I'm not the kind of person who believes that faith is believing that God will take care of everything and it will all be fine. The truth is I think that much of the time everything is not fine, even for people who put their faith in God. I think the faith is in the not-knowing and trusting God anyway. Anne Lamott once said in a radio interview I heard, "The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty." In other words, if you are certain of something, you have no need of faith. It's when we have doubts in our circumstances but we believe God anyway that we have faith.
And I don't believe that faith means believing that God will do such & such, though we may ask. Faith, I think, is believing that God is and that God can.
This is a really tough place to be. It means I went to Mexico not knowing whether or not everything would be fine. I knew simply that I would never leave Vespera and that I would fight for her admission to the United States. I believed that sooner or later we'd be able to bring her home to MN, but I didn't know if it would be a fight or how long it would take. I could not believe that God was going to take care of it all because I hadn't had some divine word from God that it was all going to go as planned, and I know that "bad things happen to good people" all the time. I went believing that whatever happened, God would work it our for good, as this is the promise we find in the Bible. I desperately wanted to bring her home, quickly, easily & safely. I begged for God's miraculous intervention. I cautiously assured Vespera that it would be ok. Somehow, it would be ok. Whatever happened, I wouldn't leave her, and we'd find a way, with God, to work it all out.
Feeling as I do about faith and the ability of people to mess with God's ideal plan (since people have free will & all), it was disconcerting to see a way opening up for us to continue on in Mexico. It felt a little like God was making a way for us to stay if we needed to...like God was already "working all things together for good," even though it wasn't going to go our way. We saw how we could be useful at the school. Vespera was already volunteering in the classroom, and she was totally enjoying learning Spanish grammar, spelling & history. Mango is already a teacher, and I've taught in a few different capacities. Mango and I were getting some good practice with our Spanish. And, not least of all, the school had an empty apartment above the store that we had been offered if need should keep us in Mexico.
I was sick with the feeling that God might have a plan for us in Mexico at the same time that I took comfort in the same feeling. It's amazing to see parallel plans unfold, and I honestly believe that's what we were seeing. We were seeing the way the possibilities were laid out. And, in many ways, I think we saw the way that prayer changes things. I know God hears our prayers, and I know God has the power to intervene. I think there's power in numbers, and I know we had a "great cloud of witnesses" offering prayers on our behalf.
Mango saw these same things, and he really wrestled with these thoughts and with God in prayer on Thursday night after we were delayed at the Embassy Thursday and had to return Friday morning (more on that later). He told me that what it really came down to was asking God for "Plan A," to return to MN swiftly because of the witness it would be to other people, the testimony of God's love it would be for Vespera and for Novio, the way it would speak to the people at Mango's school and to Vespera's friends of God's sovereignty. We want nothing more than for this story to be a testimony of God's love and grace and power. Interestingly, Mango told me none of this until we got home, but while we were in Mexico the prayer I repeated more that once was, "God, please do this for your own glory, not because it's what we want but because of the glory it will bring to You...because it will show people Your heart."
We felt strongly the pull of the plans we felt like God had for us in MN...Vespera finishing high school, going to college, being home in time to apply for financial aid, Vespera & Novio getting to continue building and nurturing their gift of a relationship, Mane continuing her homeschooling in Minneapolis with all the resources we have available here... Though we knew the school in Juarez could make good use of us and that we would grow a tremendous amount if we stayed, it would also be the more difficult and painful journey. We begged God for the merciful journey...the journey home. Late Thursday night Mango felt the freedom from God to speak "in faith" that Vespera would be approved Friday, and we would get to go home.
This faith thing is so stormy, and it's on such a need-to-know basis. I was never convinced that things would go one way or the other until I heard the words that Vespera was approved on Friday, but I do believe that God can totally speak to people and let them know that it's going to be alright ahead of time. I think that's what happened with Mango. He said it was scary to speak such confident assurances out loud, but he felt like it was time to do so on Friday morning. I suppose it could be either that God spoke to him or that God honored his words and granted us mercy...grace...abundance... Either way, I was grateful for Mango's confidence, as it gave me hope. Mango said it must have been something like how Noah felt, building that ark for all those years believing that the rains would come.
What I learned for me is that I don't need to feel guilty about not knowing. It isn't a lack of faith to wonder if it's going to be OK. Faith is stepping out and doing something when you don't know. And that's what all of the last almost-3-yrs have been for me - just doing and being without knowing how it's going to work out or where we'll end up.
As a curious side note, I've found that this way of thinking can make anxiety worse or release me from anxiety...to know that God will work things together for good but the adventure might not be the one we'd hoped for is both disconcerting and exciting.