My wild crew and I have made it back from vacation with lots of memories, mildly sunburned skin (for the adults who constantly reapply sunscreen to the kids but forget their own shoulders), and our first real family pet — a hermit crab, purchased at the last minute on the Boardwalk. The kids christened him as Hermie, and so far we have managed without any mishaps to the little guy. I’m still a bit scared of him, even though he’s so small…something about that purplish pincher claw just keeps me from too much crab-holding. If we keep him happy for a while, I think I’ll have to go find a friend for him. I read up on hermit crabs on the way home and, contrary to their names, they actually thrive with the company of fellow-crabs. They travel in colonies and it’s said that you can hear them talking to each other if they’re sharing a cage. Just like the rest of us, Hermie needs conversation.
I’ve been thinking a lot about conversation, lately. The way a real one requires two parties, investing. Listening. Responding. And then I began to think about my conversations with Jesus.
It started when I re-read Matthew 5. Actually, it started with the first two verses of Matthew 5 in the Message version of the scripture. The Message says this: “When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.”
I checked out the NIV and KJV, and both versions said that Jesus went up the mountainside and His disciples came to Him. Then He began to teach them.
Here’s where I am right now: in a season of waiting. Learning. Trying, in spite of myself, to listen. Step by step moments of trying to be faithful to what He’s called me to for this day of my life.
I’ve been here for a while and I’ll be honest — I’ve wrestled against it. Because ever since I can remember, I’ve had plans. I’ve always thought out the next step before I’ve finished with the one I’m currently taking — the next idea, the next writing project, the next attempt to get to where I want to go. For instance, I am finally finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies….and I love the process of learning…but I can’t seem to stop myself from reading the course requirements for that Master’s Degree I have my eye on after this is done. Yesterday, I just shook my head in frustration because I’d spent so much time researching that step instead of doing the work that’s due now. It’s cart-before-the-horse syndrome, I guess.
And in my talks with Jesus, I am so often asking — “What’s next? Where am I going from here? What am I preparing for? What is Your will for my life? How can I best serve you so that I don’t waste these years you’ve given to me?”
I am glad that He is patient.
Because all of those questions…they’re good questions. But when my brain is trying to come up with the answers (well, if I finish this then I can write that/if I hurry up with these classes, then I can take the next ones and then I can finally help in that department/etc., etc., etc)…when I’m so focused on the destination instead of the journey itself….well, that’s a good way to never arrive anywhere at all. It’s a good way to make sure I’m not accomplishing His will for my life right now.
Imagine it’s time to leave for vacation. Your visitor’s guide is all highlighted and the schedule all planned out. The reservations are made and you know exactly where to go and what to do when you arrive.
But you get in the car and there are no suitcases packed in the back. You didn’t buy sunscreen or snacks. You forgot the GPS and there’s no gas in the tank.
Those hotel reservations won’t do a lick of good until you’ve prepared for the trip to get there.
Ridiculous, right? We just wouldn’t do that….and yet….so often I find myself talking away to Jesus about where I feel He’s leading me….instead of listening to what’s He’s teaching me for where I already am in my life. Instead of being content to be used now, I dream of how much I can be used in the next stage. And then instead of hearing what I’ll need to move forward — and what I’ll need when I am in the new season, I just focus on how my collection of post-cards will grow.
I don’t know if this is making sense to you. But I think the solution will.
I need to focus on loving Him instead of trying to be His activities director.
When we are committed to Him, we will climb the mountain to that quiet spot. We will sit by His feet. We will close our mouths and listen. Imagine the disciples saying — “Hey, Master– this is good stuff you’re saying, really. But what are we doing after this? We thought it’d be nice to fit a few more healings in before sunset.” They would’ve missed out on the greatest wisdom ever to be spoken on earth — and the glimpses into God’s character and will for mankind. But they didn’t interrupt Him — they’d dedicated their lives to following Him and so they let Him lead. They listened. It would be kind of impossible to follow directions you’ve never really understood to begin with, right?
If you’re in a season of waiting, it’s for a reason. If you’re supposed to be studying, listening, learning — then it’s for a reason. Don’t fight it because you feel like you should be doing something that your flesh deems a priority — waiting on the Lord and heeding His word is the most important thing you can do.
It’s His leading that takes us where He wants us to go. It’s His Words that bring fulfillment. It’s His presence that sustains us. As much as we may want to accomplish for the Lord, our purpose is simply a relationship with Him that overflows into loving other people and testifying of Him. That purpose is what we were created for and it is enough. Anything else that He calls us to? He will provide the way and the means of accomplishing it.
This life I have? It is not my story. It is about Him.
Pause for realization that THAT is the point I needed to hear (again) for myself.
So it all comes down to surrender, doesn’t it? Total submission of all that I am to Him. And then just letting Him lead from there. I don’t have to know what is going to happen next. I just have to be faithful to what He asks today and He’ll take care of the rest.
It’s His story.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him , and He will make your paths straight.” ~Proverbs 3:5