It seems only natural in January to talk about identity and evaluating goals and all that not-so-fun stuff. Starting a new class session with 29 students–most of them older than me–I hear a lot of comments like, “I never thought this is where I’d be.” As is fitting to the online flexibility, many of my students return after a 10-20 year stint. They have raised their kids and have established a career and are going back to school, either because they never finished and want to complete their degree, or they are changing job paths and need more background in the field. They are still working, serving, raising kids, and doing real life. The tension is real.
A few years ago, I was talking with a fellow writer friend. He made a comment that stuck with me: I feel like I took an exit ramp and I can’t seem to find the highway again. We laughed, but I know the man was thankful for his wife and kids. Despite the welcome surprises, his life goals and ministry opportunities hadn’t quite materialized from his vision of what life would be. Can you relate?
Some of my detours have been pleasant, some painful. A clear map with highlighted roads (turn left here, etc.) would be ideal…for comfort and control. After all, I can only see so far before the horizon blurs or my vision fails. And then in comes fear and doubt. Is this where I’m supposed to be? Did I hear Him correctly? What if I made a wrong turn back there? Now what? Does He want me to keep walking forward or should I turn around?
The goal of this trek with Jesus isn’t about comfort or even clarity (at least not in the temporary, material ways we want). Life here on this globe is about prepping for the life to come. It’s about trusting our Savior, even when we can’t see what lies in the path ahead. Sometimes the road takes us through sunny valleys with daisies and sometimes we stumble through dark forests. Being with Him, hiking over mountains and swimming through the rough waters, is about endurance and remembering. It’s about love–loving Him more than we love this life: our goals, our work, our ministry, and even our families.
Talking with a friend last night, she mentioned her pastor’s comment about prioritizing relationship with Christ. He said intimacy and dependency must come before obedience. If you invert the order, you fall into legalism. The intimacy comes first (our first love) and motivates our obedience. We don’t walk a certain path to prove ourselves to God or others. We walk the path out the abundance of our security, not in an attempt to establish it.
This January, as you assess your current affairs, remember to ask yourself one question: what motivates me? Really ponder it, dig deep, and then evaluate whether your life actions match your answer.
If not, be brave enough to ask God: Is this where you want me? Pray with your hands open and wait patiently for the response. He longs to talk to you about the plans He has for you, but be prepared: sometimes His plan involves more presence with Him and less planning.