March 13, 2015

Closing Doors of Opportunity

The door closed and now I must wait for another to open. Yes, it is a challenge to be patient, to wait upon the Lord, and to remain alert, watchful, expectant. Yet, this is what the Word tells us we are to do -- to be on the alert, always watchful, and to wait upon the Lord with eagerness and expectation (Ps. 5:3, 130:5).

Today, I look up, and I wait for the Lord to complete His plans for my life. Selah!

I found this image online this morning, and I think it is a good reminder that often we wait for doors to open for us, but we do so, without closing the doors that are behind. I think of it this way, if I stand in a hallway with many doors, I have to open one and walk through it or else I am just standing still. The problem is that once we walk through the open door, we prefer to keep the door ajar -- just incase -- we need to turn around and walk back to where we were previously. The issue then becomes one of "playing your luck," wanting to "try before buying" and so forth. We don't want to commit one way or another, but we want to keep our options open, should a better or more sweet deal appear. I think this is why so many good people, good Christian people, are stuck in dead end jobs, destructive relationships, and dull lifestyles. They are either not willing to open any doors or they are not willing to open a door, and then close the one behind them.

For many years, this was the pattern of my life. I was stuck in a rut, always doing the same thing, but hoping for a different outcome. Albert Einstein is oft-quoted as saying "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Yes, in many ways, this is what I found myself doing, allowing the same experiences to be repeated, the same choices to be made, and the same dreams to be dashed -- all because I refused to walk through an open door of opportunity -- and trust in the Lord.  Of course, some of those experiences, choices and dreams were not mine, but were my ex-husbands. As a submissive wife, I did what was expected of me, and that was to support and nurture my husband's dreams and ambitions (even if ill-thought or poorly devised). As a result, I lived a dreary and dull existence whereby open doors would appear and then close. I stood in the hallway begging the Lord for a way out, a new opportunity, and different life -- yet all along -- the doors were there, ready to be opened, but because I was afraid of walking through them, I found that all I did was stand still.

Once my former life came to a close, I found that I lived in that hallway, always afraid of taking any chances. I was afraid of the unknown, of what would be, of possibilities. I had hope, of course, and I had faith in the Lord, but I was stuck in a habit and pattern of unwillingness. I was unwilling to let go, to close the door behind, and to walk into a new opportunity. It took courage on my part, and a bit of a push (in several instances) to go, to get moving, but each time I did move, I found the experience exhilarating. I watched as the Lord prepared new ways for me, new paths to follow, and new relationships to form. The Lord provided for my life, each step of the way, and as I trusted Him, relied upon Him, and looked to Him, I found freedom to experience, to explore, and to engage in life. My life went from dull, dreary, and desperate to exciting, enlightening, and enthusiastic. I began to enjoy my life again, to see the possible within the "IMpossible." I started to hope, to dream, to imagine, and to desire good things -- good Godly things -- all in order to fulfill what I believed was my calling, my purpose, and the Lord's plan for my life. My heart and mind became flooded with desires that were new to me. Some old desires came back too -- they were reignited -- and I found myself passionate about living, passionate about people, passionate about serving the Lord with my whole heart, mind, body and soul. My life turned around, and I started to see that while I might still face giants (and I do), obstacles, mountains, and some dark days -- as long as I was walking through the doors the Lord opened for me -- there was peace, prosperity, and purpose. My life was good, my days were good, and my future would be good.

In those early days, it took me a long while to understand that often the Lord provides many doors to us, and not just one. I am not sure why we have the mindset that there is just one "right path" or one "right way to go." I think it is because we fear making mistakes, and especially for Christians, we worry about taking a path that might lead away from the Lord rather than closer to Him. This is simply an oversight on our part or rather it is a misunderstanding of how the Lord works in us and through us. Once I came to understand that living and functioning in the Lord's will was prerequisite to finding opportunity, then the matter became more clear. Let me explain...

The Word says in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." And, while this verse is specific to the issue of serving God or serving money, the illustration works for any other "idol" we choose to serve including ourselves. The short of it is this -- when we come to grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) in Jesus Christ -- we are no longer our own master. We traded masters at the foot of the cross. So instead of seeking our own way, our own desires, and our own passionate pursuits, we now find that we have a new agenda set by a brand new master. We cannot go where we want to go. James 3:3 uses the illustration of a bit and horse when he says, "If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well." The idea being that a tiny bit can control a very large horse, and yes, this verse is speaking about "bridling the tongue," but the point is this -- if we are the master of the horse, we pull the reigns to the left or right, and the horse goes where we direct. Without the bit and bridle, the rider (master) would not get the horse to go anywhere it didn't want to go. Likewise, when we come to faith, we surrender our will, our desire to go where we want to go, and we allow the Lord to place His (figurative) grace-filled, grace-empowered, and grace-fueled bit and bridle on us. We willingly go where our gentle and gracious Master leads us. However, for many believers, those who say they have come to faith, who say the Lord is their Master, their lives often bear a strikingly different testimony. They do not go where the Master leads them, but instead, they go wherever they want, hoping that the Master will follow them.

