March 20, 2015

The end of a long week...

It's the end of a long blessed week. Spring break will be officially over on Sunday, but today is kind of the last "real" day of break, if you don't count the weekend. I have enjoyed this time off. I didn't get as much done as I would have liked to do, but I am content to know that I did get the most important things done (my reading, my paper started, my grading of essays, my analysis of websites, etc.) Yes, I accomplished what was necessary, and then the rest of the week, I rested! I rested from all the striving, the stress, and the struggles to try to figure out the plans the Lord has for me. I learned how to stop trying to control the outcomes, and how to, instead, surrender my will to His. I guess you could say -- if you factor all that into the mix -- I had an amazing blessed week after all!

As I sit here today, I am convinced that the plans the Lord has for me are GREAT. I have struggled so much the past couple months as I have tried so very hard to understand what the Lord was asking me to do. I had impressions only, strong feelings and emotions that seemed to be guiding me toward a certain way, a certain path. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, hoping that I would receive some confirmation so that I would know for certain that I was to go this way or that way. In the end, I had to step out in faith, and trust the Lord to lead me to place of His choosing. I think the hardest part was trusting Him without knowing for sure that I was going where He wanted me to go. Let me explain...

I have read so many articles on the Internet and in Christian magazines that all seem to discuss the nature of the Lord's will, and how it is possible for the "believer" to know what the Lord was calling them or asking them to do. I struggled so with "knowing" because I wanted to make sure that I didn't make any mistakes or miss any opportunities that the Lord had planned for me. I thought that I could mess up the Lord's will by misreading the signposts or just by missing the signs completely. I really believed that it was up to me to figure out the Lord's will for my life. I believed this was the case, and I felt so strongly that I spent most of my time trying to "guess" what the Lord was asking me to do. I could say that I became preoccupied by the thought that I might miss His direction, and then I would end up somehow on the wrong path.

The funny thing is that through all the struggle and striving, I ended up learning a valuable lesson. I came to understand that it is not up to me to figure out what the Lord wants me to do. Nope. It is not something I can do in my flesh. The only way to understand the Lord's will for my life (or yours) is to listen to His voice, and then obey what He says to you. In short, it is up to the Holy Spirit to convey the Father's will to us, and the only way we can receive that inspired word is through a humbled, a surrendered, and an obedient posture. Yes, we must humble ourselves and let the Lord lead us, guide us, direct us. Scripture is very clear that it is the Lord who does the leading, and not the other way around. It wasn't so much that I missed that point because I know the verses that bear testimony to this fact. Rather, it was a mistaken belief that somehow it was up to me to do more than just listen and obey God. I believed that I had to do "work" to find His will. I was so busy working, busy trying to understand, and trying to get it all straight when all I needed to do was submit to His authority, and to let Him lead me to the way He wanted me to go. Once I did that, the fog cleared and the struggle ceased. I found my peace again -- His peace -- and that peace comforted me and gave me renewed hope to believe that He knew what He was doing, and that He would do whatever He determined was best for my life.

I still don't have all the answers as in 'black and white' details, but I have a peace that whatever comes, it will be good. I also have confidence to know that until that time, I am right where the Lord wants me. I am right where I belong, and I am doing the "work" He wants me to do. This means that the job I am doing as a teacher is pleasing to Him. Furthermore, so long as the Lord hasn't directly told me to look into doing something different (a different kind of work), then I am good to stay in this profession for however long He chooses for me to do it. What a relief! I blogged about feeling so overwhelmed that I considered leaving teaching and choosing instead to return to administrative work. It made sense to me at the time, and I even applied for a couple admin positions.

Of course, nothing came through on those jobs, but I struggled to know if that was the right way to go. I mean, I have believed that I was to teach since I was a child, but I never felt "called" to teach. I was confused about being called to do something and choosing a career because I liked it. I know that I am called as an exhorter (encourager). This is my ministry gift, my spiritual gifting, and I use it all the time (thank you, Lord!) I felt that I was also called to full-time ministry, to missions work, but over the course of my life, I have never had the opportunity to do that work. Instead, I have always served part-time in ministry, and I have over the course of my lifetime, spent the majority of time teaching children at church. It is just now at this second-state of my life that I am teaching young adults in college courses. The weird thing was that for the longest time I tried to reconcile my education (my Ph.D.) with my ministry calling and my career choice. In my hardcoded and INTJ brain, I wanted to apply my education to my career. It made sense that way, and it made it really easy to explain to other people why I needed a Ph.D. at this late stage of the game.

In the end, however, I came to realize that whether I teach or I work in an office, I use my spiritual gift to bless others. In the classroom, I teach students, but I also mentor and encourage them. In my family, in my home, and in my church, I do the same. I ministry to other people and I use my gift to lift up and enfold others. In many ways, I am involved in full-time ministry because I use my gift all the time, and I do not reserve it for "church" or "outreach" or "missions" work.

Teaching students is something I do because the Lord has chosen to provide this path for me. I struggle with teaching because I am outcome-oriented, and since I do not get to see the results of my efforts, I always feel like a failure. Yet, I am not failing at all. I am just sowing seeds and letting others (other teachers) reap the harvest. It is just like the person who sows seeds of God's word into other people's lives. Often they do not get to see the result, but that doesn't mean that growth is not taking place. A good friend shared this with me last evening, and his words made such good sense to me. I realized that I am part of the process only, not the whole process, and that God uses me however He chooses. My role and responsibility is to be His servant, to obey His word, and to do whatever He asks me to do. So long as I am doing what He has called me to do, then I am good. Furthermore, the Word tells us that we are to love God and love others, so my ministry in whatever capacity that might be, is to do these two things. Again, I am pleasing to the Lord so long as I am faithful to do this work -- to love Him -- and to love others because of Him.

Today has been a good day. This week has been a blessed week. I am refreshed and I am renewed. I have so much hope, peace, and joy today because I know that He is in control of my days, my weeks, and my months. I rest now securely in His shelter and His hand. He alone is God, and I am thankful that He is who He is, and I am who I am. God be praised always!

Which Way The Wind Blows
2nd Chapter of Acts

Feel a Feeling
Say a Saying
But you'll still be lonely
If you think life is only for this moment

Do a Doing
Mourn a mourning
Still won't get you off your sorrow
So go ahead and cry, but you can't pry a look at
Tomorrow

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Run a Running
Hide a Hiding
Whenever you hear the truth
And when you ask for the proof, you won't listen.
Listen

Praise a praising
Build a building
Trying to get peace into your life
And you don't even know wrong from right
Oh, Where is your wisdom

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Die a dying
Resurrecting
By believing and receiving
Forgiveness from Jesus who took the sin from sinning

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Jesus knows which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Believe Him and receive

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow



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