. And he didn’t want to begin his new journey with the option to revert to his former way of life. If he was going to truly do the work God had called him to, he needed to be all in. So he burnt his oxen and plowing equipment as a sacrifice to the Lord and as a reminder to himself that he’s called to something and Someone greater.
When God calls us to our next stage in life, we should all follow Elisha’s example as we say good-bye to one life-stage and fully embrace the new path God is leading us toward.
This past year, God has led my husband and me on new journeys in our careers and challenged my perception of what “home” means as He moved us across country to settle in a new city, Cincinnati. What began as an exciting new adventure to be shared with my hubby of two years quickly became an overwhelmingly new and challenging life in a city I didn’t know well enough to call my “home”.
Just as the Israelites in the book of Exodus escaped Egypt with a passion and sense of freedom, I initially left my life and home in Kansas with the same boldness and sense of purpose. But just as the Israelites became discouraged and ungrateful as they journeyed in the desert, I too became easily overwhelmed and anxious as the responsibilities of a new job and new house in a new city sunk in with me. The reality of being far away from my family, close friends, and the life that I once knew was an all too subtle reminder that my life had been significantly changed in just a short amount of time.
Anytime we’re faced with a new calling or just move on to a new stage in our life’s journey, it’s easy to cling to the past because it’s the known. The unknown is scary and often times unsettling at first.
It can make you wish for simpler times when things didn’t seem so complicated or challenging. This is the very manner of thought that I struggled with during my first few months in this new life in a new city. Just as the Israelites in the desert recalled their former lives in Egypt, longing for the days when they had food and shelter (yet, overlooking that they had also lived the hardships of slavery), I too, would daydream about the “what-ifs” and often times romanticized the “good ol’ days”.
What if my husband and I moved back to Kansas to settle into our old life where it was comfortable and known? What if I hadn’t left my job at MNU as an Admissions Advisor and was able to build a career there (after all, there were so many perks to working there: Christian community and working so close to our home at the time)? What if we hadn’t moved to a new city so far away from my family and friends? That way I would never miss any of the big moments in their lives (celebrating the arrival of new additions to the family, being around when big announcements are made, and being physically present when a friend may need my support).
I wonder if Elisha ever wished he could go back to his farming days as he was fulfilling his calling as the Lord’s prophet. I wonder if he ever longed for family or friends as he traveled unknown cities, prophesying for the Lord.
Before moving to Cincinnati, I had a strong feeling that this next year would challenge my Faith and stretch me as a person. I felt it deep inside before we even made the move official. I knew that the last two years of emotional and spiritual healing that I had experienced in Kansas were partly to prepare me for my future here in Cincinnati.
I’ve learned that when God brings healing into our lives, it’s not just so we no longer have to feel that pain in our day-to-day, it’s so we can continue to build upon our Faith and develop our character into His likeness. And most of the time, developing our character has a certain amount of discomfort to it.
Just two weeks after moving to Cincinnati, I started my new job as an Academic Advisor at the University of Cincinnati, a role that I had coveted ever since I was in junior college. My husband started his new job at P&G’s headquarters just a week after our move. And so, we were quickly immersed into our new lives with hardly enough time to catch our breaths and no time to make our new house a home.
My husband immediately thrived in his new job. After all, this was the role he had been looking forward to for the past several months so he was more than ready to jump into his new life in Cincy.
On the other hand, I initially struggled in my position as an advisor. Without proper amount of time to get acclimated to our new house and city, I immediately felt overwhelmed in my new world. Even though I loved our new house and enjoyed my new job, I was still trying to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore! 😉 Life as I knew it would never be the same. And I needed time to process that and come to terms with that being okay. Better than okay. With it being all part of God’s plan for my life and husband’s life.
And so, I trekked on in my new life-journey. Each day got a little better as I surrendered more of my new life-stage to God, knowing that He would help me along my journey and make me stronger through my present hardships. And He always provided relief from my burdens when I needed it most, whether it was encouragement from my husband or family/friends back in Kansas or a listening ear from a co-worker or manager at work.
I learned how to embrace the changes God was doing in my life instead of resisting them. He showed me how to silence the “what ifs” by recognizing all the good that was the direct result of our stepping out in Faith and moving to a new city.
For one, my husband was able to advance within his company in a job that he has found to be very fulfilling and which allows him to utilize his gift of innovation.
Secondly, I am living a dream as an Academic Advisor! Just three years ago, I had felt led to actively pursue my passions in advising or school counseling, and in a short amount of time, God advanced me from working in a good, but passionless job in Logistics to an Admissions Advisor at MNU and now to an Academic Advisor at UC for one of the top nursing programs in the nation. I’m blessed to be doing something that I have a passion for: helping students at a very pivotal time in their lives and giving them the tools needed to succeed. It is the most difficult job I have ever had, but it is also the most rewarding!
Not only do my husband and I have great careers, we also own a beautiful house in Cincinnati. A house that I’ve slowly been able to make a home: décor and wall-hangings in their proper place and already ½ year of memories shared here which can make any house feel like “home.”
Sometimes, God has to remove the “comfortable” and “known” to help mold us, just as he did with Elisha the prophet, the Israelites, and myself. And oftentimes, that’s where we will also find the biggest promotions in life too: when we step out with Faith into the unknown with Him.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned these past 8 months since we moved from my childhood home in Kansas to my new home in Cincinnati, it’s “embrace the journey”: the mountaintops and valleys, the comfortable and uncomfortable, the expected and unexpected, the known and unknown.
God will get you through the valleys in life and when you see yourself on the mountaintop, you’ll look back and realize it wasn’t so bad and that you survived it, and it made you stronger. Prayerfully, next time God calls me into my next stage in life, I’ll embrace it less like the worrisome and forgetful Israelites and more like Elisha the prophet with boldness and unwavering Faith.
Thank you for those beautiful words of encouragement Alaina! D is correct, such wisdom in your story of faithfulness. You have always had great strength when it came to risk taking or life’s challenges. Please promise not to burn your road map back to Kansas. At least for a visit from time to time. We miss you too! Love, Dad!
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Great connection between Elisha, the Israelites, and our move! Your reflections always show tremendous wisdom. Thank you for taking a risk and following me on this journey. I know it was not easy, but you committed and I appreciate that!
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Such a good point about God healing our pains to prepare us to grow. It’s not just about our comfort but the big picture. I’m so happy you’re enjoying your new home and it’s exciting to hear about the journey God is taking you on.
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