I learned this truth after many years of living in this same way -- I believed that it was up to me to figure out my life. The Lord forgave my sins.  The Lord promised me eternal life if I believed that He is the Son of God, that He died for my sins, that He was buried, and that He rose on the third day (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Furthermore, I believed that He listened to my prayers and petitions IF I was a faithful and obedient servant (i.e., meaning I read and obeyed His Word). No where did I see that I was required to surrender my days, my weeks, and my months to the Lord. No where did I grasp that to live a life fully and completely submitted to Him meant that I gave Him control (handed over the reigns, so to speak). I seriously thought that I could go where I wanted, when I wanted, and do what I wanted, because I was born-again, prayed regularly, read my Bible each day, and served in Church on Sundays. I didn't have plans to sin, mind you, nor was I seeking to live a life of immorality. No, I was hoping for a "good life." I wanted a husband and children, a nice modest home, and a quiet lifestyle. I thought this was it, this was everything that a woman should want and need. I never considered that the Lord might have plans for my life that included more than being a wife and a mother. I never thought that He might want to send me out on my own to do His work (outside of Children's ministry or AWANA). I seriously believed that my life could be good, could be safe and secure, and could be "normal" just by being born-again.

I learned the truth the hard way, of course. I tend to find myself a student of the "school of hard knocks" and often this is the way I learn best. I learn by experience.

I came to faith in Jesus Christ as a child. I grew in my faith through my teen and young adult years. It wasn't until I was in my 40's, however, that I came to what I call "true faith." I came to question what I believed, my early training in Christianity, and my belief in God and in Jesus. I didn't doubt His Authority nor did I doubt His gift of Grace or the Gospel Message. Rather, I questioned whether what I knew and believed was "it" or whether there was more to this "faith-thing." I had been studying the Word, and I wondered about two things, and whether I was an anomaly or whether there was more to know, to understand, and to experience. The first thing was faith, the faith of Abraham to be specific. I wondered about his faith, and how he was able to leave his home and family and follow after the Lord. I was in awe of Abraham, and I wanted to know if this kind of faith was unique to him alone. Second, I wanted to understand experience, spiritual experience, because my spiritual life was dead, bone-dry, and unfulfilling to me. I saw certain friends who had this love of life coupled with a deep and sincere love of the Lord, and I was jealous of them. I honestly couldn't say that I loved the Lord. I was thankful for His gift of mercy and grace, but I didn't have a true love relationship with Him. No, I just thought that after a time I would be able to say "I love the Lord" just like the next person. Instead, I found that I said those words, but there was no heartfelt sincerity behind them. I was thankful I wasn't going to hell. I was thankful that my sins were forgiven. I was thankful that God listened to my prayers, that He protected me from harm, that He watched over me. I just didn't love Him -- not really -- not like with a passion.

When it came down to it, when I got to the lowest point in my life (at that time, it was the lowest I had been), I confessed two things: one, I confessed that while I believed He was God, and that Jesus died for my sins, I didn't really know, understand or love Him (Father, Son or Holy Spirit); and two, I confessed that I had never known what it was to love the Lord, not passionately anyway, and that I wanted to know that feeling, to experience that kind of love, and to be in a love relationship like some of my Christian friends.

This prayer included my simply confession of faith, and my request to know and to love the Lord. I remember the moment it happened, how in an instant, my life changed forever.

Since that day back in 2006, I am a new person. My entire life went from zero to 60 MPH in a flash. It wasn't an easy path by any means nor did I like everything that happened to me (i.e., losing my marriage, my home, my family, my friends, etc.). I lost everything except for my life, but in the bargain, I gained the entire world, everything I asked for from the Lord and more. I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, and I thank God every day for His blessed gift of life.

Thus, nine years ago this month, I surrendered my life to Lord. He was my Lord, my Savior, of course, since I was "knee high to a grasshopper" as they say, but from this day forward, He became my Master. He ruled my life, made decisions for me, took me to where He wanted me to go, moved obstacles from my path, and taught me what it meant to trust Him, to abide in Him, and to lean on (depend) on Him. It wasn't easy work -- it was hard, it was grueling, and at times, it was overwhelming work. But, He sustained me. He gave me His grace, His blessing, and He showed me a plan, a wonderful and completely unexpected plan for my life. He took away all my sorrows, and gave me back a full life, a life filled with promise, with purpose, and with a good plan. Now I walk on the path of His choosing -- but believe it or not -- there is not just ONE RIGHT PATH for me to follow. Instead, the Lord shows me many ways to go, many options for next steps, career choices, home styles, etc. There are options available to me, doors opened, but each one requires a step of faith, and each one leads to a different way (a different view). It is up to me to rest and to trust the Lord to guide me to the way He feels is best for me to go. Some ways are better than others (in certain ways), but generally, all the ways He shows me are good. All of the paths lead me to Him so I can take confidence in knowing that I will never be walking away from Him -- only taking a different view to the find the same end result -- to spend all of eternity with my Lord.

Therefore, today, I see a door close. It was a possibility, but in truth it wasn't the way the Lord intended me to go. I was disappointed for a time, but then I realized that all the ways of the Lord are good, but some are better than others. I do not make the choice of where to go or when to go -- no -- I only walk through the doors the Lord opens for me. I close the door behind me and I walk on in faith, in hope, and in expectancy of good things. The Lord leads me on, He guides me in the paths I walk, and in truth, He covers me, sustains me, and provides for me as I move, I go, and I live in the way, the manner, and the plan He purposes for my life. He is good, so very good to me. Selah!

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