And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”Isaiah 6:8
Sometimes I drift back to my days as Youth Pastor here at LACC when I spent a time encouraging students to consider launching out into the mission field (to the chagrin of more than a few parents). We would pile in vans or board planes for short term mission trips to Mexico, Ecuador and Costa Rica and I would teach on Isaiah’s willingness to be sent by God.
I would talk about the need for the gospel all over our country and all over the world. I would talk about the fields being white and ripe for the harvest.
I told them we are a “sending church.” When a few students launched into their own short term missions after high-school, I celebrated them and held them up as great examples. I talked often of Matt and Marlo Jensen selling what they had to fund their work in Ecuador. (I bought a sledge-hammer from them, thus supporting their missional efforts. 🙂
I stood in front of our congregation when Pastor Ken left to head back to Bellflower and I told our congregation that we are a “sending church.” Ken had spent time gaining valuable wisdom and experience and we were now sending him out to continue doing good work for the Kingdom of God in a place that needed him more than we did.
I really believed and believe that.
In fact, I sometimes even feel a twinge of pride that we could be the church that counted it as our privilege to send people out into the world. Missionaries, pastors, students. What an honor to play a role in that.
Then things shifted and now I am the one sent. God called me and I’m getting to see the other side.
“Sent” means something new to me now. It means leaving friends, family and support networks. It means saying goodbye to routines and places and faces that are familiar. It means that the foundation of history we have spent well over a decade building has to start over.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy. We’re not heading out to suffer in the jungles of South America or in the deserts of Africa. We’re moving to a beautiful community in Montana. We are incredibly blessed to be sent. We have seen His provision time and again. But the journey of the past few months has given me a perspective I didn’t have.
I’ve been thinking of missionaries and pastors that have been sent, not just by this church, but by thousands of others! From our church, the Mezgers, Paynes, Brasts, Amundsons, Harts, Cooks, Donna Welch, Patti Sue Arnold and Trains and yes, Matt and Marlo Jensen, Todd Dubord, Ken Goodban, Paul Bernard.
Yes, they were excited to go, yes they felt the call of God, but no matter what, for each and every one of them, there had to be a moment when they would try to take a deep breath, but it would get caught in their throat as they choked back the emotion and the gravity of their call.
“Send me!” Isaiah says, but if he was anything like the rest of us, those words had consequences he knew nothing about as they fell from his mouth. He wouldn’t learn the consequences until he was staring straight into the face of unknown people and unknown places, leaving behind him the routines and places and faces that were comfortable and familiar.
There is a sacrifice that comes every time we follow the call of God to be sent. It might seem romantic to those who are staying, but there is a cost to it.
Simon and Andrew left their fishing business: “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Security stays, they go.
James and John left their dad Zebedee sitting in the boat: “Follow me.” Zebedee stays, they go.
Matthew left his tax-collection booth: “Follow me.” The job stays, Matthew goes.
I say all of that to bring us to one idea that you might grab onto today: there is a piece that must be lost to gain the thing that God has for us.
Maybe holding on is holding us back.