Monday, April 20, 2009

The direction our lives take

Someone recently asked, "Does God control our direction in life, or do we have any control?" I don't claim to have answers. In fact, if you ask some people they'll tell you that I sometimes don't know much at all. But like everyone else I know, I do have my opinion.

Let's shift our paradigm and look at a parent/child relationship, and rephrase the question.

Did my parents control the direction in my life, or did I have any control?

While my parents gave me boundaries in my life, I was still very much allowed to make my own decisions. Of course I would try to push the boundaries, and when I got into trouble there was discipline. In that respect, my parents had a certain responsibility to control the direction of my life.

My mom always told me when I was young that I could be whatever I want to be when I grow up. Whether I decided to enter the military, go to college, become a doctor, open a business, sell chicken feathers, or whatever, was my decision. If my parents (or anybody else) had tried to push me into joining a circus, I had the right and responsibility to tell them no-thank-you, because my career would be sabotaged by coulrophobia. I was in control.

As for God, He also has rules and boundaries set for us, not for the purpose of being a kill-joy, but for our own protection. Stay in the boundaries, and things are cool. Break the rules, and eventually you'll feel the pain. He's in control, but allows us the freedom to choose whether or not to live within His control.

God also equips us with an individuality and a purpose in our lives. He has a unique way of showing it too. He brings us to opportunities that we would never plan for ourselves. For example, a couple of years ago I filled in for the youth director at my church, to do a couple of lessons for the youth group. Teenagers. No big deal - I wasn't afraid of the high school kids. However, for reasons I can't pinpoint, it was the junior high/middle school kids that scared me, even in my previous church in Turlock. If someone had told me even a year ago that I would be teaching middle-school kids, I would have told them they were crazy. But God controlled the direction in my life, in that an opportunity was presented where I was the logical choice to teach these young-uns. But just because God brought me to that opportunity did not mean that I had to accept. I had the option of saying "no." God still allowed me to have some control in the outcome. (By the way, I accepted the challenge, and it was a rewarding experience.)

I remembered some conversations that I had with various friends two and three summers ago (two "and" three, not two "or" three ... ) about the direction where God is leading me. I asked a group of friends in an online chat, "If I were to go back to school, what course of study could you see me taking?" Three people answered either Ministry or Theology. I could have laughed it off, but honestly, their answers did not surprise me. A few weeks ago I was invited to fill in as "guest preacher" at church while the pastor was on vacation. This was something new for me. I tried to run away from the opportunity. I could have hit "delete" on the initial email and went on through life pretending it never happened. But I accepted the invitation. The subject for the sermon came to me within hours (if even that long). But I still tried to convince God that I "wasn't qualified" to preach to a congregation on a Sunday morning - I didn't have the formal education, wasn't a "professional" speaker, whatever else I could think of. As for where God leads from here, I couldn't tell you, but I would rather have Him close and open doors, rather than be the sole decision maker in that respect.

What I learned is this: God does have a plan and purpose for our lives. He also gives us the option to say "yes" or to say "no." When we give in to our fear, or give in to our lack of confidence, or believe our "unqualified" status, get in the way of the direction that God so much wants to lead us in. But when we understand that God has our resume already written with our future in mind, and allow ourselves to surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit ... Hang on for the most exciting ride of your life!

No comments: