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Andrea Burnham

Dying on the Road

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matt. 16:24–26).

Our journey with God is not always going to be as we imagine. It is, however, a glorious one I would not have missed for the world. Jesus tells us this journey with Him will cost us our egos and our lives. There is no room for the unholy trinity of “I, me and mine.”

In 1990, my wife Berenice and I, with our four small children, arrived in Australia excited and expectant that God was going to bless our efforts. Secretly, I thought this wild ride was going to be a cinch. After all, Australia is first world, a paradisiacal climate, English-speaking, and I knew just how I was going to plant a seminary here. It was all a well-planned walk in the park. The place to be! Isn’t God great!

Our first night in paradise, God struck me down with a terrifying, life-threatening asthma attack. The next week my skin fell off. My immune system was in overdrive and it was killing me, literally! Doctors counseled us to move back to the U.S. My bride suggested that the better part of wisdom might be to return to the U.S., before becoming so chronically ill that recovery would be unlikely.

Next, one by one each of our children fell in love with the licentiousness of Australia. My family was falling apart. Paradise had turned into hell. I needed a trip to the cross. I remembered God’s promises and asked soul-exposing questions. “Will I travel on with Him, trust His promises, and be OK with losing my life?”

My kids still struggle with God and faith, but they have not given up on Him, nor He on them. My heath has improved with immunotherapy; but it is still very much the middle of the story. What is different is that, by God’s grace, “I, me, and mine” are daily nailed to the cross.

Until Jesus taught me to walk with Him instead of praying for Him to bless my journey, I didn’t really understand “dying on the road,” as my wife calls it. Yes the seminary in Australia was built, but not by my blood, sweat, and tears.

It was built by God’s grace through my death.


This was originally published in The Journey devotional. Stephen Rarig serves with MTW in Perth, Australia.

 

Stephen Rarig, Perth Australia Reflection Mar 15, 2018
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