Just yesterday, I felt confident that I had "figured" out my next steps. I mean, I felt like so many things were falling into place that for certain, I had discerned the Lord's plan for my life. Then, later in the evening, after I had time to rest some, I realized that my life is not about a serious of steps. No, my life and the plan the Lord has for it is not about following a map. You see, in my mind, I tend to visualize my life as a journey one takes, starting at point A (for example) and proceeding to point B. In this way, I am the traveler walking on a path that is taking me to my destination. I stop along the way, I see this site and that site, but I keep on moving toward my goal, my final resting place. I guess this idea is correct in some ways. The Apostle Paul writes that we are to stay strong, finish the race set before us, and in this way, the same idea comes to suggest that we are on a course of some sort. In this course of life, we are journeying along the way, doing the work the Lord has for us. Yet, lately, I have thought about how often our life doesn't follow a prescribed path. It sort of meanders around, sometimes stopping for long periods of time, and other times, moving at a very fast pace. I have been thinking if perhaps the journey part is true -- meaning that as Christians -- we all walk a path that leads us to eternity (from faith to faith, glory to glory). But, our physical journey, our road, is not always mapped out and clearly defined. Often, we stumble and bumble about, going here and there, and not really making a straight line of progress from one point to another. I have always thought that this tarrying was a diversion, a messed up signal and a tactic of the enemy to thwart our progress to God's glorious end result. Now, though, I am starting to think that this is really how our lives are to be, that it is not about getting to the destination (a particular place on a map), but rather that it is to enjoy our life where we are and for the time we have been given. There is work to be done here and now, today and tomorrow. Yes, there is work to be done over there, and there, and there (figuratively pointing to places on the globe), and the time is at hand. Still, not every one is called to go overseas to ministry. Not everyone is called to pastor a local church. How does it really work out, this faith life, this walk, I mean? How does God call and use people? Is there really a pattern, a set way or is it rather haphazard and random?
Yesterday, I was asking the Lord to help me understand my calling and my message. I wanted some clarification on what He was asking me to do (ministry-wise), and so I was reading online, on websites and blogs that had articles about ministry callings. For one, I know my calling (as a prophet), and two, I know my message (to help the church communicate faith more effectively in this postmodern age). I have received both by personal revelation, meaning that somehow the Lord has communicated to me that this is how I am to function in His church, and that I am specifically to attend to this ministry focus (communication). I have known for a time that my studies at Regent were not to build me up or make me a professor. No, I have known that my time was to prepare and train me to engage in communications as a ministry. Thus, I went to Regent to study to be a minister who understands the theory and practice of communication for the expressed purpose of helping the Church, God's church (the people who make up the body of Christ), apply this knowledge to their own skill so that they can become more effective communicators of faith to this generation.
My question to the Lord was really more along the lines of "how" to do this work. I mean, I understand what I am to do, just not how to do it. I get the reasoning, the rationale, and I get the importance of the work (overall), but I lack specifics that will help me begin to do this work. How do I get going, how do I start, where do I start, and when do I start? As I put my questions to the Lord, I felt this sense of awareness that the work I am to do is to start now, like today. I also got the impression that the work I would do would require some measure of sacrifice, some cost, and that cost would be great, very great. I also came to understand that within that cost was great blessing, great blessing that would offset the cost and give me the comfort to know that it (the work) was all worth it.
So, after praying about it, reading some on the Internet, I determined that whatever the Lord intended to do with me, He was going to do without letting me in on all the details. Yes, I realized that He was going to do it rather haphazardly (hence, my opening dialogue). I had envisioned this very ordered, structured path to follow --> Get my PhD, find a job in a ministry, start "doing" the work. Instead, the Lord has not shown me any path to follow, outside of getting my PhD. No, instead, it appears that I will do this work along side of my teaching career. I will teach students English Composition full-time, and I will earn a living as a professor. But, along side of that good and noble work, I will also engage in communications ministry, not through a church (as in an actual church), rather on my own.
It makes sense to me because I have been feeling that the Lord intended for me to work from home. I have been looking for work from home teaching jobs, applying to them, and I do believe this is His planned provision. Working from home would allow me the time to do both things -- teach and ministry -- without overloading my body too much. I am comfortable being on the computer for 8-10 hours a day, so I can see this as a viable provision. Of course, I need to find that "work from home" job, and so far, I don't have any leads on it. Moreover, as the Lord prepares me, I realize that the plan He has for my life is rather random in appearance. I will not work for some ministry organization that is already doing prepared work. I will do something unique and only as He leads. This means that I will not have any boss over me, save the Lord. I will go and do and speak and preach and teach -- all as He leads me. I like this idea, of being independent and not under the authority of a organization a lot. I like the idea of simply producing work that is pleasing to the Lord, that is directed toward whatever goal He has in mind for me. I feel this way, praise God, and I think I can comfortably live a good life, doing practical work (teaching) and ministry work (Communications).
More so, as I think about doing these two things, practical work and ministry work, I realize that in order to do them to the Lord's approval, I have to let Him do the work through me. Like my experience yesterday demonstrated, I thought I had everything figured out, and then the Lord just did what He wanted and I received the blessing as a result. I didn't do anything. I just "tagged" along with Him. Now, I think that this is how He prefers to do it. I cannot really put it into words other than to say that it makes sense to me. He goes where He wills, and I follow Him around. It is like my cats when they follow me in the morning. I determine what work to do, and they just hang with me. I know that sounds crass to associate "hanging out" with the Lord because a lot of young people in this generation will say that about the Lord. You know, "Jesus is my homeboy" for example. This is not what I am talking about at all. I am talking about the way the disciples followed the Lord, how they hung out with Him, lived with Him, and how they did everything with Him as a companion. They left their lives, their families, etc., to follow the Lord. They counted the cost in lost connections, but the blessing they received was far more valuable to them. In this way, I see my life. I have left behind so many things that entangled me, snared me, and kept me from living a life fully and wholly devoted to the Lord. Now as a single person, a woman who is her "own person," I am able to follow after the Lord without waiting for permission from my parents, my husband, or a boss. I can go and do whatever work the Lord asks of me without waiting for approval from someone in authority over me. Furthermore, I can put His work first in my life. It takes priority over everything else. I don't have to do work assigned to me, work that is not approved by the Lord. Instead, I do the job of His provision, for the hours of His choosing. Then, I rest. I do not allow worldly ideas, worldly desires, or worldly visions consume my time. I do the work, and I move on. I rest in between, but my mind is fully focused, fully engaged in His work. There is NO OTHER WORK for me to do, than the work He assigns to me.
It has taken me a LONG time to come to terms with this spiritual truth. I remember Him saying this to me a couple years ago when I was in between jobs. I needed a job, a different job, and I wanted something that paid more money, offered better "perks," was closer to home, etc. I had all of these "must needs," and the Lord said to me that there would be NO job for me except for the work He assigned to me to do. I did get a different job, and I did work in that job for a year, but in the end, I left that job to start teaching, and since that time, the matter has been closed. No matter what work I do (as in practical, good, provisional work), it will never take the place of the WORK He assigns to me to do. The practical job is inconsequential to ministry.
I didn't get this at all, and whenever I would share this with friends or family, they would counter with how blessed I was to teach, how God clearly had called me to teach, and how He was providing teaching work to me. All of this was true, of course, and yes, I am blessed to teach. But, every single time I put more emphasis on my teaching -- whether in the class or outside the class -- or in looking for a full-time job, nothing happens at all. If I elevate teaching or make it the focus as though it is the "ministry work," the Lord reminds me sharply that it is NOT what He called me to do. Teaching is what He provided for me to do, and yes, He has blessed me in the application of it. I am called as a prophet or as "a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God" (Dictionary.com). A prophet is someone called by God for a specific purpose and ministry. I do not proclaim to know the mind of God or speak on His behalf in all biblical matters -- not like the Old Testament prophets and the Apostles did. No, I just mean that God has anointed me for a particular ministry, and that ministry requires speaking with His authority regarding certain matters that do pertain to the Church as a whole. Honestly, I don't really understand it other than to say that God does call certain people to "offices" and these offices are biblically grounded (such as Apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers). I don't know why God has called me as such, but since I was a child, I have known two things: one, I love God and two, I love His word.
I do take my calling very seriously. I do understand that I cannot set it aside or refuse to do what the Lord has asked me to do (like Jonah). No, I must engage in this work whole-heartedly and with the intention of allowing the Lord to move as He desires. This means that as of today, I am ready to begin this work, this special and wonderful work. I am ready to let everything that hinders me fall to the wayside, and I am ready to embrace my calling fully, completely, and with the assurance that He has something specific, special for me to do.
