July 19, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“God is Recalculating Now”
I often used to lose my way when I drove long distances. If I lost my way, I used to return to the first place I started because I have a terrible sense of direction. If I was alone, it was okay even though I made a detour or lost my way. However, the problem is that it was not okay when I was with someone else because it affects them. Sometimes I do not know where my confidence came from. I used to feel that I surely knew the way even though I went through the wrong way. Also though my company said, “it is the wrong way, you should go that way,” I used to say, “No, I know this way. It is the right way.” And then, I kept going until we reached a dead end. If they were very close friends with me, we might fight or argue with each other. And, they might say to me, “I am done with you.” Finally, we both felt bad. After I experienced losing my way many times, I accepted the fact that I have no sense of direction. I do not try to drive on my own when I am with others. I say, “I am a map blind person.” It happened to me before I had a navigator, a GPS (Global Positioning System).
Now, I have a GPS app on my phone. But, still, sometimes, I feel I know that way, and I would go my way against the direction of the GPS. The GPS says, “recalculating, recalculating,” repeatedly until I come back to the right way. It never upsets or argues with me when I go the wrong way. It never says, “I am done with you.” Instead, it always says “recalculating” with a soft and kind voice. It is high technology. I do not worry anymore if I lose my way as long as I have my GPS.
How about our daily lives? You may know that the best GPS for our lives is God. However, we often forget we have the most excellent GPS for our lives, and we try to go by ourselves. Remember, God also never says, “I am done with you.” Even though we lose our way many times, or go against God, God is always recalculating with grace and love. Our most merciful God is still there for us. God is always ready for us. Even though we mistakenly go the wrong way, or intentionally like I did, if we go back to God with repentance, God is recalculating our route with forgiveness. God never abandons us.
In the Scripture today, Jacob is running away from his brother Esau. Jacob is really eager to get Esau’s blessing of the birthright as the firstborn son. He dealt with Esau and exchanged birthrights for his stew. Furthermore, Jacob got Isaac’s blessing for the firstborn son Esau cheating his father, Isaac. Isaac said to Esau, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing” (Genesis 28:35). And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright and look. Now he has taken away my blessing” (Genesis 28:36). His name Jacob means “heel-catcher” and “supplanter.” He is named Jacob because when he was born, he grasped Esau’s heel with his hands (Genesis 25:26). After Jacob cheated his father Isaac for the blessing of the firstborn son, he lives in a difficult life until he returns to God, receiving the other name “Israel” from God (Genesis 32:28). If he knows that God already plans for his destiny, which has the blessing as Isaac’s successor, he might not be going through a difficult life. If he knows that God is the most excellent navigator and planner for his life, he might not cheat his father and brother. However, he did not know about it as we do not know. So, Jacob planned to get the blessing and became a fugitive.
Nevertheless, God is with him. Even God is present in his dream, and says, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your offspring. And your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth.” It is very familiar to us, right? This blessing is that God gave Abraham when he left his hometown and his father’s house. God is now recalculating his plan for Jacob. God originally planned to bless Jacob, but he is out of the way. He lost his way. Imagine that Jacob is a quiet person who stayed in a tent enjoying cooking. But, suddenly, he left his home and ran away from his brother. He became a wanderer in the wilderness. So, God started recalculating for his way until he comes back to his home again.
God says, “Know that I am with you and keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land (28:15a).” Like that, God is the best GPS for our life. Whenever we lose our way, he will bring us back. Wherever we go, God will be with us until “when God has done everything, he made a plan for us.” God says to Jacob, “for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (28:15b). God is recalculating for Jacob’s life in Bethel, which means “the house of God.” If you feel that you are struggling, God is recalculating now to bring you back. If you are suffering from injustice, unfairness, a bad medical record, unexpected situations, addiction or depression, God may be recalculating your way. God has not done it yet for you. It is not the end of the world yet. God will bring you back in the right direction in God’s sight. So, please hold God in your prayers until God brings you back from the difficulties.
As I used to lose my way, I also lived a detour life for many years. I was a sincere person to God in my own sight, not God’s sight, and I went a straight way until I reached a dead end in my life. After I lost my mother, I fasted and prayed for forty days until God brought me back to the right way. When I came to the USA, I was about to lose my way again. That time I was studying in a Ph.D. program. On the other hand, I was involved in a new church as a volunteer minister. I thought that my priority was to study. I focused on my studies more than the church ministry. I was working on a paper to present at the American Academic of Religion. I felt overwhelmed with work, studying and ministry. I asked the pastor to find another person instead of me because I wanted to focus on my research only. And then, that night, I dreamed as Jacob did. God was present in my dream as God was in Jacob’s dream. I read the Scripture about ‘Gideon and three hundred soldiers’ in the Book of Judges in my dream. I learned that God chose three hundred men out of thirty-two thousand men. God asked me, “Do you think how I chose three hundred men out of thirty-two thousand men?” I could not answer God because I knew that God chose them according to God’s will. God told me, “Yes, I did it myself. Know that I can do everything I want. Suppose I do not use you even after you have a Ph. D. degree, and whatever you want, what would you do? I need you now for my people.”
After I woke up, I prayed to God for forgiveness. I gave up presenting my paperwork at the Academic Conference. Instead, I worked for the church ministry, especially for the conference for Korean-American Young Adults. We have over four hundred attendees and forty staff every year. I enjoyed doing it. While I worked on it, I could complete my Ph.D. degree as well. I do not know how it happened. But, I know God did it while I worked for God’s people. The work led me back to God and nourished me to grow as a minister. Since I worked on that for six years, I completed my Ph. D. degree.
Furthermore, I studied in an M.Div. Program in order to prepare for church ministry. Even though I was about to lose my way, God brought me back to the right way. I got a sense more of God’s providence, for I did not lose my way again. If I feel something is wrong, and I sense that God will be recalculating, I try to hold God in my prayers and in my heart.
The important reason we have to be careful and get more of a sense of God’s providence is that if we lose our way, it affects our family members and our loved ones. Jonah ran away from God’s mission to go to the city of Nineveh and went to Tarshish (Jonah 1:1-17). The people in the same boat with Jonah were threatened by the great wind and storm God sent. Jonah fell into the sea, and the great fish swallowed him. Finally, God brought Jonah back to Nineveh using the fish. The people who were with Jonah had difficulties because of Jonah. Like that, sometimes we have difficulties not because we lost our way, but because our family members/loved ones lost their way. However, do not blame anyone. It is not done yet for God. It is not the end of the world. Please hold God in your prayers until God brings you back to the right way. Trust that God is recalculating now. God may give you a chance to pray for your loved ones. Do not give up, but hold God firmly. God is recalculating for your way now with your loved ones.
Thanks be to God. Amen.