Saying “Yes” Before Receiving Instructions

Saying “Yes” Before Receiving Instructions

(Disclaimer: I know this post looks extremely long.  That’s because it is.  But bear with me. If you want to know fully what’s going on in our hearts and family right now, you must read all of it.  Thanks for your patience. Grab a bag of popcorn, if you must!)

I’ve read Isaiah 6 probably 100 times in my lifetime and yet something new jumped off the pages of Scripture to me the other day.  It’s a simple concept surrounding obedience that had never dawned on me before.  In verse eight, the Lord says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then Isaiah replied, “Here am I. Send me.” I’ve always admired Isaiah’s obedience.  But what I had never noticed before is that he had not yet received his instructions.  All he knew was that the Lord needed a willing servant to go, and he signed up.  Where was he going?  What was he doing?  What was he getting himself into? He had no idea.  All he knew was that he had encountered the living God, his sin had been purged, and he was ready to go.  It wasn’t until verse nine that Isaiah actually received his instructions.  But obedience was just the natural response to his encounter with God.

It would be an understatement to say that Tasha and I both have been encountering God in some pretty big ways recently.  It began about six months ago when we read David Platt’s book, Radical. He began stirring our hearts.  And we weren’t exactly sure what this stirring meant.  The book was then followed up with a sermon series from our pastor, Jimmy Carroll, by the same title.  Something was up.  We could feel a prompting, a prodding, a stirring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that would require some kind of action point(s) on our part. We didn’t know what exactly He was leading us to do, but like Isaiah, we wanted to say “yes.” We determined in our hearts to say “yes” before we ever knew what we were agreeing to.

Then, last month we returned to Uganda, Africa to work with our friends at Arise Africa to train pastors and get the Gospel to hurting people in remote villages.  On one of our last days there we spent some time at the orphanage that Journey Church, EMI (Engineering Missons International) Triple Play Ministries (Josh Hamilton’s ministry), Rick Via Ministries and several other ministries helped to construct and complete over the past few years.  Seeing its completion and the smiling children running around the compound was overwhelming, to say the least.

If I can be completely honest, the word “adoption” has always scared me a bit.  Well, not the word so much as the thought of doing it myself.  For me, adoption was always one of those things that the really spiritual people do–the pastors–the perfectly groomed homeschool family that makes the cover of Christianity Today.  I’ve always admired those who adopt, but I had honestly never given it much thought myself ….. until now.  Until the stirring began.  Until the Lord tenderly began to soften my heart to the idea.  As I observed the 45 beautiful Ugandan children at the orphanage last month, the Lord began to gently remind me that the orphan and the widow are at the very core of His heart.  Care for the orphan and the widow is not simply a friendly suggestion in Scripture.  It is a command.  It is the Christian faith in its purest and most undefiled form (James 1:27).

And so began the prompting of God in our hearts.  But I must confess that I’ve been wrestling with God ever since we returned from Uganda–a good wrestling.  Not so much a wrestling of defiance or doubt, but one more of concern.  Concern that I dare not miss what He wants.  Concern that I get it right.

I met with my pastor a couple of weeks into my wrestling match and told him about this stirring.  I wanted to lay it all out there and then get his thoughts.  I told him about our prayerful consideration of adoption.  I also told him that we were also considering living in Uganda next year for an extended time while we go through the adoption.  He shared with me his initial thoughts on the issues and then shared with me more generally regarding the will of God.  He explained to me how we complicate God’s will too often–that we tend to focus too much on the specific “lane” of His will, when all along God simply wants us to love Him, to pursue Him, and then to simply “pick a lane.”  This made a lot of sense.  After all, I hadn’t heard an audible voice saying, “adopt.”  Yet, in my heart I knew that adoption was a valid lane–a lane that would bring me and my family closer to the heart of God–however, a lane that would also require much sacrifice–a lane that would be wrought with difficulties and struggles.  Still, neither Tasha nor I could shake this stirring–a stirring that seemed to be leading us down the adoption lane.  But selfishly, I still wanted some kind of confirmation–some kind of definitive green flag that indicated to me that the Lord was smiling on our decision to move forward in this direction.

And that’s when it happened–the confirmation.  Let me preface this by saying that I’m as far from a Christian mystic as they come.  I’m probably more skeptical about people “hearing the voice of God” then most believers I know.  Maybe that’s my Southern Baptist upbringing or maybe it’s simply because I’ve seen it on more occasions than I care to admit; that is, the trampling of the so-called voice of God in an all-out pursuit of selfish desires.  Whenever people say “God told me to ______”, red flags go up.  I wish they’d just leave God out of it and be honest with me and with themselves.  Just say this is what you want to do and do it.  Whatever.

