I have a collection of rocks from over the years that is monetarily and scientifically worthless because I measure their importance on a scale of sentimentality. I’ll sometimes pick up a rock while I’m on a vacation or on a meaningful trip, and I write the date and the memory associated with it on the bottom of the rock. One day at Pineywoods (the summer church camp I’ve worked at since I was about sixteen,) a little rock from across the dirt bridge caught my eye for no particular reason. Rocks at Pineywoods are like sand on a beach, so this one rock catching my attention is ridiculous. I picked it up and examined it, and when I turned it over in my hand, I saw written plain as day in a blue Sharpie the word “teacher.”
I’ve always been a pretty skeptical person, looking at each coincidence from every angle and not automatically accepting it as a sign from God. But this time, I couldn’t help but accept this little rock as some kind of sign regarding my future. Whether it be as a fulltime job or just something I would do for even one week on a mission trip, I knew that at some point I would fulfill that little rock’s prophecy.
But I won’t lie and tell you I automatically began seeking out ways to become a teacher. I fought it, and I fought it hard. I’m not a public speaker… heck, I’m not a speaker at all. I don’t have a truckload of patience with immature kids. I don’t think I have a knack for teaching—and I’m just not the teacher type. But God likes to challenge stereotypes. And apparently He likes to challenge everything I thought I knew.
A few weeks ago, Kim’s friends from Alaska came to our house to visit and meet the family. I had just gotten home from Pineywoods, and I saw them all sitting at the kitchen table when I walked through the door. The first thing one of them said to me was, “When are you coming to work in the Bush?” I smiled and said, “I’m not” with the honesty of a thousand Mother Teresas. I’ve always wanted to visit Kim up there, but I knew I could never work there. Her friends began asking me why I didn’t consider going there, and I told them the truth: “I like civilization. And cleanliness … good running water, indoor plumbing. I like Starbucks, fresh vegetables and fruit…” I continued: “It’s secluded… it’s dangerous… I would miss my friends. I wouldn’t enjoy getting cussed out by students on a daily basis.” They spent a little while longer trying to convince me why all my reasons weren’t good enough, but I stuck to my guns. “I just want to do my own thing, you know. Find my own place.”
The next day, I woke up thinking about snow. As I thought about Alaska, I prayed a vague and formless prayer because, honestly, I didn’t want God to tell me I had to go. I avoided praying about it, stupidly assuming that if I didn’t ask, He wouldn’t answer. That day Kimberly and I rode out to our brother Alex’s house, and on the way, questions about Alaska began forcing themselves out of my mouth. I didn’t even want to ask them because it might give her false hope, but some inner something shoved them out of me: “Where would I even live? What would I do there? How long would I stay? Could I even start paying off my loans?” She was, naturally, a little shocked I would ask these questions even hypothetically.
We were both shocked when just a few days later I made the final decision to move to Alaska for five months and become a substitute teacher. I’m not even sure there was a decision process. I did make a pros and cons list, and I did talk to my best friends about it, but none of those things gave me any clarity. It was just something that overcame me completely and almost suddenly one day; I knew I had to go. “You should probably change our flight and ticket information now before I change my mind,” I told Kimberly. “You’re going?” she asked, eyebrows raised high. “Yes.” We shared a smile of excitement. Then I folded inside myself and commenced freaking out in silence, asking myself what I thought I was doing, calling God out on His sneaky supernatural self.
I began to wonder how God made me make this decision without ever making me consciously aware of the process of making the decision. I thought back to a few days before, when I was adamant about not going to Alaska and not being a teacher. I remembered how I’d thought about selfishness and how I had too much of it. That it was selfish of me to even want to “do my own thing” or have “my own place.” God planted this little seed of self-awareness in my mind that made me realize how selfish I was being to not even consider going somewhere because of stupid things like pride and comfort. God sure knows how to humble me. I think once I allowed myself to openly marinate in my own egotism, I couldn’t take it anymore and I had to break down the wall stopping me from even considering Alaska. Once I considered it, there was no way I could say no: this is an opportunity of a lifetime. I remembered my hesitance about studying abroad and what caused me to eventually go anyway, and I guess I realized I no longer had a choice in the matter—while I have no attachments and no budding career to protect, this is my only chance for an adventure, a mission, like this.
I learned this month that I don’t know much. But what I do know is that God is in control. Whether he gives you something as concrete as a rock that spells out your next move or just sneakily finds a way to help you make the decision He knows is best, He will guide you. Even when you don’t want Him to.
Many of you already know the circumstances I’ll be adapting to because you know my sister. If you don’t know about the Alaskan Bush, you’ll probably learn more than you ever wanted to over the next five months. Just keep checking in every once in a while to hear all about this culture and lifestyle I’ll be living among for a while.