JACKSON, Tenn. – Feb. 27, 2006 – My parents believed in sacrificial living. When I was 4, we loaded up a U-Haul trailer, and we moved from Mississippi to a small village in Western New York, where we helped to start a church in our own home. My parents made it clear as to why we had left my grandparents and cousins: God had led us to serve Him in another place.
Over the years, I learned about a sacrificial approach to finances, as we avoided debt and extravagant purchases in order to give extra gifts over and above our tithes. We sacrificed personal time to invest in the lives of others. We sacrificed so-called dignity in order to reach out to persons who were marginalized.
As I reached adulthood, I began to sense God leading me to pursue His call into full-time Christian service. I knew that this call could lead anywhere. On my first date with my wife, I warned her that God was calling me to leave our hometown and that we would likely never live there. She had felt such a call as well and soon after we married, we moved a thousand miles away for me to attend seminary in New Orleans.
While in New Orleans, we wrestled with a call to foreign missions, but we realized instead that God was leading us to work in Baptist higher education, in part to be supporters and encouragers of young persons who would become career missionaries. I now teach at Union University, where we have dozens of such students. I’ve followed God’s leading here, and as a family, we are committed to continue to follow God’s leading.
I had, however, an unnerving experience at church the other night. The service had emphasized missions and the urgent need to send the gospel into each part of the world. I sat there and smiled smugly, thinking of my former students and my many friends who are missionaries on almost every continent.
After the message, we stood to sing the hymn of invitation, “Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go.” Ah, that old, intensely appropriate song for a missions service. Will I follow to Africa? Yes! Will I follow to New York City? Yes! Of course, wherever He leads, I’ll go!
I paused my singing, though, for a moment, and suddenly I heard the soft, sweet voice of my 7-year-old son, Ethan. He was signing those words: Wherever He leads, I’ll go. Immediately I looked at his twin sister Emily who was also singing: Wherever He leads, I’ll go.
No! I thought. Not my son! Not my daughter! God would never lead them away from us! Those words are for ME, not them!
Suddenly I remembered the heartbreak a friend of mine experienced when he announced to his family that God was leading him to serve in East Asia. His saintly, gray-haired grandmother instantly began to cry and said, “No! God would never do that to me. You are my only grandchild. He would never take you away from me.”
I reached over and pulled my son to me, silently praying, “God give me the strength to be able to let my child follow You wherever You lead.” I took my daughter’s hand and repeated that prayer, choking back the tears that were surging as I considered the reality that God’s call for my family continues from generation to generation.
God’s leading in our lives never ceases; our ears should never stop up against His call. We should realize that when God calls us to live sacrificially, there is no area of our lives that should not be laid on that altar, including our own children’s futures.
Gene C. Fant Jr. chairs the English department at Union University.
By Gene C. Fant Jr.