Will or Won’t

Why Lord, why?? If it wasn’t your will couldn’t you have stopped me during the application process or just said no by not being accepted…would it have killed you to stop this before I didn’t renew my lease and told most people I was out of here!!!

Perhaps I should start from the beginning. In August of last year, I needed a change. I felt stuck. I was living in Houston working at the same job I’ve had for the last 2.5 years and thought to myself…’well, isn’t there something else you’d like to do?’. Post-one quarter life crisis (another story for another day :) ), I came to the decision some further schooling was in order. An out-of-state fellowship was just the thing to get me out of my funk, force me to make some new friends, and get things in order.

I did everything right. I researched different programs in different states I made my pro/con list, weighed the options, and successfully picked my program. I asked alumni of the school their opinions. I visited the school in question and was suitably impressed. I thought “ This is how I’ll know God’s will, if I get in, then obviously he wants me to go.” I applied for the position in November. I was accepted just before Christmas without an interview (I know, who gets a job without an interview these days). Of course, based on the previous logic, this had to be God’s will for my life…not only was I accepted but I got in on application alone!! Then there was nothing. No packet, no contract, no start date. Just an acceptance letter (which they signed) and a commitment form (which I signed).

I had requested to start in August so no big deal waiting the 1st couple of months. Of course they would have other things going on, and I wasn’t a huge priority yet. End of February, I started to get antsy. I decided that if I hadn’t heard anything by spring break, I would contact them and ask for a start date. Nothing really dramatic, just a ‘Hi, how’s it going, listen I was wondering when I’m supposed to start this new job with ya’ll.’ The email struck a great tone. Non-accusatory and light…the response was like the first nail in a coffin. ‘Oh, you were planning on coming here? In August? I don’t think there are positions available.’ Definitely not what you want to hear when you’re planning a multi-state move, and you haven’t renewed your lease! Not to mention, this was God’s will for my life…all the circumstances pointed to it! So I ended up having a phone conference with the director of the program. The answer to my questions…not enough resources to assure a beneficial experience, but we’ll have a definite answer by May 1st. I could go to a different campus, I could work off-campus, I could even do this hybrid thing where I went for mentorship but still worked at my present job. But there would definitely be an answer May 1st. Well, I did great for the first four weeks. I hadn’t officially announced I was leaving…word got around because of my family members (anybody else got parents like that?? :) ).

The last two weeks were rough. I didn’t sleep…worked great for my physique cause I wasn’t eating a whole lot :) but I wasn’t hugely worried cause this was God’s will, right? All the circumstances worked out because it was His will for me to go. Well since all of you know the date today, you know it’s well past May 1st. I did get an answer May 1st and the answer wasn’t just ‘not now’ or ‘wait’ oh no, ladies, that answer was “NO!!” As in there wasn’t a prospective start date, there weren’t any other options. It was just unfortunate timing…So I did what any self-respecting young female who didn’t get their way would do…I had my own private temper tantrum then proceeded to damage control.

So now we get to the crux of the article. I am very blessed in having a fantastic support system. “They are so choice. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend picking one up.” (virtual cookie for the person who can guess the quote). But I have forever heard, ‘God has a better way’ ‘This wasn’t God’s will’ ‘God is in control’ and it got me thinking. How did I determine this was God’s will for me? Do I recall asking if this was His will? How was I supposed to know?

I teach 5th and 6th grade Sunday school. The class is coed but we’ve got a class of all girls this year (much to the chagrin of my male co-teacher and partner in crime). We are currently working our way through Lifeway’s new Gospel Project series and (if you’re familiar with the program) are discussing Joshua (yeah, I know, we’re kinda behind). Anyway, we’ve been talking about Joshua taking leadership over the Israelites, crossing the Jordan, and defeating Jericho. But where I’m going is the lesson right after that. When Achan steals a carpet and some gold bars from Jericho and nobody knows (if you’re unfamiliar with the story check out Joshua 7). I always found it interesting that God just let the Israelites attack the city of Ai and get their butts kicked.

Then when Joshua laments leaving Egypt and cries out to the Lord, God just lets him know that somebody in the multitude of people had broken the covenant and that’s why they lost. So Joshua searches tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family, man by man until he comes to Achan. They “take care” of the problem (and yes, I totally mean like the mob takes care of problems) and the children of Israel go on to defeat Ai in a battle of worthy strategy and skill. There are lots of culprits in this story. Achan, of course, because he was an idiot and stole stuff from a cursed city. Achan’s family because nobody ratted him out to Joshua, but part of me thinks that of all the people who are to blame for the Israelites’ initial defeat at Ai, it was Joshua because he assumed circumstances meant God was with him going into battle instead of asking point blank whether there was anything he should know about. He assumed that because God was with him in Jericho that God would be with him in defeating Ai, but he took for granted going and discussing it with Him. A classic example of why it’s not always better to ask forgiveness than permission.

I see myself in this same place. How was I determining God’s will? Was I relying on hearing His voice and reading His word along with being watchful for opportunities of seeing His hand work in my life through circumstances? No, I was solely relying on circumstances. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not saying that God doesn’t use circumstances to accomplish His will in your life (I’ve seen that in my own life) but I am saying that it all has to work together. Not just the circumstances but the prayer and Bible work too.

So now that I’ve had this huge revelation, what do I do with it??? To be honest, I’m not sure yet. As of right now, I’m still coming to terms with that very clear and powerful “NO!!!” It’s rough to be disciplined like that. I will say, I am truly trying to learn my lesson and make sure all things work together. So, as of right now, I’m learning to be content.

My pastor is a very wise man who is constantly telling the church that (and this is a total paraphrase) bad circumstances do not mean that a person is not in God’s will nor do good circumstances mean that a person is in God’s will. Just because things work out for someone doesn’t mean God loves them more or is blessing them more. He causes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous. Sometimes, I think we forget that. It should be our seeking of the Lord that determines the path.

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