Lying on a beach in Maui recently, fully enjoying the sun and solitude, I had some time to think. I’d looked forward for months to the chance to not have to deal with my job, my bills, my to-do-list. So I didn’t. Instead I chose lighter fare—thinking about my purpose, my calling and my life’s direction. What a most likely dumb and most certainly dangerous thing to do. During my mental ramblings, I experienced a rare moment of clarity. It brought about simultaneous eruptions of both fear and anger, as I heard the familiar message unmistakably: You are moving (slightly) in the wrong direction. This is not what you were made to do.
Not again, God. I look like enough of a flake already. Not again.
My moment of clarity proved fleeting, as it touched off a plane ride and several days of confusion and, to tell you the truth, just plain being ticked off. I’d sacrificed so much to follow a “voice” I thought I heard so clearly … and now, all over again, it was a mistake? Have I ever heard Your voice at all, or do I just jump from whim to whim, playing this stepping-out-in-faith card whenever it’s convenient to hush those who would question my wisdom and/or sanity?
I know that this won’t necessarily win me any Faith-filled-Christian-of-the-Year award or anything, but writing is my form of confession, so I’ll say it here: God’s hand is hard for me to see sometimes. His purposes are beyond me. That’s not to say I don’t believe they’re good, I’m just saying this—most of the time, I’m a bit confused. And in my own day-to-day craziness, there are times that it’s a gut-wrenching exercise of my faith to believe that, despite my circumstances, God is at work in me.
Every time I decide that I’ve got a clue as to what God is doing, or more specifically, why it is that He’s doing it—something happens to completely shake those assumptions. Case in point: my college career. Perhaps "career" is too generous a term for it. I think "dabbling in college" might be a more accurate portrayal. I am one of those people who, when someone asks where I’ve gone to school and what I studied, it takes a good 10 to 15 minutes to explain all the moves back and forth and the choice-of-major switches. Things seemed so solid seven years ago. What the heck happened?
I graduated high school so sure of myself. Unshakeable. I envy myself back then—the surety, the confidence I felt that I “knew the plan God had for me,” all five easy steps of it. The plan didn’t include three colleges, eleven moves, a serious car accident and a still-elusive B.A., however.
The past seven years since high school has been quite a journey, filled with more questions than answers. The main question has been this: How do I know I am in God’s will? When I step out in a certain direction, fairly sure of God’s hand in it, and then it fails, what do I do with that? Does God call me to certain paths only to lead me to another path? Or am I, as I’ve long feared, an incurable tumbleweed? Has God called me to be a tumbleweed?
I think that might be part of my dilemma. When I think I’ve heard God’s voice, I tend to view it as a mandate for the rest of my life, when it’s more likely a path for a certain season. "Stacey, for the rest of your life, you’re going to be a ___________." Oh, good. I finally know what I’m going to do when I grow up. Now the wondering can stop. The seeking of You can end. My self-reliance can begin. See you at the finish line, God.
I keep forgetting something about God. While He is infinitely more concerned with my well-being than I am, He’s considerably less worried about it. God is not worried about whether or not I reach my ultimate goals. My sights have been set for far too long on the end of that five step plan, whereas, His have been on how close we’ll get during the ride. My seeking Him is way more important than my knowing exactly which path to take and when. Although there is not much that I can say for sure, I know this: the uncertain, tentative, yet reckless woman that I am now is a bit closer to God’s heart than she was at the age of seventeen, grabbing her diploma with self-confidence and clear visions of the path ahead.
I think Thomas Merton had it right in his prayer in Thoughts in Solitude: "Just because I think I am doing Your will does not mean that I am actually doing it. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You, and so I will trust You always, even though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will fear no evil, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.
The more time goes on, the more I have a deeper awareness of my shakiness, my frailty. I used to crave the banishment of this constant reminder of my weakness, but more and more, I’m beginning to welcome it, even if the greeting is bittersweet. Facing my humanity squarely grants me the freedom to quit pretending I have it all together. I do not have to have the answers. I don’t even have to have the right questions at this point. What I do have is closeness with One whose strength doesn’t waver, whose sense of direction is never off and whose grace is big enough to cover each and every fumbling step along the way.
2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
[Stacey is a 24-year-old pastoral intern and wannabe writer for NewLife Church in Silverdale, WA, when she’s not pretending to be a legal secretary during business hours. She’s grateful for parents that were patient with her during all her (flaky) years of finding herself.]