Lao Tzu said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In this case, it is a journey of 9,356 miles. I am traveling to Australia to participate in a Captivating Retreat, a time for women to come together and experience the heart of God and deep community. It’s the first ever retreat held in that country. Earlier this summer, I embarked on my longest journey to date when our family traveled to Europe. However, that seven-hour flight now pales in comparison to the twenty-one hours of travel time ahead of me.
As I think of Tzu’s words, I recall the first step of this journey. It preceded plane tickets, passport, and packing. Six weeks ago, I received an email from my friend Polly, on staff with Ransomed Heart, inviting me to join the work crew for Captivating Australia. It caught me off guard. Earlier in the year I had expressed interest, but with no word, I had honestly put it out of my mind. Polly’s email was a disruption to the plans I had for the final weeks of the semester.
Initially I thought about responding, “Thanks, but it is impossible to make it happen now.” And, honestly, it felt impossible. I had already used more than my allotted personal days at school; finances were tight; and frankly, I didn’t want to go by myself. Yet, that night I woke and began praying. As I did, I felt God urge me not to rush to “no” but to simply ask the next question. I immediately knew what that question was; asking it was the first step in this journey.
“Who will go with me?” Honestly, I was afraid to travel to Australia on my own, but that wasn’t all. I also wanted to share the journey with someone dear to me. When I asked that first question, I immediately thought of my friend Leslie, who is passionate about the message of Captivating and always ready for an adventure. That morning I texted her, “Hey, want to go to Australia together…in six weeks?” and within the hour I had her reply: “YES!!!!” (Leslie loves adventure and exclamation marks.)
Now it was time for my next step–the second question: “Can I get the time off?” When I arrived at school that day, I dropped by my supervisor’s office. I nervously explained my request, expecting to hear “no”; however, she responded enthusiastically and said she would begin looking for a qualified substitute. Finding someone equipped to teach English and available for two weeks of part-time work was a long shot, but if she had success, she encouraged me to go.
The third question felt equally insurmountable: “How can we afford this trip?” I began looking for a plane ticket, yet all of them were $300 to $600 over our budget. Then, on Thursday morning, a week after receiving Polly’s email, I heard from my supervisor that a substitute had committed to cover my classes. “Buy your ticket,” she concluded. Thirty minutes later I received an email from Google flight tracker noting that the price of my flight had dropped…it was now $150 under budget!
God had met me with provision each step of the way.
As I was recounting this unfolding to a friend last week, she mused, “I envy how you hear God so clearly.” I blushed, for on this particular journey He has seemed quite close and generously communicative. It felt like I’d revealed intimate details of a precious relationship to her. And I suppose I had. In fact, after all of my questions were answered, I had a moment of panic because…well…Australia! I told my husband that I didn’t think I could go. I was too afraid. Tim gently pointed out, “Susan, God has answered each of your questions ‘yes.’ How can you say ‘no’?”
My good and loving Father had given me His “yes” three times; now He was asking for mine. It was as if a devoted lover had faithfully pursued His beloved, and now he was awaiting her response.
Yesterday I kissed my husband and sons goodbye. I boarded a bus crowded with holiday travelers and rode it for eleven hours from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. Now, I’m sitting in Leslie’s quiet home thinking about the coming trip. In five hours I will board a flight that will take me 9,356 miles away from home. As anxiety begins to rise, I recall the journey thus far and am prompted to ask the next question:
“Are you with me, God?”
“Yes, beloved. I will never leave you or forsake you.”
In faith, I take the next step…
Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.