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On The Matter Of Calling

By the time this blog posts, I should be over halfway into my time in Tanzania. As I sit writing today, it is but a few days before I depart for my first transatlantic journey. The headiness and heaviness of the whole affair have rolled in like a thick, sticky fog covering me and lighting gossamer-like over everything I see.

I’m not sure that I could be more excited about going and seeing what the Lord is doing on the other side of the world. To get to be some small part of that work is a privilege I knew not to even hope for, before He planted it into my heart. The labor of praying, planning, and preparing for the endeavor, and more so for the advent of this new season, has done much to break up the fallow ground here within.

In the midst of the excitement of stepping into this personal unknown, this grand embarking, I find a weightiness that cannot and should not be ignored. This single realization throbs within me in constant rhythm like a lone street light on a dark night. The pleasure of every “going” is intrinsically linked to the pain of every “leaving”.

In order to go to Africa, I must leave Home. In order to be present with His people there, I must be parted from His people here. My people here. And that is not nothing, it is something, and that something can sometimes feel heavy.

And rightly so, I think. It should feel difficult to leave loved ones, even for a couple weeks. The pain of parting stands as evidence of the living tissue of love connecting us together in community being rent, even if but briefly.

I know that more is at work here right now than simply my contemplative nature. The greatness of this trip invites a gravity not found in the everyday run to the store. When I grab my purse and head for the door slinging hollered goodbyes over my shoulder at my family, I do not think about whether I’ve said enough to secure their hearts should I not return.

But, in readying for this trip, I am absolutely conscious of my deep need to say the important things to the people I love. Do not get me wrong, I absolutely expect to return from Africa. My hope is that this is but one among many worldly jaunts as my Father’s ambassador and errand-runner.

But, those of us who know the Lord, know that our lives and the number of our days are not ours to give. He who created me and sustains my life, knows how many days He’s given me here. My job and my joy is to spend them well and to the fullest measure. They are sweeter somehow when we recognize they are fleeting.

I thank the Lord for directing my attention to such important conversations with Him, with myself, and with my people. What do I want to have said to my children, my husband, my family, and friends, should this turn out to have been my last opportunity to speak into their lives?

So, here it is…

I love you. Knowing you and loving you has been the absolute joy of my life. That the Lord picked you to be mine, and me yours, is an honor I couldn’t possibly have deserved. I am made more because He saw fit to join us together in this life, and in Himself.

I want to tell you this because it’s desperately important to my heart to tell you the true and important things while I am able. I absolutely believe that I’m coming right back here to you, but just in case I don’t, I want you to remember what I’m telling you right now and what I’ve tried to show you in our life together.

Honestly, I’m concerned about your heart and how it will hurt when I’m not here with you. I know that the Lord will be with you, comforting you in Himself and in His Truth. And I thank Him that He will be loving you in my stead.

Because I am familiar with the schemes of our enemy, I want to make sure you know something. If I go to Africa and do not return, it will not be because our God abandoned me there. If something unexpected happens, be sure of this, He was with me the whole time, having never left nor forsaken me.

It’s important to me for you to know this because I know how the enemy will want to twist things to tell your heart lies about your Father God. He, Satan, will try to use this as proof that God is not loving and kind, and that He does not keep His promises to His people.

I want you to promise me that in the midst of your pain, you will choose to run to the Lord and not away from Him. He will understand your pain and heartache and give you all the room you need to say all the things to Him. He will be there for you just the same way He has constantly been here with me. He is the only reason that I have had this life to live and lose. He is the One who gave me life and all the good there has been in it, you included.

Okay… whew… (deep cleansing breaths and a good wiping of my tear-drenched face).

There’s one more thing I want to make sure to tell you. I have not been called to go to Africa. I know that might sound funny because I’ve been raising money and making plans and even leaving you to go there.

We often hear this saying in the church, this I have been called to do this or that and go here or there. I make no claims that this is a wrong way of speaking or inaccurate phraseology. I mostly want to make a distinction here so that if I do not return you don’t wonder why God would call me to go to Africa just to die there.

God has not called me to go to Africa. He has called me to so much more. He has called me to Himself, and He has opened a door for me to go to Africa. I am called to Him, to go to Him, to be with Him, to abide in Him, to grow into His likeness. And this is the calling that, whether at home with you or abroad, I am striving for. I am, like Hebrews 2:11 says, striving to enter His rest. So I am with Him and He with me, in this life and the next.

It is important to me that you know that I am more than satisfied in Him, and so thankful that He chose me as His own. My hope is that I have lived my life, however imperfectly, with you in such a way that you can see and hold onto the genuineness of my faith in Him. The God who made, chose, loves, and walks with me, even me, wants to live this selfsame abiding relationship with you too.

I hope you can hear His invitation to you, He's calling you to Himself, the same way I’ve heard it. I pray that you rise up and run to join Him. I do not regret it, and neither will you!

“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’

And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’ ” Psalm 27:8

“My lover said to me, ‘Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!

Look, the winter is past, and the rains are over and gone.

The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come,

and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.

The fig trees are forming young fruit, and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming.

Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!’ ” Song of Songs 2:10-13

I have loved you, and I love you still. I will see you soon.

May the Lord bless and keep us both while we are parted.

I can’t wait to see what’s beyond this open door.

I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

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Ashley Coburn
Ashley Coburn
Sep 01, 2021

Amen! May the Lord bless you and keep you and the team in Tanzania.

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