I found it while I was housecleaning my closets.
Until that moment, I forgot it was there.
It was a picture---given to me as a Christmas present years ago. One of my favorite prints, it always reminded me of the early June day just a few months after I’d turned 21 when I had a life changing encounter with God in a park that looked very much like the one in the photo.
I was working as a secretary during my summer vacation from Bible College. Each day I would go out to the park to have lunch, walk around and talk to God. It was in this park that one day the Holy Spirit confronted me with the question, “Do you want to follow in your Dad’s footsteps and have religion or do you want to follow in your Mom’s footsteps and have a relationship with me?”
After having an up close and personal look at my Dad’s life that summer, it was clear what path I wanted to take. Even though my Mom had always had a harder life, I yearned to emulate her personal experience with God that filled her with joy, vitality and a passion for life and God’s kingdom. To me, the choice was obvious.
It was also in this park that the Holy Spirit asked me another life-changing question when He asked, “Will you, like the 12 disciples, lay down your nets, leave everything behind and follow Me? Will you give up the plans that you have for your life and all of your ambitions for success to follow the path that I have for you---wherever that may lead?”
Trust me, I knew the gravity of this question. Still, I answered “Yes, I will.”
On that day, the park became an altar where I laid down my ambitions, my plans, and my schemes to have success in life and ministry to wholeheartedly follow wherever Jesus led.
It was also during that summer that I received my call to women’s ministry---again on lunch break in the park.
It was a life changing summer. The person who gave me the copy of that picture for Christmas knew what it represented for me. At a time in life when God’s plans didn’t make sense and when following Him meant truly walking a difficult, humiliating, confusing road, they gave it to me to remind me of the commitment I’d made, that God had a plan, and that He ALWAYS keeps His promises.
At first, the picture did bring me hope. Whenever I looked at it I was reminded of that beautiful summer and all of the promises God had made and the visions He’d placed in my heart.
However, as God’s plan for my life continued to have more twists and turns than I ever anticipated, and the period of waiting for His promises to come true took much longer than I had ever imagined, the picture began to be a source of pain. As I went through my own personal “Joseph experience”, I could hardly stand to look at it. (If you’re not sure what I mean by “Joseph experience” refer to Genesis 37-41.)
When it came time that my dream had to die---sacrificed on the altar of “Do you love God enough to serve Him even if your dreams and the promises He made never come true?”---the picture had to be put away.
I had decided to follow Jesus no matter what---I loved Him too much to turn back---but I just couldn’t have that picture hanging in my room as a daily reminder anymore. So I packed it away on the top shelf in the back corner of a closet.
And life went on.
Years continued to pass and I truly found joy, peace, and contentment in the journey. Even when we went through the deepest grief of losing my Mom, there was always the reassuring presence that God was present in our situation and He had a plan even when we couldn’t see it. My job was to keep following, keep trusting, and keep being obedient to follow God’s plan step by step along the way.
That’s what I did.
And day by day along the journey, His plan began to unfold.
Slowly, the dream that had died years ago began showing signs of life again. God was beginning to fulfill His promises.
In ways that I never could have even imagined when I was twenty-one.
None the less, just like Joseph, in God’s exact appointed time, He began to move. Once He started to move there was no stopping the momentum of the plans He was orchestrating---I simply got caught in the tidal wave of following the move of His Spirit and doing what He was calling us to do.
Step by step following Jesus.
And then came a schedule-free day in early November.
It was great! Not only was my schedule clear, but my brother and Dad had no work or plans either that day. That’s when my cleaning and organization freak tendencies kicked in and I thought, “What a perfect day to houseclean the closets! Not only do I have time---I have help with the heavy lifting!” (They were not as thrilled, but they helped anyway.)
That’s when I found it---the picture that had been put away so long ago. Honestly, I’m not sure how I forgot it was there or why I’d never seen it when I cleaned the closets any other year, but this year it was if I was looking at it through new eyes.
Maybe it was because this year I wasn’t looking at it longing for the day God would fulfill His promises. This year I was looking at it and realizing God HAD fulfilled His promises.
I was no longer living in faith believing that someday it would happen. Instead, years of faith and trust had become reality and I was living in the calling I’d received almost 20 years before.
I felt like Sarah in Genesis 21:6-7 when she said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
I’ll be honest with you and admit that I still have a few friends who walked with our family through the entire journey---they saw it all---they’ll still say from him to time, “Who would have ever thought things would turn out this way? God really did have a plan.”
So why am I telling you all of us?
Please understand that it is only told in the utmost humility knowing that God is responsible for any and every good thing that is happening in our lives. Anyone who has walked through a true Joseph experience knows you come out on the other side astonished at the power of God and knowing that you cannot do anything in yourself. (You learn this lesson after you spend a few years trying to bang down doors that aren’t God’s will to no avail.)
The reason I felt led to share this testimony is to encourage everyone out there who is currently going through a Joseph experience.
You made a commitment to God. God placed certain dreams, visions, and prophecies in your life. You’ve done all you can to follow God’s will and be obedient to His plan and yet, it seems that God has you in a holding pattern.
You’re in a time of waiting.
Sure, God’s working in your heart, developing character, teaching you valuable lessons, and preparing you for all He has in store for you---but if you’re honest there are days when you want to say, “Enough already! I can’t wait anymore! Is God ever going to fulfill His promises? Is life ever going to change? This is not how my life was supposed to go---what is happening?”
I’m writing this to tell you that I’ve been where you are. I know you’re probably sick of people telling you this, but I understand how you feel. Waiting is hard. Living in faith is challenging.
But it’s worth it----in the end, it is sooo worth it.
God does have a plan. Even though it may not seem like it, He does have everything under control. As so many people told me during my darkest days, “Some day, when you least expect it, in God’s exact right moment, God will open your prison door and you will step into the plans that He has for you.”
He did it for Abraham. He did it for Joseph. He did it for King David and Moses and so many others in the Bible. Because He is no respecter of persons, HE WILL DO IT FOR YOU!
So be encouraged! Read this testimony and know that your day is coming!
In the meantime, walk as closely with God as you can.
Allow Him to make every change in your heart, mind and character that He sees necessary.
Don’t waste your time wallowing, but use it to learn, to grow, and to enjoy your relationship with Him.
Avoid the temptation to struggle and try to knock down doors on your own.
Instead, find your peace in the stillness. Let God be in control---You be still and let Him be God.
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God;”
Psalm 37:10 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;”
Day by day, follow each step that He lays out for your life.
Even when it’s hard, relax and enjoy the journey---once this special time in your life is over, you will never get it back again.
Stay in God’s Word.
Love the people God has in your life.
Be faithful to do everything He’s called you to do right now with all of your heart and for the glory of God.
Most importantly, don’t give up. Take it from someone who has been where you are---if you follow God faithfully, someday when you least expect it---in a way that you could never even imagine---God will keep His promises and fulfill His plans for you and His kingdom. Until then, stay strong and continue waiting on God! He will come through!
“Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 1:20
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, Who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”