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?
But aren’t you missing opportunities?
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.”
What will be enough?
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.
- A guy started working in my wife’s office who was an out-going administrator for a local K-12 Christian school. He heard about my ministry background and wondered why I wasn’t teaching somewhere. (Also short version, my education doesn’t give me the credentials to teach at a college/university).
- There were two jobs open at the school he was leaving. Upper-grade level Bible class teacher, Elementary Technology Teacher. Since I’ve never been a classroom teacher I didn’t get the Bible job which, between the two of them, I really wanted.
- An old friend of mine is the principal for the lower grades and said the job was mine if I wanted it. With 20 years of IT I think I have the experience. But it wouldn’t pay enough. (How sad is it that a person could make more money, granted working more hours, driving Über, Lyft, and doing IT, than a full-time teacher?)
- My principal friend really wanted me, so he, and the out-going administrator, found a way to make it happen financially with the school and the church which hosts the school (whose senior pastor goes back to the same days as myself and the principal).
The next step
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.
- They don’t know what they have.
- They are scared.
In my case, both are true.
- I don’t know what is in store for me. I don’t know if I will have more or less time than what I have now to pursue God’s calling on my life to build His kingdom the way He has called me to do. I am ignorant of what rewards await me working with kids of that age in this capacity. It could be amazing and I just don’t know it. It could be horrible. I don’t know. I do know that there are people who went to school for years to be a teacher who would love to have what I didn’t even look for. I feel a bit guilty about that. Jerk.
- I’m petrified. After a short meeting with the previous teacher of the class I’m taking over, I told my wife that I have never felt more out of my depth in my life. The technology is easy. Managing a class room, teaching kids K-5 on a daily basis, lesson plans, state requirements and testing, being an educator, and so many more things I’m not even aware of yet; these things scare me.
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.
Here’s the kicker
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!”
Like I said, I’m processing all of this
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…”