Saturday, August 7, 2010

And now, for the moment we've all been waiting for...

The past weeks, and even months, have flown by pretty quickly. There was one thing, though, that couldn't have come soon enough, both for me and for many of you: the decision about whether to stay here in Utah or return to LETU this fall. I covered my dilemma in a previous post. This was a decision that I took none too lightly- I regarded it as having more significance than just what I am doing with the next year of my life. I saw it as a fork in the road which would affect the shape of my life far beyond the next year, perhaps even influencing where my career goes.

I've long told people that I don't wish to live a typical white-collar life- to be educated, work for forty or fifty years, then retire and buy a big yacht. Honestly that kind of lifestyle just doesn't appeal to me. Not only would I not honestly enjoy the kind of opulent lifestyle that that would bring, but I crave the adventure and risk of a life lived outside the sterile white-collar bubble. More important than either of those, though- which are simply my preferences- I think that God can do much more with my life than just a career and maybe being active in the church during the evenings and weekends. Please don't think that I'm condemning white-collar life as an invalid choice for some to make. God probably calls many people to that and I hope that they take their calling seriously. It's just not what I feel called to.

Shane and Kim, the ministry assistant directors here, have told me about a retirement village in Florida which is specifically for retired missionaries. When I think about an community filled entirely of missionaries, what comes to mind is the wealth of amazing life stories that is represented there. Each of the missionaries, I am sure, could tell you of many times in their lives where they were in some sort of peril and God delivered them, or how God provided some immense need right on time, or how once they had no idea what do do next or where to go but then God opened a door. Those are the stories I want to tell my grandkids, not about this one time I got a great deal on a sports car that I bought with my stellar engineering salary.

So I saw these two options for my life, and I saw the choice ahead of me. Sure, the decision was only for a year, but it was also a symbol- the decision declares what is most important to me, what I want to do with my life, what path I want to take a step on.

I tried to make this choice not a choice, but a matter of following God wherever he wanted me to go. That is valid- if it were not in fact a choice I would be doing wrong by trying to go somewhere other than where God was leading me. But I feel now that it was a choice. The litmus tests I tried to set up didn't work- I tried to automate the decision by stating that it'd be miraculous if I got enough financial aid to go back to school and it'd be a sign from God that he wanted me to return to LETU if that happened. In the end, the financial aid I got was not insignificant, but placed me right on a line where I could do it but only with some real but doable sacrifices. That brought it down to a choice again.

I had been telling everyone who was waiting on my decision that financial aid was the thing I was waiting for, and now that I knew how that chip had fallen I still wasn't decided. I felt I needed more information to go on- so I contacted my preferred potential future employer and asked what a delay of a year would mean. The answer came back neutral, that a delay of a year wouldn't prevent them from being interested in hiring me, but that there were not guarantees. Still, it was a decision.

God's greatest gift to us is the free gift of salvation. After that, I feel, the next best thing he gave us is free will. After all, the gift of salvation wouldn't be a gift if we weren't free to choose or reject it. Many argue about what free will really is if God is all-knowing and all-powerful- whatever the ultimate truth of free will is, I feel sure that God was offering me a choice here. As if he were saying "You are free to go either way. I will be with you at LETU if you go back there, and I can do good in you and through you there. I will be with you here in Utah if you stay- no matter where you choose to go, I will be there, and my power is vast enough to be unaffected by the decision you make."

So it really was a choice. Even with all the information I could need in front of me, I was still indeterminate. I usually am not indecisive- when I made the choice to go to Iowa, it was almost a snap decision- I got the info I needed, decided it would be cool adventure, and so I pulled the trigger. Perhaps it is the significance of this decision that gave me such pause. This really could affect the rest of my life.

A few nights ago, as a stand-in for a real Bible study, we watched a DVD called Furious Love. It was about a real and proverbial journey that a filmographer took to try to understand how God's love penetrates even the darkest parts of our spiritual world. It showed many things that the church in America doesn't encounter very often, or like to think about: demon possession, witchcraft, satanism, destitute drug addicts living in a dump, prostitutes trapped in their lives in Thailand. All these dark things have been overcome not by God's might or power, but by his love. It is an amazing film that I encourage everyone to go out of their way to watch.

It did have the proscribed effect on me- I was awed by what God's love was and how the filmographer had experienced it and shown it to us. There was something else, though, that it did for me- it presented me with all the things that God is doing all over the world- all the things that those retired missionaries could be talking about, all the things that God might do with me if I chose to abstain from the white-collar option and step out into the unknown. Am I ready for that? Can I really be the one that God uses to cast a demon out of a convulsing woman in Tanzania? Do I even want that?

I don't think anyone wants to hang out with the demon-possessed because of the merit of the situation. People choose to put themselves in situations like that- to pursue lives that take them to those places- because they want to be the hands and feet of God's unquenchable love to his children, and they won't let something petty like their own carnal comfort get in the way of what God can do through them. They are looking at the higher goal- the glory of God and the building of his kingdom- over their own desires.

No, I didn't make a snap decision as I sat and watched Furious Love. That experience was only fuel for the fire. It was still up to me to decide. Sure, God can use me to cast out demons- but he can also use me to encourage kids in VBS and to fund those who go to the dark places. He needs all sorts of people in his kingdom. He let me decide where I wanted to be.

