Adventure calls from the darkness of the cave, tempting, begging, and pleading for the wanderer to enter. Inside, the perceived black of night is overwhelmed by real dark, the complete absence of light. Inch by inch, tiptoeing forward, the adventurous soul gropes the cave walls, hoping desperately to find solid ground to support the next footfall. Deep inside, the dreamer’s soul explodes with the joy of moving forward and the fear of the unknown, craving the realization of goals long-desired, yet the surety that light brings. One mis-step, one slip, one inch too far, and the unseen chasm swallows without hope of survival.
Surely, it is the unknown that is most frightening. Just this morning, I received a letter from a friend who is in training with New Tribes Missions at North Cotes to be a missionary to unreached people groups. In the letter, he shared the following:
Recently, missionaries passing through North Cotes spoke with us. They shared about the needs in the world and the areas NTM is looking at expanding into. The need for missionaries was staggering. At the end of the session, we were asked to raise our hands if we had ever been challenged to go and share the Gospel with these people. Everyone in the room raised their hands. Next, we were asked to raise our hand if we knew where and how we would be doing that in five years time. Not a single person raised their hand.
I feel this uncertainty. This inability to know what comes next. Tomorrow is an unknown, let alone five years from now. Somewhere in the human nature is a desire to know the future, or at the very least, to plan the future. Friends ask me to do this or that next summer or next year, and I am left at a loss. It would be fun, but I want to leave for Papua New Guinea next summer. But I wanted to leave this summer too. When I began this adventure, nearly three years ago, with a month-long trip to Papua New Guinea, I never dreamed I would consider living or teaching there. Last year, when I finished college, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to go back to Papua New Guinea to teach, but I never dreamed it would take me over a year to raise the support to make that possible. I planned to finish college, I planned to apply to New Tribes, and I planned to leave for Papua New Guinea. Then came the unknown. The roadblocks, potholes, and construction zones that I never expected.
And so I feel like a spelunker lost in a cave without a light. Its dark in here. Its more than dark in here. Yet I press forward. Not because I have any idea what lies ahead–it could be a drop-off for all I know–but because I am wearing a harness. And God’s holding my rope. The blackness of the unknown becomes far less terrifying when I am able to trust the God who is able to keep me from falling and who lights my steps.
People ask me when I’m leaving. I don’t know. I want to leave next summer, but I’m still waiting for God to provide another $1500 in monthly support. The in-between is scary. Will I have a job after March 12th? What if I can’t leave? Will I have a job next year? Where do I even look for this support? How do I approach relationships or commitments to local ministries? I don’t know those answers either. But I am comforted by the fact that the God who led me into this is a God who is ultimately concerned with His own glory, and ultimately concerned with being glorified in the lives of those who don’t know Him. So whether I stay or go, He will work it out for His glory. As a little devotional I’m reading now put it, “Detours provide new networks to spread the message of eternal joy. For Gospel-centered, God-loving people, what could be better?” (Gospel Meditations for Missions).
Really, its not so bad in the cave. A little dark, maybe, but when the Light of the world is leading you forward, there’s nothing to worry about. Who’s with me?