This is a phrase I heard in a church sermon a couple months ago which seemed to catch my attention, along with ‘abraham’ and ‘burning everything up’. So I wrote them down and forgot about them. It is only now that I am able to understand why I felt prompted to remember them. And I am in awe.
Ever since I can remember, I have loved nature. From playing outside in the dirt or down the creek for many hours as a kid, to David Attenborough being a sort of hero for me, to excelling in biology in high school, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I’ve always felt a deep God-given desire to become a biologist and it’s become somewhat of a dream job for me. Nature is where God talks to me and where I feel closest to Him, always has been.
Completing my degree in 2016 I felt on top of the world. It had been a hard slog but I felt like my dream of becoming a biologist was now just a step away. Moving to Canada wasn’t in my plans growing up, but here I am. To say it’s been a big move is an understatement. Getting a job on a golf course while I got settled into my new life in Canada was pretty novel to me and was a great experience. However throughout my time there I was constantly looking and applying for positions as a biologist. As the year drew to a close, it was a big one. New country, newly married, new home and all the challenges that accompany. As winter came along and the golf course shut down for the season, I found myself out of work and living on employment insurance. Wow. Humbling? Yes. As I realised my chances of getting a job as a biologist were pretty slim now that it was winter and that I had to wait until next summer, I started looking for work to survive the winter. I found myself delivering parcels in our town. Humbling? For me yes. I had a degree and here I was as a postie boy delivering parcels all around town. That came to a close just before Christmas and then I was looking for a job just to survive once again. It felt stressful. Being newly married. Surviving on government payouts and not having a job again. I felt like a failure.
January came and through sheer desperation and perseverance (I thought at the time anyway) and many phone calls to the HR of the local sawmill, I finally got a job. It was a step-up from the golf course and gave us some breathing room in terms of finances, so that was good. But I was working with some nasty chemicals, doing shift work and the job involved some downright nasty jobs. I’d never done anything like what I did there. I was angry. Dare I say I was angry with God. But I wouldn’t admit it. It was painful. Gut wrenching is a good word to describe how I felt. God felt so very distant. So distant from the ‘troubles’ of my life. I was crying out to him, why would he do this to me? I remember balling my eyes out on the phone to my parents back in Aus late one night. Why was I so sure that God had planted this deep-rooted desire in me since a young age to be a biologist and now having worked hard to gain a degree, make the move to Canada, work some dumb jobs, I thought He was withholding. I was confused. Why wouldn’t He give me the desires of my heart? I’d sent 32 cover letters to different companies applying for a position as a biologist and nothing. Silence.
I don’t remember the details of how it came about, probably as it was a process over a period of time. But quite recently, I just said to God I’d had enough. I gave up. I accepted my work at the sawmill. James and Paul spoke to me telling me to be content. So by God’s grace I found contentment in my circumstances. I offered up my desire to be a biologist to God and told Him to take it if He wanted. I let go of my tight grip on that desire and gave it up like an offering, like a sacrifice to God.
And you know what, God blessed that. Because I had learnt my lesson. All this time, I realised (with the help of some well-timed church sermons and times of reflection) that I was putting my hope, my joy, even my identity in being a biologist. Instead, God needed to knock down this idol in my life and replace it with himself as my greatest love. I had let this God-given desire dictate my joy – I was counting on it! Because I wasn’t a biologist = I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t finding joy in God. And that’s what was wrong in my life. I thought as soon as I get a job as a biologist, I’ll be happy. It’ll tick all the boxes.
And as soon as God taught me this lesson – which was a hard lesson to learn, to find contentment wherever I found myself or where God had placed me – and I let go of this idol I had created for myself, I found God opened a door wide open for me to become a biologist. It still staggers me how easy it was. Because it wasn’t of me. It was of God. And as I write this I’m smiling because I just realised I didn’t even have to write a single cover letter to get the job.
Yesterday was my last shift at the mill, and Monday will be my first day as an aquatic biologist. His timing is so much better than mine. Straight out of one job into another. I feel like this job literally fell into my lap. I just had to sit back and relax while God took care of it. It was that easy. And that’s how I know God did it.
My last month or so at the sawmill was actually fun as I had given up being anxious and bitter. God gave me the ability to be content, I enjoyed my work even. I was even able to learn some cool skills there which I would never have dreamed of learning in my life.
The phrases I felt prompted to remember many months ago have today come alive for me. It has honestly felt like I was walking in the wilderness, alone and lost. It was here, in the wilderness, that God was actually VERY present and was teaching me an important life lesson. Just like Abraham offered up his son, “his only son, whom he loved”, whom he had waited so long for, as a sacrifice, a burnt offering, God wanted me to sacrifice what I cared most deeply for.
Coming to Canada honestly felt like I lost my identity. Foreign country, no good friends to rely on, no family, no job title (that I cared about). God stripped me of everything, to MAKE me depend on Him alone for comfort, for strength. It was very painful. And I felt very lonely at times. But God has been with me the whole time, calling my name. And even throughout this experience, His grace during this time also shows in giving me my wife to depend on. A best friend.
As I look back in my journal, I read many entries where I was confused and angry. But through them I see the journey God was leading me on and that excites me. A quote I wrote down many months ago from Charles Spurgeon feels that much more real to me now – “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages”…
“”My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is no disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”