Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our Good Father

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

Imagine, if you will, a child. This little girl clutches a torn, ragged teddy bear in her arms. Her father looks down on her with a loving smile. “Give me the bear, honey,” he says. “You found it in a pile of garbage; it’s so dirty and yucky. I have something much nicer for you instead”.  The little girl looks up at her daddy with eyes brimming with tears. “But I love it, Daddy!” she cries. “It’s mine! I want to keep it!”

She really is convinced that she loves and adores that dirty bear, you see. To her, this ragged toy is everything. In her tiny mind, she can’t possibly imagine anything that she’d like more.  Her daddy must be mistaken. She knows he loves her and he must really think he has something nicer, but HE doesn’t see how much she loves this toy and how she can’t live without it.

What she doesn’t know is that her daddy does see how much she loves that bear. He’d sighed when he saw her find it; his heart cringing when he saw it’s filthy condition. He knew that bear had bugs or fleas, or worse.  He also knows that his little girl has a soft heart and can easily become attached to material things. He knows what she doesn’t; that he can see her wants and needs and knows them so much better than she does. She may think she really wants that dirty toy, but it’s not a suitable toy for her and will bring a lot of frustration and trouble into her life.

He’d rushed to the store to pick out a beautiful, soft teddy bear that is just the kind she’d love; huggable and perfect. He has with him, just behind his back. He wants nothing more to give it to her; to see her face light up with joy and happiness at his gift. But first, she has to let go of the other toy. She has to trust that her daddy knows best, and would never break a promise or lie to her. He wants to give her good things. But right now, as she stands there clutching her poor little toy with her eyes full of tears, it’s clear that deep down, she doesn’t believe that he has something better in store for her.

Does any of this sound familiar? A little too much, right?

I’ve recently come to realize that my perception of God shapes my actions and my attitudes a lot more than I realize. Yes, I know that God is my Father. Yes, I know that He loves me. Yes, I know that He has a plan for me and wants the best for my life, and that He never makes a mistake. But deep down, do my actions reflect that? Sadly, no!

I can think of no example better than right before I came to Taiwan. I’d always been incredibly adamant that I’d never go to Taiwan and teach English; I wasn’t really interested in living in Asia and besides, I hated teaching. So when God started preparing my heart to move on from my comfort zone and make a big change, I was excited. I didn’t know what He had in store, but I figured it would be something cool, like, maybe a new job. Imagine my shock and surprise when I heard the Lord clearly calling me to do the impossible and be a teacher! In Taiwan!!!

It was the funniest thing. I knew this was what God wanted me to do. I didn’t doubt His leading and direction for one second; it was so obvious to me. But even as I packed up my life and prepared to leave everything I knew and move to a new country, I feared.

I feared about how I would react to the language and the culture. I’d never stepped foot outside of North America. I was, I admit, pretty adamantly pro-America. I liked our culture, our conveniences, our way of life. I was afraid that I’d be like a fish out of water. I might spend every waking moment being completely uncomfortable. I feared.

I feared my position as a team leader. I’d always disliked being in leadership positions; I’d always preferred to be a follower and let someone else handle the hard stuff. I accepted that God had led those in authority over me to put me in a position of responsibility in Taiwan, and I knew that with God by my side, I would never be alone. But still, I feared. I feared that that God’s way of teaching me leadership would be the hard way; that I would destroy relationships and make irreparable mistakes. I feared.

But most of all, I feared I would hate teaching. I fully accepted that this was the job that God had given me, and I was willing to accept it. But still, I was afraid that despite being within God’s will, I would be miserable. That every day would be a struggle. That following God’s plan was going to be possibly the hardest and most difficult experience of my life.

I feared.

Don’t you see? I claimed that God was my Father…that He was righteous, and had a plan for my life. But I didn’t believe that He was good. I “asked for bread”; accepting His call to come to Taiwan and trusting that it was His plan for me, I fully expected Him to give me a rock. While I believed that His will for me to come to Taiwan was “right”, I didn’t believe that it was good.

My whole life, I’ve let my perception of God as this stern, all-knowing King dictate how I respond to situations. People would say, “Fully surrender your life to Christ! He is SO worth it!”. But deep down, I didn’t believe that. I only had my twisted view of life, and what I thought I was capable of, and what I enjoyed, and thought that God couldn’t possibly have anything better and that fully surrendering myself to His will would result in a lot of sacrifice, discomfort and unhappiness.

Just like the little girl who didn't trust that her daddy had something better than the poor pitiful thing she loved, I didn’t initially think that God really knew what He was doing when He called me to Taiwan. But He did…He knew me and my wants and needs far, far better than I did, and I have been constantly amazed and astounded by His love and goodness every single day.

I had feared adjusting to a new culture in Taiwan…but God is GOOD. I ended up feeling almost immediately at home; something I could have never anticipated. Taiwan feels like the childhood state of California that I grew up in, and coming here felt so familiar and so RIGHT. I love the culture now… I’m so thankful to have been able to adapt quickly. And I even have a small knack for learning Chinese.

I’d feared the mantle of leadership… but God is GOOD. He provided me with teammates who were exactly His special gift to me. Being in the position of leader gave me the the opportunity to learn and grow as a person, and I discovered that I was capable of far more than I ever realized. My confidence has grown by leaps and bounds… when I went home last summer, people kept commenting on how self-assured and confident I looked. If you knew what a timid person I can be, you’d understand why that is a big deal.

And the thing I’d feared the most, teaching… God is SO GOOD! I’m not a bad teacher! I actually really enjoy my job, and how I can express my creativity by putting together lessons that delight and inspire. I get to love on and be loved by my students, and I feel so fulfilled in the work that I do. Every day is a fun, fun day.

I had worried and resisted and fought God’s leading to come to Taiwan for years, because my puny human brain couldn’t possibly comprehend that it was exactly what I needed. But God knew. My time here in Taiwan has been happy; so happy. I’ve been moved to tears multiple times as I stand in awe at the perfectness of God’s plan for me. I didn’t know that moving to Taiwan would be one of the best things that had ever happened to me. But God knew. He was faithful!

God doesn’t give snakes to His children. He delights in giving us things that are far, far better than our human understanding can comprehend. That doesn’t mean that things are always easy or that we always catch on right away. But even as we sit and cry and fret over the potential loss of our broken futures, hopes and dreams, I guarantee that God has something far better in store for us. He did for me. He will for you, too.

He’s our Good Father, after all!

I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching for answers only you provide 
Because you know just what we need before we say a word

You're a Good, Good Father
It's who you are, It's who you are,
It's who you are and I'm loved by you
It's who I am, It's who I am, It's who I am
Good, Good Father (Housefires)

~Elisabeth Corduan

Elisabeth Corduan is in her second year serving as a volunteer English teacher at the Character and English Institute in Taitung, Taiwan. She has been blessed to have been able to travel all over Taiwan, and is slowly but surely getting stamps from different Asian countries in her passport. Her favorite place to visit so far has been Tokyo, Japan. She loves traveling, singing and curling up with a good book!

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