A person’s heart maps out his trail, but the Lord plans and chisels out each place where he will step. – That is an amalgam of translations of Proverbs 16:9. This verse has been on my brain ever since I was offered a job that I wasn’t looking for and, honestly, would not have applied for (I’ll deal with my ungratefulness later). I had a trail, a path. OK, in my own mind I did, but an objective person would say that I didn’t. It was a holding path; a waiting path. I wasn’t waiting for what I’m doing now, occupationally, but I know God chiseled it out these steps. I’d like to share how I’m processing through it and how Jesus continues to lead me. (This post is a Mile Post. Please take a few moments and also read this post and this post which are a part of this process Jesus is leading me through.)
Trails (also spelled “trials”), plans, paths, and steps all lead to somewhere. Ultimately they all lead to the afterlife, but that’s a little too long-term for what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is accomplishing one’s calling. I’m talking about a moment of fulfillment. I’m talking about either a singular moment, or a mode of life, where there is a clear sense of, “I’m doing exactly what God has for me to be doing. It’s having the effect God has designed it to have, and I feel God’s pleasure doing it.” I really think that’s what God has in mind behind this little verse. Why else would he direct our steps?
Different people are going to process this differently. Some people might read this and have the mindset that we can have this kind of sense of things at all times no matter what. While I believe that is possible and true for some people, it isn’t necessarily supposed to be true for all people. Some people feel this as a parent, a coach, a teacher, a police officer. They feel like they are in their zone most of the time. Others can do these same things and its just a role for them until the next thing. They can do these things, excel at these things, but they have a nagging sense of something more. Not “better than” or “more valuable than,” just, more. It’s a feeling like you’ve been traveling well for a while, but haven’t arrived yet.
Here is how I’ve summarized what I think this “arrival” looks like for me:
I am a writer, podcaster, Bible teacher and mentor. I help established and curious Christians successfully connect God’s word to their lives so that God’s life empowers their lives.
When I do those things, more importantly, when I see the fruit of what I’m doing, and that it is successfully connecting God’s word to people’s lives, I feel God’s pleasure. I feel a sense of God saying, “That’s what I have you there to do.”
I’m a husband of over 20 years. I’m a father of two grown sons. I’ve been influential, significant, relatively successful in those roles, and I’m not done yet. I spent almost four years encouraging over 125,000 kids at elementary schools in 31 states and four countries, and I was pretty good at it. I can hear people in my own life asking, “Isn’t that enough?” It isn’t about “enough.” It’s not like trying to fill up a bucket to capacity, putting it down, and being done. It’s about using that bucket to do what it was designed to do, and I’m still not doing it in the way I think I will one day.
I have had tastes of it. I discipled a group of high school guys in the late 1990s, and most of them are still walking strong with the Lord. I need more of that. I’ve been an influence in the lives of some people who have gone on to influence thousands of others as missionaries, pastors, and authors. I need more of that. When I have been doing these things, I have felt God’s pleasure. Everything else I was doing at the time, things like pastoring a church, seemed like it was supporting those few moments. I want to know what its like to do those powerful things all the time for many more people. As I shared in a previous post (linked above) I thought I had to become a pastor to do them, and that isn’t the case.
The trail my heart mapped out looked roughly like this. I was going to do Über, Lyft, and IT consulting in such a way that I would have the flexibility I needed to build my platform (to use Michael Hyatt speak). I would have time to write, record, speak at places, meet with people, and someday, stop trading time for money. It was more challenging than I thought it was going to be, but I didn’t see a better way to do it.
I didn’t want to take a full-time IT job because that would have zero flexibility, and it felt like a career change. I’m not looking for a career change in that direction. IT, for me, is tentmaking. Besides, I did go through two interviews with a company for a full-time job IT doing what I already was doing, and I didn’t get the job. I’ll take that as a sign thank you very much.
Here is the shorter version of what happened next.
In short, some chiseling had to happen for this step to take place in my life. But I had a path! Lord, I see the destination and the trail I charted is best way for me to get there! Don’t you know that? My heart planned a way, but God directed the step, and its in a direction I never would have thought to take.
Do I sound ungrateful? I have found that people are ungrateful for two main reasons.
In my case, both are true.
Imagine a professional, seasoned, teacher-of-the-year type of teacher, being asked to go teach a Cisco Certified Network Associate class at the local tech school, having never configured a router in his/her life. Are they a good teacher? Sure. But they would have no idea what they are doing. That’s how I feel.
More than that, I’m feeling very pigeon holed. It feels like this step chiseled out before me leads in completely the wrong direction because it emphasizes the tent making and not the kingdom building. Already I’m being thanked and appreciated for my IT skills in helping the school get ready for the year to begin. On the one hand I’m glad to help. It is important work to get done. On the other, its just, I don’t know, ugh.
Ever heard of Paul Winchell? You have, you just don’t know it. He was a marvelous entertainer in the 1950s and 60s. He’s probably best known as the original voice of Tigger from Disney’s Winnie the Pooh cartoons, or Gargamel from The Smurfs in the 1980s, depending on how old you are. He also helped develop one of the first working, implantable, artificial hearts, among other medical, technological, and humanitarian efforts in his life. I wonder for which he would prefer to be known? I can’t answer that, I really do wonder.
What I do know is that, when I die, I don’t want my headstone to read, “Man, he could wire a network!”
If I’m sounding entitled, I apologize. I have no sense of entitlement from God, just disorientation. Like when Dwight took Michael out into the forest, spun him around, and let him go. Unless what God is actually doing is un-spinning me and pointing me in the best direction.
For those of us who are trying to follow Jesus, it can be easy to focus on our own plans and be unaware of God’s steps. There is the challenge, or obstacle, depending on where you are at in processing the situation, of comparing our plans and progress to others, and not looking for Gods directed steps. Let’s be honest, its the suckiest. When you see your peers doing exactly what you all set out to do together, but you aren’t…. This will lead you to a double-stuff Oreo sugar coma.
Hopefully, this post will serve as some kind of encouragement for others, that they are not alone in processing in this way. For me, I’m hoping to come back to this post over Christmas break with an update as to where these chiseled steps have led me.
Until then, keep it one step at a time. “Just keep swimming…”
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