Emmanuel, the Unafraid God

Church CommissioningThey prayed for us at church this morning. We stood there under the spotlight and in front of the eyes, the missionary family ready to move to Papua New Guinea in just two weeks. And afterwards, as I hugged a good friend one last time and my throat burned thick with choked-back tears, a few kind people waited to tell us that we are brave, that they admire us. Maybe they hadn’t seen our youngest trying kick her sister while a church elder was praying blessing over us. Over our mess. Over our obedience.

Because obedience is really what it is. Not special bravery. There’s nothing innately in us that qualifies us to be missionaries. The only difference between our story and theirs is that God has asked us to obey Him on the other side of the world.

Life, just life in general, no matter where on the planet it happens, is something that requires bravery. When we believe the Gospel for real, we are drawn little by little out of our old selves into life unafraid. His perfect love coaxes open hands that have been closed tight around our own dreams and expectations, and the fearful  “what-ifs” dissolve away under the light of Gospel truth.

The truth of Emmanuel.

The truth of God-With-Us. This is not a squeamish god, shrinking back from the stink and grime of humanity. This is the unafraid God, who boldly enters the mess, who makes himself baby vulnerable and chooses relationship with people who wound and betray. This is a God who wears sawdust and dirt, who puts His hands on blind eyes and lepers’ sores, who weeps for His people and turns over the tables of merchants cheating the defenseless. This is Someone who opens His arms wide, makes children laugh, answers hard questions, challenges old pride-bound ideas.

This is a God who lays Himself down, first in a manger and then on a cross.

Emmanuel, the God who enters unafraid and stays with us.

He is the God who is with us here and with us there, giving us the strength to enter and stay in each moment where we love, let go, and live unafraid.

It may be several months before I can write again, and the next time I get a chance to capture my thoughts and wrap them in words, we will know new things about ourselves and God’s heart. Thank you for walking this journey with us, friends.

Merry Christmas.


  1. Ellie Gustafson
    Dec 22, 2014

    Well done, Beth, from under that amorphous load of grief and chaos and tiredness. Once you get there, things will settle, but for now…for now we pray and send love.

  2. Erma Readnower
    Dec 25, 2014

    Beth: Will be lifting your family in prayer as you step out in obedience to our God. Many years ago I lifted your mom, dad, and the 3 of you from the Philippine’s to where ever they were called. God bless the 4 of you.

  3. Kate
    Jun 8, 2015

    Beth, I don’t even know you but this post really spoke to me (I found your blog via facebook, a missionary friend had posted your latest entry about “feet”). My husband and I are getting ready to return once again to long-term missionary service in Africa. It doesn’t always get easier, even though we both feel called to go. Thanks for your honest and true words about how hard it is for ordinary people to follow His call, and the whys of why we do it. You have blessed me today; I needed to read this. Thanks.

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