“I just can’t do it. I can’t remember why I thought this was a good idea.”
Right before monumental change in my life, I feel paralyzed. I am constantly committing to something, and then backing out. I am quickly overwhelmed and quick to bail.
Because I’m always making changes — charging ahead and pulling back — it never occurred to me I was afraid of them. Yet, in that gentle way of His, the Lord recently revealed the illness behind all this instability: I have no idea what it looks like to consult him, stop, and listen before implementing change. As a result, I’m on constant cleanup.
Just a few weeks ago, I stood at the collision point of two decisions. The first involved a job that, for the first time in our eleven years of marriage, allowed me to contribute to our income. That same month, I submitted a proposal for a book project. This book is most of my passion and a large part of my calling. However, unlike the job, this project pays nothing.
Still, finance and passion? I thought both sounded like reasonable pursuits. Never mind our five kids, four of which I’m educating. I’ll squeeze it all in between the women I meet with regularly for counseling and mentoring. And my husband? He can pastor that church solo without support from his wife, right?
Of course I didn’t have time for both, but I charged ahead regardless, figuring the details would work themselves out. Then the email came. They had reviewed my book project and, before talking further, needed to know if I was following the leading of the Holy Spirit in my writing. What? Who asks that question? My fingers froze mid-air in my response. I couldn’t honestly answer them. I had never taken time to ask God about the purpose of these words I write. I just sort of wrote.
The email made it clear I needed to seek God before getting back to them, so that’s exactly what I did. Having no idea how long it would take for the Lord to clue me in on the answer to this question, I took time throughout the week to sit and journal. I went on short walks, alone, giving my mind space to recognize the Spirit’s guidance.
It was during this week that God led me back to a scripture revealing the purpose of Jesus’ time here on earth. The day before this passage, Jesus had spent the entire day caring for people — healing and spiritual cleansing too many to count. The next morning He “went out and made his way to a solitary place. But the crowds were searching for Him. They came to Him and tried to keep Him from leaving them. But He said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose'” (Luke 4.42-44).
His clarity made me long for that same place of solitude. It was a place of focus. A place where Father met Son and infused Him with focus. Focus, but not ambition. He didn’t teach for the money. He didn’t heal for the recognition. He didn’t perform miracles for accolades. He was focused on God’s purpose: He lived for the sake of the kingdom. That kingdom included people.
He had time for friendships, conversations, late-night dinners, and stories. His entire life was lived for the purpose of invitation. Come. Follow me. Into the kingdom of God.
For what purpose should I use my gifts? For the sake of that same invitation.
I was embarrassed when I realized why I straddled the fence between employment and passion: it was that much desired paycheck. Over the remainder of the week, the Lord sweetly gave me an ever-so-beautiful mission statement for why I write. I penned it down in my journal, and then logged onto my email to resign from the job that paid, apologizing for my flakiness.
As I turned off the computer, I made myself a promise: In the past, I had been excellent at letting wonderful things distract me from that which I was supposed to be focused upon. In the future, I was going to be excellent at protecting the relationships, ministry, and passion that the Lord has placed in my section of the kingdom.
Financial insecurity? Surrendered.
Fear of rejection? Surrendered.
Charging ahead without prayer? I hope it’s over, but I’ll admit I’m a slow learner.
Still, I have opened back up to the page in my journal several times already — memorizing the small statement of purpose God gifted me in regard to writing. And when I read those words, I’m overwhelmed that He cared to give them to me. For the sake of clarity, for the gratitude for purpose, and in a desire to be focused, I surrender all the good things that have distracted me until now. I will no longer live a life of over-commitment. I will stop walking down parallel paths, legs stretched and feet weary. Instead, I will stop to listen for that voice calling, “Follow me,” and it will be that path I choose to take.
The last thing I wrote in that embarrassing email — as I tried to explain my choosing a dream over provision — was this: I feel God leading, and while the future is unknown, I’ve never taken a risk with the Lord and later regretted it. Thus, as 2014 is in full swing, I pray we might take the opportunity for a quiet walk, or a week of prayer, and ask God: Am I using these skills — these talents — for the sake of the kingdom? Am I living a purpose greater than myself? Does what I’m doing matter to people and extend an invitation?
He calls to us. Let’s follow with unwavering steps. I was sent for this purpose.