Searching for a new paradigm

A reflection out of my reading in Call to Joy & Pain and work with Live a Praying Life

This year has confronted me about how much I have grown up with clearly drawn lines around where God’s turf was in my life and that there has been terrain where He was not to tread because, after all, it’s my life.

But it isn’t really; it’s His.

As I aim to grow in Him, this season has surfaced a great many ‘I wants’ that have been severely disappointed. I realize that I was raised to have a plan and move towards it, but the more my plans fall through, the less I believe that paradigm works. To complicate things further, God tells us that He has plans for us, yet we don’t constantly walk in the knowledge of what those plans entail. He hasn’t exactly sat me down with a timeline and told me word for word what I need to do to arrive there…wherever ‘there’ is. Sometimes, we have to walk purely by faith that God does, indeed have a plan, one that we cannot see.

I don’t like the idea of relinquishing my whole future to God, wholly undefined from my own vantage point. What might He fill that life with? Still, is there anyone else who would be better to give that blank check to? My prayer life is being disrupted in these thoughts of what it means to pray…that it is more about being transformed into persons with His heart and His desires. Suffering and pain can be part of the means God uses to produce the character He needs to see His work accomplished.

Even in the face of knowing enough about God to know that He is good and His ways are perfect, it’s difficult to say with each instance or circumstance of life, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I have these what ifs and what abouts that choke out joy and highlight pain or failure.

Somehow, in a way that I cannot see, God will supply all that I ever needed. I don’t yet grasp what it means to live with anticipation of what God will do, without being tempted to define what I think that should be or keep my heart on the fringes so I don’t risk more brokenness.

All of the misshapen pieces I have examined this year, the places I wish I could hide or fix, struggles that I could not mask, I know that God has a use for those things. On what might seem desolate terrain, He will amaze me with what harvest He can grow, in His time and in His way. The purification process will one day yield fine metal for Him to use. In the meantime, He helps me take down my fences and tills the ground for a work that has yet to come.

Further thoughts on ‘success’

While you are in school, I’d encourage you to think about these things. In what ways are you exposed to the inclination to think that school is all about you? How can you take opportunities to use your education to serve others? What can we do to maintain a right view on the meaning of higher education? Let us be careful not to think of ourselves higher than we ought. How can we be reminded that economic status really doesn’t change our worth in God’s eyes?

Remember to lift your eyes up to the heavens to find your source of direction. Pause to listen. Be quick to obey. Encourage your fellow believers on the journey. Make time for things that really do have eternal value.

Personally, I am coming to the realization that the legacy I leave will be in the way I lived, how I made decisions, who I interacted with, and what I spent time and resources on.  Maybe I won’t have a resume that will have people talking. If I have to surrender some things to the Lord and allow Him to give me new dreams and a fresh vision, then I want to be willing to do that. It’s not easy for me to submit some of these things to Him because there have been and will be disappointments and embarrassments.

When we let Him, He is able to do surprising things in our hearts and with our character. (Yes, He can do it whether or not we are cooperative, but sometimes He chooses to wait until we are.) It won’t always immediately segue into opportunities that will impress our peers. Some decisions will be hard. (Gulp.) Some desires might be painful to walk away from. God’s best truly is the most we could hope for, even when it excludes some of the things on our most wanted list.

Friends, 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

Success from God’s vantage point is measured, in part, by our willingness to live faithfully with what He has given, in all circumstances seeking Him and trusting He will provide what is needed.