It was late February of 2015 when the Lord began preparing me to quit my job. I’m 62 years old, I’m in no way, by conventional measures, financially prepared for retirement, and I had planned on working another 8 years before even considering retirement. Gradually, though, over the following 2 months, the idea of retiring early became more palatable. I was gently prepared. My fears slowly dissipated.
On March 13, His word was:
“You are in my hands. Do not fear. Love your job while you have it – while it is the season. It is not yet time. You will know. Do not even ask me. You will know.”
On April 24:
“Fear not – I will guide you and care for you. Consider the lilies of the field. I do not make idle promises, and this is my promise unto you. I told you you would know when it was time to quit your job. That time is the end of September.”
Two days earlier he had prepped me with:
Know that I need you to help bring about my strange act. You must figure out how to liquidate your assets on Labor Day. It is good that you buy a mobile trailer to live in.
Further communications that went un-recorded in my journal (my bad) made it increasingly clear where we were going and what we were going to do. Prayerful requests by both Diana and me brought multiple confirmations. We were off to Idaho! Within 3 weeks we had found a beautiful, white (no decals or paint) used 5th wheel RV that we bought for 65% of its blue book value, and a reliable truck with minor body damage that lowered its price.
This past week, we took our 5th wheel RV and truck to our new home in the rural Idaho panhandle. We haven’t “moved” yet, but we took that time to at least get that part of the move accomplished. After we arrived, got the RV leveled out, and felt a bit settled, I went for a walk. It was about 7:00 in the evening. The sun was starting to set. I wandered through the wooded part of the property and found my way to a steep overlook. 475 feet below were a river and a railroad track with a train snaking its way noisily through the canyon. Around me were multiple species of both deciduous and conifer trees. The grass in many places testified clearly of wildlife, probably deer, having made their bed there on multiple nights. The air smelled clean, crisp…invigorating. I was suddenly filled with joy as the realization of what was happening swept over me. My dreams, dreams of a home with forests and wildlife and canyons and rivers, were coming true. I found a stump, knelt down, and vocalized a short but sincere prayer of gratitude. It was just me, the trees, the fresh air…and my God.
That night at about 3:00 a.m., I walked outside, looked up at the stars, and within 5 seconds saw a falling star. If you’ve read my conversion story, you know that this (falling stars) is a personal sign between the Lord and me. I took it again as His sign of approval and assurance – not only for me, but for Diana and me as a couple – that we were where He wanted us.
So, I sacrificed. You betcha. I sacrificed a bunch. I sacrificed my job. Diana sacrificed her participation in a local gallery. We’re selling our home at a significant discount to our son. We sacrificed our future financial security (now – don’t laugh!) We’re leaving our neighbors, our kids, grandkids, etc. to go do what the Lord has asked us to do. Pretty significant sacrifices, right?
Well, I actually wonder if we really sacrificed anything at all. You see, we took our retirement funds and invested in property. We’re taking the equity from our home and paying off the RV, truck and mortgage. We’re moving to a part of the country that is as beautiful, in its own way, as any habitable place I’ve ever been to ( I don’t consider the Grand Canyon habitable – just beautiful). We’re probably going to learn, along with several other wonderful families, to farm, build, hunt, prepare food for long term storage, etc. We’re going to try to live Zion. We’re going to start a new life. In our early 60’s, we’re suddenly filled with optimism, energy, purpose, enthusiasm, peace, and…love.
So, how much did we really sacrifice afterall? I’m beginning to think that the Lord allowed me to think I was sacrificing and being obedient because that was the only thing that would motivate me to take these extreme steps – to get up off my butt, break out of my comfort zone, and take a risk. I’m beginning to see this whole experience in a different light. Instead of, “My son, I need you to sacrifice all things for me so that you can do my work”, it’s playing out more like, “Look, my son – I love you so much! If you will just do these things, if you will trust me, look what a wonderful life you can have! The dreams you’ve kept under wraps all these years can come true! Again – trust me, relax (He says that to me a lot). Put yourself in my hands, follow my guidance, and I will bring you joy, joy, joy!”
Oh, sure – we’re committed to spending the rest of our lives doing our part to build the Lord’s Zion. There really is no “plan B” as far as that goes. We’re going to be financially limited for the rest of our lives. Diana has yet to acknowledge that she may not get to see the next James Bond or Star Trek movies – at least until they come out on DVD. On the positive side, we’re going to have to use our talents – music, art, etc. for a real purpose. We’re going to have to work – hard – to survive. We’ll probably lose weight and return to our former slim, trim younger selves! Furthermore, the Lord said above, “I don’t make idle promises”, and He has made some pretty amazing promises, the fulfillment of which is solely based upon our faith and obedience.
My first promise to God – some 18 years ago – was that I would “seek to know” Him. I think this past week He showed me a really sweet, loving – even slightly capricious side of Him – if God can be called “capricious”. It was like he had played a lovely, gentle private joke on me. He had tricked me into doing something that I’ve always dreamed of – making me think I would be sacrificing for Him, when in reality, He was just loving me – loving me in a way that only my Heavenly Father (and Mother? and Savior?) could do. I think now I know Him just a little bit more intimately now than I did before. I think, as a result, I’m a little bit in awe of His loving nature.
The scriptures often paint a picture of a vengeful God of judgment, one who calls for the destruction of entire cities; strikes individuals dead for dishonesty; unleashes famine and war on a disobedient people; or promises eternal hell-fire and damnation to individuals who willingly and knowingly rebel against Him. I do not embrace that image of God. I’m much more worshipful of a God who, simply because I make a sincere, if forever imperfect, effort to know Him, follow Him, and emulate Him; and strive daily to bring about His Zion, concocts this plan to entice me to follow a path that He knows is going to enrich my life beyond anything I ever really thought possible – and He tricks me into doing so. With His plan, dreams would come true that I had given up on long ago. Yep – this is the God I know. This is the God I worship. This is the God I choose to emulate and to share with others…a God of love, a God of patience, and maybe even a God who can be just a little bit sneaky. Today, I share this image of my God with you, and I do it in the name of Jesus Christ. Can I get an Amen??!!!