Twenty-five years. If I had known at the start that it would take that long, would I have even begun? Would I have said "Why bother?" or "Maybe later"? I would like to think that I still would have immediately obeyed, even knowing the detours and challenges that would come, and that I would not have questioned or delayed.
Looking back I see why it took twenty-five years. It was about the journey all along, not the destination, and honestly, it's more meaningful to experience God's character, His purposes, and His ways in solitary sacred moments, rather than all at once. It allows us to ponder and savor His goodness.
Twenty-five years ago I heard God calling me into a deeper study of His Word. I excitedly and wholeheartedly began a master's degree in theology. Marriage and children came quickly after, as well as two cross-country moves within three years.
I stopped and started classes more times than I can count. Homeschooling took priority, as did ministry to neighbors. I always knew I would pick up my studies again. Then came the fiery years of sickness and suffering that truly refined me. Everything I knew about the Lord was tested and tried and I came to know Him in ways you can't by reading and studying.
Our boys became teenagers and everyone knows you can't take your eyes off of teenagers, so, once again, I stopped and started, stopped and started. Finally, class by class, life lesson by life lesson, I made my way to graduation this December.
As I sat in a socially distanced Chapel without any family around me, I expressed my gratitude to God with prayers and tears. It was a solitary sacred moment. I was glad it took twenty-five years to reach my destination. I am not the woman I was when I began.
Everything I learned about Jesus, His Word, the Church, the lost, my family, and myself was better realized by the ups and downs, joys and hurts, losses and gains of the past twenty-five years as I walked with the Lord and studied His Word. Every class was my favorite and each one relevant to the season of my life. God was in every detail.
Janie Niswonger received her Master of Theological Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in December of 2020
What is God calling you to do? Do you need to see the whole picture before you commit? Do you need to know it will be worth the time and effort before you obey?
I think about the Israelites who were taken into exile in Babylon, removed from their homes, forced to assimilate to a culture not their own. Jeremiah gave them a word from the Lord in chapter 29.
God told the Israelites to settle in, to build houses, grow food, have kids, and work for the prosperity of their captors. And then in seventy years God would keep His promise, take them out of captivity, and return them to Jerusalem.
I wonder if the elders and priests thought, "Seventy years?! Why bother remaining faithful?" Did the young say, "Maybe I will devote myself to God later? After all, I have seventy years!"
Whether you have a plan with a roadmap or the mere notion of a calling, here is where our confidence lies, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11)
We can trust God's plan. It really isn't about the destination. It's about the sacred moments and lessons learned with Jesus along the way that bring us into a deeper fellowship with Him.