I can't say that there was a moment when the decision felt right to me. If I went only by the facts, I would have decided to stay in Utah long ago. I never did feel a peace about doing that, though- somehow I felt it would have been presumptive, that in a way I really didn't understand the gravity of my decision and that I need to wait until God revealed more to me. This entire decision was a process.

Yet, it was in a fact-gathering way that the decision was made. I was standing in the basement room where the in-construction men's apartment was, the room I'd be moving into if I decided to stay. The weight of the decision was bearing on my shoulders, and I knew I would need to have this all sorted out sooner rather than later. And then I decided. I would stay here. I would go down the path that may someday take me to casting out demons, because that is what I want in my life. I don't know my future any better than I know yours, anonymous reader; I can't tell you if the decision I made is really going to send me into situations like that. What I know is that I've taken the opportunity presented to me this summer to make my intentions clear- God, if you will send me, I want to go.

Well, now that all that serious business is sorted, who wants to see my new apartment? It's so sweet! I'm not completely moved in yet, but it's going to be the ultimate bachelor pad. I'll post more pics when it's done.

A view from the door into my bedroom. They assured me they'd take the loft out but I assured them that they certainly would NOT. Lofts own. The ultimate plan is to put a couch under the loft, a sweet one that was donated to the ministry this summer. It is super comfy and I campaigned for it to be placed in the guy's dorm. I'm taking it downstairs with me, since I'm the only one who sits on it anyway. If Shane disagrees with me he can feel my wrath. Once I get back from TX I'm going to set up my projector up over the couch to project onto the opposite wall. Sweet!

Looking into the other corner- I have significant hanging closet space for the first time ever. I think I'm going to try hanging my t-shirts.

My new deer buddy. I feel, the highlight of the room. I haven't named him yet. Any suggestions?

My desk area. No the deer doesn't have a massive third antler growing out of its face- there's another antler sitting on top of the desk. Classy!

This is what will be my new personal kitchen- it's not completed yet. Doesn't it look great so far? Chip's dad is a super handyman and this is all his work.

Finally, the bathroom. Again, a personal luxury I get to enjoy. The mirror is, unfortunately, low enough that I have to stoop to see myself in it. The light fixture there is pretty, but it may have to go so I can raise the mirror. If I'm going to stay in this apartment for a year, I'm going to take the hour or so to raise the mirror so I can see myself. I already mangled the ceiling fan to raise it 2" so I wouldn't walk into it all the time. Whoever has to remove that fan next: I'm sorry, it's going to be impossible. Just tear down the building around the fan, because there's no way it's ever coming down again after I shortened the mounting hardware. 

So there you have it- decision made, future determined for at least the next year. I'm sure roughing it in that apartment after having made the 'hard choice' huh? The next year will be interesting. I'm now on the job hunt and I'm sure that God will provide something. I'm also going to start raising support and enroll in a class at Snow College. My immediate plans are to take a road trip to TX Aug 16-24 to collect the remainder of my belongings. After that, the real work begins. 

The long term future is not entirely unclear either. I may have left you with the impression that I'm forsaking my  engineering career for some idea of going to weird places and doing weird things. I'm not, at least not entirely. I will be returning to LETU in the Fall of 2011 to finish my last semester. That is set in stone because the classes I need to graduate are fall-only classes, and if I stay away from LETU longer than two semesters, then  I have to come in as a new student under the new catalog and take a bunch of new classes- very disadvantageous. I really don't think that God brought me (at great effort) to within one semester of graduating  LETU to not let me finish. Furthermore, I have a large amount of student debt to pay off and I think that an engineering career is a good way to pay that off and make myself more available for God. If I had to guess I'd say that I'll graduate December of 2011 and go work in engineering for some years until debt is paid off (and maybe even the family I may have is ready for a more adventurous lifestyle) and from there I'll go wherever. I'm also not ruling out that God will use engineering in the adventurous lifestyle I'm aiming for- there is certainly a lot of adventure to be had in engineering (international contracts- yes please) and like I said before, God can use me wherever.

Thanks for tuning in- don't forget to name my deer in the comments.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts & your process. I am blessed & encouraged about what you are learning on your journey. Keep listening & keep on walkin'!
    Liz Crittenden

  2. Ned, Thank you SO much for sharing your decision. I have been praying for you as you were deciding. I look forward to getting to know you better. God is bringing me back to Ephraim. I will keep praying as you raise some support and get ready to take classes at SNOW. SNOW college is great and I really love the professors.

    God Bless you!

  3. Thanks for your encouragement, Liz and Stormy!

  4. Ned,
    I loved reading your decision-making process. I'm thrilled at your passion to adventurously live for God. I feel encouraged and refreshed to do the same!
    Enjoy your awesome bachelor pad. :]


  5. Ned, You should name your deer:

    John: for John Deer ;)

  6. You should name the deer Brahms. I don't know why; it just seems like a Brahms.

  7. Venny... by the way, love your blog, didn't realize there were engineers out there so eager to write... Could be that I'm just judging everybody's experience based on my last three months of ASTM paperwork... God Bless you Ned!