Discerning the Will of God
The hardest part for me has been to discern the will of God for my life. I mean, how do I know what is His will for my life (specifically)? I often think I understand it, only to find that I was wrong. I made some mistake in the interpretation of His expressed will for me. I hate it when I make mistakes like this, when I say something only to be proven wrong. I hate it when I think I have it all ordered, all mapped out, and then BAM! life intervenes, and I go zooming off in a different direction. One thing is certain, and that is that despite all the "fits and starts" (and there have been many), I have been heading in the same direction now for ten years or more. Yes, I would even say that I have been heading in the right direction for the majority of my life. Some cases in point:
- As a child, I felt a deep kinship with God from my earliest years
- I loved going to church, being at church, singing hymns, and learning about God in Sunday School
- I had imaginary friends, whom I communicated with all the time. These friends kept me company so I wasn't alone (as the youngest child and only girl, I was normally alone a lot)
- I grew up in a time of relative ease, in freedom, and while I suffered a lot with emotional and physical abuse, I always believed God was with me
- I professed faith very early on and I became an ardent follower even though I didn't understand more than the fact that God was very important to me and that I HAD to do certain things (like go to church, read my Bible, study to learn about Him and His word)
- In my young teens, I formed friendships that kept me safe from the world and worldly influences
- In my teens, I was isolated and alone most of the time, but as a result, I spent a great deal of that time in study, in prayer, and in quiet solitude
- I received my calling at 17, and I felt His presence in a different way than before. As a result, I became enamored of His word, of studying it and knowing it deeply.
- I was baptized in my early 20s, and after that experience, I became "on fire" for the Lord, seeking to know Him more deeply. I started in-depth bible studies and became convinced of the necessity of living a righteous, holy, and pure life.
- I was active in ministry, working with children for years, and developing the ability to teach children the Word.
- I was called to home school my son, and while I initially rejected the idea, I finally embraced it when he was 10. My life changed as a result -- fundamentally and wholly changed -- as a result.
- At the age of 44, I experienced God in a personal way, a deeply transformational way and I became further convinced of the need to live a Godly life by forsaking all worldly attachments.
- I embraced a life of spiritual distancing from all worldly influences, choosing to become an oblate for a time (someone who is not part of a religious order, but who lives a life similar to a nun or priest -- forsaking the world for a life with God)
- I spent three years studying the Word, hours per day
- I became convinced of my need to live wholly devoted to God, to be about His business (work) and to change every aspect of my life in order to fulfill my calling
All of this is to say that it will be 10 years next June when my life changed for good. In 2007, my ex-husband suffered one of three major life illnesses that forever changed the trajectory of my life. I didn't know then that the Lord would remove me from my marriage. I didn't know then that what was a difficult road, would become even more difficult as the medical crisis lead to a marital crisis, which eventually led to divorce. I had no clue that the Lord was preparing me, training me, and equipping me to deal with the death of a marriage. Furthermore, I had no idea that the Lord was moving me to a life of single devotion, of complete and utter dependency upon Him.
Today, I look back and I see all the the Lord has done for me. I see how from the earliest memories He was my constant companion. He never left me alone. He saved me time and time again, and He set me aside to keep me safe. I have always looked back on my aloneness as a negative thing, when in truth, it was a positive thing. I have always loved being alone. I love the quiet, the peace, and the solitude. In fact, I desire quiet more than anything else. I do enjoy gatherings, and I do like being with people, but I would much rather be alone -- just with the Lord -- than to be part of the noisy bustle of life. Even in the noise, I am often deeply reflective, thinking, sitting quietly by myself. I don't mind it, really. I don't have a problem being all alone. I do get lonely at times, but I am not willing to give up my alone time with the Lord for the crash and bang of being in the midst of people. No, I think I could have lived as a prophet many years ago, alone in the wilderness, and been perfectly content. Well, maybe.
Making Peace with my Calling
I think I am finally at peace with my calling. I mean, after all these years, I am finally at peace with the fact that I am what I am, where I am, and doing the thing I am doing -- all because of the Lord's provision. He has made this life possible, and He has formed me to be this way. I do believe I have been set apart in this way since my birth. I have always been this way. I am comfortable being this way. I have always felt different, not accepted by others, and as a result, I have always lived on the sidelines, the wallpaper, so to speak. I've always seen that as a sad thing, being the wall flower in the room. But now, I see that I am the way I am because God ordained for me to be so. He has a perfect plan for me, and I am content to be the person He has created me to be. I don't want to be anyone else or do anything else. I am content to be just the way I am, and for the rest of my days, I will walk on this journey with the Lord by my side. Just Him and me. We will walk, we will tarry, and we will enjoy this life. So be it. Thy will be done. Selah!
The goodness, I guess, is that in this way, I don't have to keep on looking for the way to go. I can just let it happen, let it develop as He leads. I don't have to plan anymore or prepare for the next 30 years. I simply have to abide in Him and let Him lead me as He desires. I am okay with giving Him this place, and with finally, letting go of my need to control my circumstances, my surroundings, and my outcomes. He is good. I trust Him. He will do as He pleases, and I know that whatever comes my way, it will be a blessing. It will be good. He is good to me, always so very good to me, and I rest in the knowledge that His goodness is from before time began. He is GOOD, always so good. Selah!