Back in 2002, in Southern California, one night—completely out of the middle of nowhere, when I was minding my own spiritual business and having no thoughts other than that I really loved living a mile away from the beach in a three story townhome with my wife and our grade school age children—at around 4AM God gave me a dream.
That kind of a thing had never happened to me before and has not happened since.
In the dream, God showed me—almost like in a movie trailer—that we would one day give up everything we owned, everything we were, and everything we were doing to serve North Koreans.
The dream was amazingly, unbelievably, painfully vivid—there were nuclear bombs, Mrs. Foley’s traditional Korean dance, people dying of starvation, people grabbing onto us pleading for help, us evangelizing, us comforting people, security police on every corner closing in on us, and Mrs. Foley and I moving through it all with this supernatural confidence and purpose. It was absolutely wild. I can remember it as if it were yesterday.
I woke up in a cold sweat and sat bolt upright, just like people do in the movies. This was before either Mrs. Foley or I knew (or, frankly, cared) much about North Korea. I of course woke Mrs. Foley up and blabbered the contents of the dream breathlessly to her. She looked at me calmly, steadily, first in one eye and then in the other. And then she said a great saying that has transformed my life:
“If it is God, he will bring it to pass in his own time. Do not force it or you will end up with problems.”
You might think after a dream like that that I would want to keep talking about it, keep bringing it up to Mrs. Foley, keep thinking, “What does this mean????” But that is only because you have never had Mrs. Foley stare at you. Or rather, stare through you. So when she told me not to force it, I had a natural incentive to listen. I also had neither particular interest in nor connection to nor passion for North Korea. I had a lot more passion for Del Mar, California. And for our three story townhome. And for our family.
And for trying to figure out how to be married well to someone from a culture where when you wake them up and tell them about a dream, they stare through you—and at that moment you can see that they have more faith in God than you probably ever will.
Because it turns out that faith in God means a willingness—no, a resolute, unbending, unyielding, stubborn, irrational immovability—to wait on God. Without the slightest trace of fear of being left behind, wasting your life, missing the boat, or God going on ahead to do the thing he told you about without you.
That’s what I learned (OK, am still learning, forgetting, and re-learning) from Mrs. Foley about faith. It’s why back in 2002, I never saw the dream I had as life-defining. For all I knew, it was just a really weird dream that was related to me being married to a Korean woman, or seeing something on the news before going to bed, or eating dinner too late that night, or something like that.
So we went on with life, eventually moved to Houston, Texas, got involved in Korean church ministry, bought a house, and started sharing Korean culture with Americans. Mrs. Foley did traditional Korean dance, so I and our two oldest children learned traditional Korean dance, too. I loved Korean culture because I loved my Korean wife, and people seemed to enjoy it when we worked together to share it.
Which is how we came to start, as a hobby, a tiny little culture sharing nonprofit organization called Seoul Texas.
The rest—how Seoul Texas became Seoul USA and Seoul USA became a means by which Christians around the world could connect and partner with and learn from the North Korean underground church—is both history and current events. But the subject of today’s history lesson is this:
Don’t make history. Let God make it. When you and I make history, it means we are shaping history, rather than yielding on God to make it in our lives and around us and even through us. I am the poster child of the gracious truth that God still manages to use us even when we try to make history for him on our own. And I am Exhibit A in the learning lab that waiting on God is anything but passivity. When we act in an effort to bring God’s plans to pass, we act out of fear that he won’t act, or that he won’t act according to our timetable or preference. (Remember Saul the impatient king-turned priest in 1 Samuel 13:8-13?)
The Bible has a term for active, anticipatory, unyielding waiting on God.
That term is worship.
Want practice in waiting on God? Try doing it in public with your closest friends and family for the next 100 days. Go ahead—the North Korean underground church will wait for you—er, with you.
Click here to learn more about 100 Days of Worship in the Common Places.