I have just finished reading Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God about the amazing life of Oswald Chambers, the author of the famed My Utmost for His Highest. In this incredible book that traced his life from birth to death, he speaks multiple times about “God’s parentheses”. In this he is “highlighting the significance of God’s seemingly haphazard scrambling of humans plans” (1). I can find no better way to describe the past 24 hours for us.
After a three-year battle to return to Mozambique including challenges with cancer, covid and children, a seven-month wait for visas, a near-miss with COVID test results, and a LONG four day trip to get here, it seemed like the worst was behind us and the door to our work among the Mwinika was finally opening once again.
Yesterday, early in the morning, we started out by truck on the eight-hour drive to the village, excited to finally see this day come to fruition. As usual, we were stopped at the provincial border and asked for our paperwork. The immigration officer took one look at Phil’s paperwork and said, “Well, looks like your time here is almost up”. We were surprised and asked why he would say that when the visa clearly said work visa with a three-month period of validity. He then directed us to some smaller print that said, “30 days to appear in immigration”, meaning, this was not the visa but rather a pre-visa to get us into the country. Hence, upon arrival, we had 30 days to go to immigration and apply for the actual visa. We were not aware of this, having never come into the country with this kind of visa before. We began inquiring with friends and discovered that this was indeed true. Up came the parentheses 😊. Instead of turning off to the village, further on, we found ourselves going straight to the provincial capital as Phil’s expiration date was in three days!
So, here we sit, in the middle of the parentheses, waiting for God to reveal the next part of this story. Our plans feel very scrambled at present and it is hard to not look at the calendar and see that our time here is short and slipping away while our “hope-to-do list” grows longer each day. But, as I was reminded:
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
We know that as with all parentheses there is an ( opening parentheses and a ) closing parentheses. These additions to any story, give a little extra to it, to make the story more interesting. This helps us to rest knowing that the one who authors the parentheses, does so because He has something extra special to add to the story. And while this feels haphazardly to us, we know He remains in full control. I recently heard someone say:
There are NO problems in heaven, just PLANS.
Praise the Lord with us that this officer saw this and brought it to our attention (otherwise, Phil would have been here illegally within just days). Pray with us, that He will make a way and make clear the next steps. Pray that we will not rely on own plans or understanding but continually trust in Him in the middle of the parentheses.
Image retrieved from: https://study.com/academy/lesson/parentheses-definition-usage-quiz.html