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As a youth minister, I work alongside college students a lot, and some of them have become my closest friends.  It seems in our conversations lately a theme has arisen.  They feel trapped somewhere in between where they’ve been and where they want to be.  I think we’ve all felt this tug at some time in our lives.  Maybe you’re feeling that restlessness right now, knowing that God is calling you to something else, but also knowing you must stay right where you are until He tells you to move.  And, it is mighty difficult to seize the present when you are reaching for the future.

As much as I want to say that I find myself in that place right now, it’s not the case.  In fact, it’s almost the opposite.  I’m glad that I’m not where I’ve been and right now the future is down right overwhelming.  I am happy in my present, or at least I was.

Because three months ago, life was difficult (isn’t it always?), but life was also going great.  My job was stressful, but I loved what I was doing.  I was building great friendships, enjoying being a “grown-up,” and finally planting some roots.  But, while all of that was great, God was reminding me constantly that it wasn’t what He called me to.   He didn’t call me to build a stable and “happy” life for myself, He called me to follow Him.

Life was going great for me, just in the wrong direction.

So what do we do when life is going great, but it’s just going great in the wrong direction?

Over the past 3 months I have been bombarded by this question.  It has shaken me to my absolute core, and for a long time, the only answer I could come up with was “I don’t know.”

As I began to talk through this with some people in my life, I was confused and frustrated and at times angry.  But, then I began to realize that, if I were on a road trip and found myself going in the wrong direction, I would turn around and go back to the last place I knew was right.  So, that’s what I did.  I went back to the last direction God gave me.

I remember it so clearly.  I was sitting in the back of the chapel at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in March 2008, listening to Francis Chan speak.  Francis is an amazing speaker, but I don’t remember a single word he said that night.  All I remember is God speaking inside my soul, awakening me to this calling to work with teenagers who had been abused.

In that moment, I didn’t really know what that looked like.  I thought God was calling me to start my own ministry (aka speaking, writing books, etc).  In the weeks that followed God confirmed over and over that He was calling me to this, and my ministry began to explode at the church where I was serving.

A few months later, I graduated from seminary and returned to my home town, to begin the job search and embark on my ministry calling.  But, in the craziness of my job search, I pushed aside my passion.  In that time I fought with God…a lot and questioned His faithfulness to me.  I felt like He had brought me out into the wilderness and left me to die.  I began to understand how Israel felt after they had be rescued from Egypt, witnessing God’s amazing power and provision, only to be brought out into the desert without food or water.

Then, in His perfect timing, He led me to Cornerstone and blessed me with, not just a job, but a family.

The past 18 months that I have been on staff at Cornerstone have been some of the hardest and most joyous days of my life.  I love the staff team here and my heart is rooted here in Cornerstone’s mission and vision for this community and the world.  I can’t imagine a better body of believers to be a part of.

So, this question of direction has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to face.  It has cut straight to the core of who I thought I was, revealing who I really am.  Because, as much as I love being on staff here at Cornerstone, my calling is not to be a youth minister. (For more details on that check out this blog)

I know that God led me to Cornerstone and has allowed me to be a part of this family, not only for these students and this ministry, but also to refine me.  I have grown to have a deeper understanding of who I am, my gifts, talents and passions, and, in understanding that I believe God is calling me into professional counseling.

I’m learning that sometimes it’s when we make a wrong turn that we find the greatest treasures.  Maybe it’s the detours in our life that God uses to show us Himself in ways we never would have seen before.  Maybe it’s how He gives us the opportunity to experience beauty we wouldn’t have if He had led us on a straight path.

Like He did with Israel.

God could have easily led them into the desert on dry land, but instead chose to lead them through the Red Sea.  He could have led them straight across the desert to Canaan, but instead let them wander around for 40 years before He led them into His promise.  He could have just teleported them straight into the Promised Land (come on He is God) and totally bypasses all the suffering and death.

But, He didn’t.

God could have made their journey easy, but then they never would have seen God’s power as He parted not only an entire sea, but a river, too.  They never would have experienced God’s continual presence leading them by a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of smoke by day.  They never would have experienced His unending care and provision through manna, water from a rock, and quail.  They never would have experienced His justice through the Law.  They never would have come to know His abundant love and forgiveness over them in such a real way.

