My day's just starting. I come up and over the steep loosely packed, dirt hill that I've mastered not slipping and falling down. Horns are blaring, dust is swarming, the odor of gas fumes mixes with the aroma of freshly sliced fruit. Donning my face mask and buddying up with a uniform-clad girl on her way to school, I make my move to cross. Taxi drivers inch impatiently around me, motorcyclists swerve around diesel trucks. One comes close to my ankles. Stepping out of the road and onto the sidewalk, I wonder if my school-girl street crossing partner has ever thought twice about maneuvering this road. I wonder if she realizes I'm following her closely, watching her every effortless, confident step toward the other side of the street.
The right side of the street is shaded from the morning sun. Prayer wheels rest inlaid on the wall where Buddhists ritually and faithfully send out their prayers. Now, on my way to a cafe up the road, I find myself following two women with wrinkled skin and long gray braids resting along their spine. Each has a hand slipped behind their back, fingers rotating wooden beads. The other is on the wall, dutifully spinning, eagerly praying. I wonder if they know I'm behind them. I wonder if they feel some sort of light following them. I wonder if they feel their prayers mingling with my thanks to God that he hears them, with my pleas to Him that they would only realize it.
And I notice with a quiet, often elusive certainty that here, following these women up this road, these school girls each day on my way to here or there, crossing streets without rules or pavement or speed limits, into a day of ridiculous unknowns and innumerable abnormalities, is exactly where I'm supposed to be.
I'm in Southeast Asia. I wouldn't say that I wanted to come here. But I wouldn't say that I didn't want to either. I needed to come here. For many, the choice to go overseas for ministry came after the call to "Go." For me, it came after the call to "Follow."
My husband and I didn't have a normal start to our relationship. We'd known each other since elementary school and had been close friends since high school before dating. We had started developing a relationship over Skype while he pursued the life God called him to in Southeast Asia. Not even 24 hours after he returned home after seven months, did he show up in real life to invite me into his. He drove me to the mountains. We sipped hot chocolate and fed ducks. He held my hand and lingered his gaze. Then we sat by the lake and as the breeze whipped by he said it, "I want to date you. But you have to know something, I'm supposed to be in Asia, and I want you to come with me.”
It wasn't that I didn't see it coming, I thought this might come up. I knew he’d love it there, and while he was away God had been whispering to my shut ears, softening my hard, determined heart. I wasn’t ready, and I had no idea what I'd say until that moment. But the moment he asked, I knew exactly what the answer was supposed to be. And with some sort of strength that was anything but my own I uttered a confident, “Let’s do this.”
"Follow me," Jesus said to his disciples. No further explanation or discussion was given but a command to leave all behind to go to where they’ve never gone, to where you never thought you would go. They were, I’m sure, a bit stunned, full of doubt, anchored down with outrageous fear. And yet, their hesitant hands dropped the nets they’d desperately gripped their whole lives. They who understood fish and water and stability were called to follow the Messiah to teach men on land with no place to rest their heads.
I, who understands normal and safe and routine, have been called to follow my husband into every kind of wayward and precarious and irregularity. I don’t always know where we’re heading or why we’re heading there, but I know who I’m following.
Throughout our 6ish years of dating, I've learned a lot about this call to follow. I've seen the concept abused and degraded, idolized and romanticized. And in all of it, I’ve found it to be a terrifying, endlessly honored position to take.
The fishermen, who were used to hours on end in a boat searching for the least human of all the animals, were called completely out of their element: to fish for people. And me, a bookworm, often anxious, not-outrageously-athletic, sometimes shy, other times goofy, girl in Southeast Asia married to a rock-climbing adventure maniac? Yes, that's absolutely out of my element.
But when I'm at my most uncertain, most incapable point of following, that steady strength steps in. I've dwelt on how I felt on our wedding day a lot. Such a foreign resilience, purpose, and confidence pulsed through me that day. Though I knew where we were headed and didn't have the slightest idea how I’d handle it, I knew that to follow my husband who was following God was the greatest honor and the sweetest privilege.
On that day I vowed to follow my husband — to follow him home, wherever in the world home might be.
I don’t always feel particularly suitable for this place, this lifestyle, or this ministry. I look at other women and wives around me and see such strides of acclimation, passion, fearlessness and wonder why on earth God or my husband would pick me to do this with. And every now and then I stumble over my out-of-elementness and into his perfection. Sometimes I see with His eyes, act out with His strength, and love with His heart.
To follow Him is to do what He’s done, see what He sees, and love what He loves. I just can’t do that on my own. I know because I try every day to follow ambition and pleasure, the milk and honey of our world today. And still, the sweetest places I’ve ever found myself is at the foot of the cross and at the heels of my God, wandering into all that He has for me to do.