The Miracle of What We Don’t Want, Part 1

I had hoped and knew something new was happening. There was a stirring, a combination of incidents, and a level of uneasiness. I thought God was providing something new in my career. Not a new job but maybe a new side gig or teaching opportunity.

I just couldn’t shake this interest and even calling I had for helping people grow spiritually, for helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ. Last spring, I began to pray that God would make it clear to me what he wanted from me, that he would provide a way to something that matched my longings and interest.

I took a few matters into my own hands.

First, I signed up for the Apprentice Experience. I wanted to scratch the itch I had to learn and experience community among like-minded individuals.  Also, to chronicle my experience and to help raise a little money, I started this blog. I had grand ideas that this blogging and learning would morph into a ministry. I wanted to go into churches and lead workshops on Growing Up in Christ or be a retreat speaker. I wanted to be sought after as an expert on gaining spiritual maturity. And I kept praying that God would bring these ideas into fruition. That my ministry, even my career, would see a change.

I felt that it was time. I never expected this.

detour

Shannon Kokoska via Flickr Creative Commons)

In the matter of a week back in December, a colleague of mine resigned, the Director of the Library announced that she would be stepping down at the end of the month and I was now being asked to be the Interim Director. Remember that I had been praying for some kind of change, for God to make it clear to me what new direction he was guiding me towards.

But really God? This is what you came up with? A managerial job in the midst of a wave of turnover and upheaval? We were already losing one librarian, one was stepping down soon, and another was in the hospital just weeks away from her death. This is not the smooth, well-organized chance to do ministry that I was counting on.

This was going to be drudgery and really, really hard. Thanks a lot God.

Read Part 2 on Wednesday.

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How Do You Hear From God?

Sometimes I teach a small group session on discipleship and spiritual growth.

Prayer

Image by Chris Yarzab via Flickr

A question that I often get is “How Do You Know When You Have Heard From God?” This is difficult to answer but I can speak out of my own experiences.

  • Your next steps will confirm what you just heard – When my wife and I felt called to leave our comfortable existence in a small town with quality jobs and low-cost of living to begin working in social ministry in a larger town with no assurance of adequate compensation, we found our confirmation a few weeks later when I was able to secure a job at a local university. My kind of vocation, academic librarian, isn’t that widely available but God seemed to provide exactly what we needed when we needed it. This demonstrated to us that our original word from God to go was for real.
  • The words will sound familiar – This is where your relationship with God bears incredible importance. Many people fail to hear from God because they have no relationship with him. I know my wife well enough to know that when she says certain things in a certain way I need to pay attention and respond appropriately. Through experience with God and a relationship that has grown over the years, I start to recognize that what I am experiencing or hearing (though it seems more like a thought) is coming from God and not from my own prejudices or whims. This kind of relationship takes work, and familiarity with God’s word,  but with time and understanding, recognizing God’s voice won’t seem to be such a random phenomenon. This is where step number three comes in.
  • Careful and thoughtful guidance will validate the words – I am an introvert and rarely enjoy speaking just to speak so when I need advice or help with a decision, the advice better be good or at least thoughtful. Christians are so bad at giving advice. We think we have all of this wisdom but what we really have are opinions that we try to spiritualize to look good.                                                                                                                     Parker Palmer has written extensively on the value of a “clearness committee” that listens, asks non-leading but helpful questions, and brings the person needing guidance to a place where they can more clearly hear the Holy Spirit. I like the freshness and simplicity of Palmer’s approach. Christians need to seriously rethink how they help those needing guidance and direction from the Lord.                                 Pray first, speak tenth.

If none of the three items above are happening and confirming what you thought were words from God then maybe you need to ask for more direction from the Lord. You can hear from God but sometimes what we think we hear needs fine tuning and consideration.