So, as my journey moves me on to the next step, I’m learning to embrace the twists and turns God has in my path.  They are leading me to know Him.  They are drawing me closer and closer to His heart.  And, even though it’s scary, because each turn holds a new set of unknowns, I’m growing to I prefer it over the easy way.  After all, what joy is there in the destination if I can’t celebrate the journey.

Okay, so when I do book reviews I usually publish the  on my bookshelf, but this book has messed me up enough to get its own blog post.

Plan B by Pete Wilson raises the question we have all asked, and if we haven’t asked it we will soon, “What do you do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought He would?” or as it says in the the book, “Why God?”

I have kept a journal since I was in the 8th grade, and I have this habit of looking back every once in a while to where I was a year ago.  It seems like each time I do this I always think, “I never thought I would be where I am now a year ago.”  It never fails.  I am always living in a Plan B situation.  But, this book made me realize that even when I find myself in what I think is “Plan B” maybe it’s exactly where God wants me to be.  Maybe it’s God’s “Plan A” for my life.

You see I have been in Plan B situations: my father died when I was 17; when all I wanted to do was do missions, God called me to seminary; when I graduated from seminary, God called me to go home….and wait in darkness for what seemed like an eternity; I am still single at 26 while my desire for marriage and family grows deeper every day; and now I find myself facing another “Plan B” situation as I try to follow God’s leading in my life.

Wilson writes, “So many people miss out on this designed life because we make an unconscious vow that we will only trust ourselves and the things we think we can control.”

This is so true!  And, I am the guiltiest of all.  I have such a need to be in control, that it is hard for me to trust God, even when He is doing his best work.

Form me, the hardest part of being in a Plan B situation is believing that God is still with me and that I am not a failure.  I can’t even count all the times I have sat in my bed crying because I felt like God had totally abandoned me (one of those times was just a few days ago) and that I was a complete fool for trusting Him in the first place.  But, I believe if we (if I) could truly grasp that God is always with us and that He loves us unconditionally, then we (I) could trust God even in the darkest moments our our Plan B’s.

Wilson addresses this so beautifully in his book, “Just because God calls you to some venture, that does not guarantee the venture will succeed.  Just because life doesn’t turn out the way you thought, that doesn’t mean you missed God’s will….God’s will: it’s as much about the person we’re becoming as it is about where we’re going.”

So many times I completely overlook the process God has me in of “becoming” and focus on the product.  God is more interested in my becoming than my doing.

I know this is true, and yet when the darkness of my failed dreams sucks me in I completely forget it.  God has brought me through SO MUCH pain, grief, uncertainty, fear, hopelessness, and yet when I find my life flipped upside down the first thing I do is get angry at God.  I get angry because I think He owes me something.  I get angry because I am afraid and my gut reaction isn’t to trust Him to protect me.

But, what if God is doing His best work through my fear?  What if God is revealing His love for me by, as Wilson says, stripping me of anything that keeps me from him?

Now that’s a game changer.

But, I struggle, as we all do, with giving up my dreams and being willing to let go of what I want for my life.  Wilson writes, “We must be willing, if necessary, to abandon the life we’ve planned and dreamed of in order to receive the life that our God has authored for us.” Plan B situations will always challenge our willingness to give up our dreams to God.

It’s hard for me even to describe how this book has been like refreshing waters to my soul over this past week.  God has reminded me of who He is and that even when things seem crazy and cloudy and scary, He is in control and is doing great work in me.  If you find yourself in one of those “I never thought I would be here” moments, I suggest that you get Plan B and read it.  It has some very thought provoking questions in the back that will also help as you dig a little deeper into the character of God and what He has for you in your Plan B situation.

I’m not going to act like I have this all figured out.  I actually have a feeling that I haven’t even experienced all the Plan B’s God has in store for me.  Even now, I find myself in the midst of an “I never thought I would be here situation.” I am confused and scared, but, I want to trust God.  And, I do believe that He is working something inside me that I cannot even comprehend.

It has taken me a long time to get here, and I may change my tune tomorrow, but in this moment, my prayer is that I would not settle for safety and shortcuts, that I would not be satisfied living an unfulfilled life, and that in the waiting and in the darkness I would trust God in the process of transformation He is working in my heart.