Anyway, back to the confirmation.  Wednesday morning I was reading my Bible and praying.  I was reading the very passage I talked about earlier–Isaiah 6.  And I was praying about this stirring in our hearts–praying about adoption, about living in Uganda next year, about all of this stuff.  The whole time Zeke was sitting quietly beside me on the couch occupying himself with a book. I leaned into him and kissed him and simply said, “Zeke, I love you.  And I want our family to love Jesus.”  That was it.  Then, with no other prompting from me, Zeke opened his mouth, and it was as if the voice of God spilled out, and he said, “Daddy, we need to go get that little girl whose daddy died and bring her home so we can help her not be scared of the dark.” [crickets] I stared blankly, trying to ascertain where this was coming from. Finally, I came to my senses, and I said, “Zeke, what girl?  The little girl in Africa?” And he said matter-of-factly, “Yep!”

Now, just to put the pieces together for you:  The girl Zeke was referring to is a little two-year-old at the orphanage named Shabila.  Tasha and I were immediately drawn to her, and her to us.  We were told that she typically shies away from strangers, especially men.  Yet, as soon as she spotted us that day at the orphanage, she never left our sides.  She immediately connected with Tasha, cuddling up in her lap and falling asleep.  After awhile, she eventually found her way into my arms as well, falling asleep for another half-hour or so, apparently feeling no hesitation or cause for alarm.  To say that we didn’t feel an immediate connection and chemistry with this precious little girl whose daddy had recently died of HIV would be an absolute lie.  The connection was undeniable.

Obviously, we couldn’t keep her a secret from our kids.  So, we’ve been praying for Shabila every night with our kids–praying that the Lord would protect her–that the Lord would begin to draw her to Himself even at such a young age; much of the same types of prayers that we pray for our own kids.  And so, our children have likewise been praying for her, thinking about her and wanting to know as much as they can about her.

So, what does all of this mean?  I wish I knew exactly.  What I do know is that we have a peace from God to pursue an adoption.  Does that mean that we will adopt Shabila?  I’m not sure.  Is she really scared of the dark like Zeke said?  I have no idea.  It wouldn’t surprise me, though, to be honest.  That little boy hears from God.  But that’s another post for another time.  🙂  Anyway, there are alot of questions still to be answered.  She will undergo her health screening very soon, and then we’ll know, at least preliminarily, if we are even allowed to pursue her.  The point is, though, when all is said and done, we chose to say “yes” before we ever knew what the instructions were.  And though the instructions still remain partially unclear (much like IKEA instructions! Can I get a witness?!), by the grace of God we will move forward as long as this unsurpassing peace of God guards our hearts and brings clarity to His will in our relentless pursuit of loving and knowing Him.

The other thing I know is that “life as usual” is not an option.  This stirring in our hearts has begun to lead us down a road to which there is no returning to life as we once knew it.  And that is both utterly scary and completely liberating.  We said “yes” before we knew what we were saying yes to.  And by the grace of God we’ll do it again, and again, and again.

8 Responses

  1. scott says:

    go. run. follow the heart of the Father. ECSTATIC to see what’s next.

  2. dan rutty says:

    Melissa and I are praying for you guys. We will be awaiting word on her screening and your pursuit. Love you and your heart. Thanks for sharing, dan

  3. Mark Hodges says:

    God does move and speak in mysterious ways. Prayerfully seek his ways because they are best. I am glad to see God moving in your life and your young son. Mark

  4. Ed says:

    Josh, I read this twice. thanks for sharing your heart. This is gonna be a fun journey.

  5. Mom says:

    Thank you son for sharing your heart. May the cry of my heart be…yes, yes, yes. “Wherever He leads I’ll go”. I love you sweetie and I am so proud of you.

  6. Kristi says:

    Wow….what a great post. This resonates so much with me right now (our last blog, “Akelo”, is a similar story). Hope that your family does end up in Uganda for a while! It would be fun to hang out 🙂 We’ll be praying for y’all as you follow that stirring…should be amazing to see what God has in store!

  7. dad says:

    josh, i’m preaching on the eastern shore this week, uncle ray is with me. i’m just a few miles from exmore where ben use to be. looking forward to being together next week. love you son and so proud of the way the Lord is using you.

  8. Travis Agnew says:

    I am thrilled to tears right now. You think God is showing you things now, he’s going to blow your mind in the months to come! Love you guys!

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