While I’m away in Guatemala, several people have stepped up to share their stretching stories with The Stretched Community. Today, I have the honor and privilege of presenting Tom Tarver. Tom blogs regularly at A Curious Band of Brothers, and he is a regular commenter here on the Stretched blog. Please check out Tom’s post and leave an answer to his question. Afterwards, go check out his blog. His contact information along with a short bio can be found at the end of the post. Thanks!
When God Provides, You May Be Stretched
I planned to be somewhere else other than Alaska this summer.
But God had other plans.
And His plans would stretch me for two weeks … to a point … of breaking.
My original plan. This summer I wanted to pedal from sea to shining sea. I had declined to join our church’s short-term mission team in July because of my cycling plans. Reggie, the organizer and team leader, knew this.
My plan failed to come to fruition. But Reggie didn’t know that.
God intervenes. On a Sunday morning two weeks before the team would leave for Two Rivers, Alaska, Reggie and I spoke for the first time in months about the trip, and for the first time he learned about my summer plan’s failure to launch.
Too bad we hadn’t spoken earlier. The team now overflowed with talented folks. They had no room for one more.
But God had plans for me, and through an unexpected illness, a spot opened up hours after our conversation. I hadn’t been on Reggie’s radar but I quickly moved to the top of his to-call list.
When Reggie phoned, he said, “Everything’s already paid for except you’ll need a ticket.”
“Sorry, Reggie. On such short notice, I can’t come up with that kind of money.”
“But God has resources.”
I humored him and allowed that, yes, God did have resources. I said, “I’ll pray about it, make some calls, and let you know tomorrow.”
Two calls the next morning netted the entire amount. In less than 24 hours I knew God wanted me on that team. I knew it!
What I didn’t know was why.
When I arrived in Alaska and settled into the rustic camp setting our team would call home, I knew I belonged there.
When I shivered through the first night, I knew I belonged there.
When I slapped the thousandth mosquito, I knew I belonged there.
When I pounded the concrete wall to break it apart, I knew I belonged there.
When I trotted to the outhouse for the third time during the night, I knew I belonged there.
But I still didn’t know why.
While others quickly found their parts in the project, I wandered around asking, “Do you need help?”
“Not now. Maybe later.”
For ten of the dozen days we were in Alaska, I said to a friend, “I don’t know why I’m here.”
Our last two days on the project, God began to grant me understanding, insight that surprised and troubled me.
Here’s what I learned, lessons that continue to stretch me.
I’m afraid of failure. With other people, I’ve shared over and over again the importance of embracing failure. Failure in attempting something great teaches some awesome lessons. To launch out, attempt a great thing, and fall short is better than remaining safe at home.
And I thought I did plenty of launching out.
But, as I spent time working with others, I discovered I shied away from making decisions. I let others handle the power drill or cut the boards. I didn’t want to make mistakes.
And I didn’t want others to discover how poor I was at building things. I could tear down stuff. I could clear up the debris. But after the destruction, I didn’t know how to construct.
Even on our fun day, I discovered my heart quaked at doing something new in front of an audience.
At the end of an Alaskan gold mine tour, we all ended up panning for gold. I needed help but wouldn’t ask for it. In the end, I was one of two people still panning because I worked so slow for fear of making a mistake. And this was supposed to be fun.
I crave action and grow impatient with planning. At the church where the team did a lot of renovating, I wandered around looking for the action. Because of impatience, I missed the opportunity to listen and plan with those who did know what they were doing. I moved on to the next place before I could understand the present project and before I could be available to help when needed.
So why was I in Alaska?
So God could stretch me, break me, and help me make needed changes in my life.
Question: What lessons has God taught you through His leading and provision?
About the Author
Tom’s a blogger and so much more. For an example of something other than his blog, follow this link. He’s written one novel with more in the works. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest as well as a 2011 semi-finalist (speculative fiction) in the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest. His novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.