God’s will. Christians love talking about God’s will. They love talking about it, debating about it, and praying about it. And frankly, I feel those two words have become a little magical phrase tainted by church culture. Myself included. How often have I heard (or used) the words “God’s will” as a form of blame shifting? “Well I wanted to date you, but it’s just not God’s will. You can’t be mad at me for what God wants!”. Or, used as a trump card so that pesky christian friends won’t try to question your decisions? “Guys I just know that quitting my job and traveling all over Europe is God’s will. I know it seems irresponsible, but this isn’t me making the decision, it’s God.” So many times. I’ve heard people speak of seeking God’s will so incredibly beautifully and genuinely just as many times, but oodles and oodles of times as a cop out.
And I think this mangling of “God’s will” starts from incomplete understanding of what it means to follow His will.
We’re told to surrender our lives to Christ and do as He wills. The surrendering to God’s part makes complete sense to me. I get it. More than getting it, I love it. I love what Christ did for me, me an undeserving and gawky daughter, and it is my joy to follow Him all the days of my life. Truly. I most absolutely am at war with myself sometimes over surrendering, but the beauty of it is never lost on me. What was lost on me, I am seeing, was figuring out if I was in His will at all. Suddenly it seemed a whole lot harder than sunday school led on.
Because it would be maddeningly easy if God mailed you a letter every time it was time to move. I imagine God would be right to the point: “Dear Bobby — I know that you think Sara is cute, and I see that you two have had a lot of fun on your dates, but it’s not gonna happen. Sorry not sorry, it’s for your own good. Love ya, God.”
Admittedly, there have been times when I’ve heard from God so incredibly clearly that I knew what step He wanted me to take. And it was so so beautiful. He didn’t mail me a letter, He came to my front door and told me to my face. Moving to Memphis was one of those times. I knew because I knew because I knew that I needed to go. God pressed it so deep into my heart that not going would have been blatant rebellion, even if I did. not. want. to. go.
It was God’s will. So I went. And was blessed abundantly.
However, we Christians know that hearing from God that clearly is the exception and not the rule. A lot of the time I’ll be standing outside on the (metaphorical) (but sometimes not, I love being outside) front porch waiting for Him to come tell me what to do… and He doesn’t. In those times He never abandons me, but He lets me make plans and figure things out. He has given me His Spirit for exactly those moments – when I am maneuvering without a clear divinely inspired direction. He blesses me, cheers me on, opens doors, but He doesn’t always explicitly tell me which way is up.
Recently I was presented with a really really big decision and positively no direction. And I panicked.
My time with my little is ending in about a month, as was always the plan, and his family is getting a new, very lovely, nanny. I had been planning on staying in Memphis after they moved because I had a lead for a job that seemed like such a sure thing. Honestly every door was opening for it and I was so excited and thankful that God was giving me the opportunity. Obviously you know where this is going and have deduced that three weeks ago I found out I did not get it. Which to be candid, felt like a really mean trick.
I don’t have to tell you how disappointing it is to be sprinting towards a door you felt sure God had opened, only to bump into it and break your nose because that sucker is sealed tight.
I cried a lot that day because it felt like the only thing in the world to bother doing. And then the next day I told my boyfriend and cried all over again (while out at brunch at a really trendy restaurant where everyone had tattoos and thought I was an idiot – KILL ME). And I wasn’t such a baby about the fact that I didn’t get that particular job, but that that was my only plan because I thought it was God’s plan and then WHAT IN THE WORLD now I have no plan.
So I started thinking. And trying to figure things out. And googling jobs in Memphis. And googling jobs in Tampa. And wondering if this was my chance to go home. And wondering if it was wise to leave a city God had clearly led me to because what if He wasn’t finished with Memphis? Nothing seemed like a good solution. There was a downside to every. single. thing. That peace that God had given me about moving to Memphis? It obviously eloped with my sanity because the two were no where to be found.
I felt like I was in a lose/lose situation because all I wanted to do was follow God’s will.. but He wouldn’t tell me what it was. Suddenly His will seemed like a guessing game. There was a right answer, I just had to figure out which one it was. But if I didn’t, if I moved back to Tampa even though I wasn’t supposed to, I’d be screwed.
Despite every beautiful thing I know about God’s character, I was so sure He was going to be mad at me if I did the wrong thing. And the fact that I didn’t know which was the wrong thing was terrifying.
I called friends that were wiser than I was for advice and wisdom.. and stability. One woman I adore told me things that changed my thinking entirely.
“You’re actually in a win/win. God can do beautiful things in Memphis and in Tampa. He isn’t so limited.”
“I’m sure I haven’t always done the ‘right’ thing, but God has never abandoned me.”
“Sometimes God directs us undoubtably, but I’m sure that sometimes He gives us the freedom to choose.”
And the next morning, when I woke up at 4am as had been my routine those days because my brain just wouldn’t shut up, I felt a sense of freedom. If I stayed in Memphis God would do really big things. If I went back to Tampa, God would be present in every moment.
So I’m here to say, friends, that I think sometimes God lets you choose. Sometimes He lovingly drags you out of your comfort zone, but sometimes He gives you the freedom to live near your parents if you want to. If this wasn’t true He wouldn’t have made you with a brain and a mind and the ability to think. Thanks to the life of Christ, we have an example of how to live and if your decisions don’t conflict with loving and reflecting and obeying God, as well as loving others and tending to them, then take comfort in that fact that you are in God’s will. You’re not trying to guess you’re way into it, you’re golden.