A year ago we went to REV, which is our mission agency’s process for evaluating long-term missionary candidates. It was a week of testing, cross-cultural ministry, and other stuff that we’re not supposed to talk about (so that it will continue to be an effective process). At the end of the week, they sit you down and let you know what strengths and weaknesses they see, and give the red/yellow/green light for you to become missionaries with the organization.
The morning we received this final evaluation I woke up at something like 4am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I spent hours wearing a path into the parking lot of our hotel, just walking and praying. I left my job for this, Lord. You called us out of the Army and into this mission. But what if these evaluators somehow don’t see that? What if they tell us “no”? Is this altar where you want our calling to die? Be faithful and provide for us to do what you have called! Those few hours might be the time I’ve felt weakest in my whole life. I left a good job, moved my family back around the world, and here I was submitting my calling and our family’s future to a group of people I didn’t really know.
In Ezekiel 37, God takes the prophet to a valley full of dead bodies. They’ve all rotted away so that only the bones are left. Then God asks the question, “Son of man, can these dry bones live?” And Ezekiel gives the best answer ever - “O God, you know.” It’s totally beautiful! Ezekiel is not like, “Of course they can, God! You can do anything!” and he’s not like “No way, that doesn’t happen!” He just hands the ball to God. Then, without answering the question, giving no assurances of success, God tells Ezekiel to call the bones to life, and Ezekiel starts to call them with the words that God said to speak.
I absolutely love this passage of Scripture. Christina always reminds me that before I can be ready for a dream to come true, I have to be ready for that dream to die. It’s a cycle we have seen play out often in our life together. But it is totally the scariest thing ever. It’s a moment of weakness and death. It’s like the moment you propose to your girlfriend: you put yourself in this wholly vulnerable position, kneeling on the floor and bringing out a ring and asking her to say “Yes.” It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve talked of marriage, or how much planning has gone into that moment: that moment is nerve-wracking.
When I look at Japan, it often seems a nation of dry bones. A beautiful people who are spiritually flatlined. In my more pessimistic moments, usually when we get negative responses from people and churches we have asked for support, our own calling to Japan feels like it’s dying to me. But it is our weaknesses that show God’s strength. It is in vulnerably kneeling on the floor that shows the strength of our love. It is into dead bones that God breathes life.
So I am constantly coming back to this question as I work through seminary classes and press into the process of calling our financial support team together, as we pray for Japan and our friends already laboring there: “Can these dry bones live?” Satan often twists me into knots over it. Will/When will we return to Japan? Will we be successful once we are there? How do we define success? But I need to follow Ezekiel’s example. O God, you know. The results and the means of accomplishing God’s work aren’t what I’m called to be concerned with. It is, rather, faithfulness in the work he's given me.