I remember during the year between graduating from college and starting seminary I agonized over a big decision.
Do I move to the San Diego area, take the job at the church, and start seminary in Pasadena, or do I move to Vancouver and start seminary up there?
Leaving Southern California to go to graduate school somewhere (anywhere) else had always been “the plan”. But there was a job in Southern California. And a church I was familiar with. And a much shorter move. But then again Canada was beautiful, and interesting, and different.
I did everything to try to figure out what the right choice was.
I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I talked to friends. I made several pro/con lists. I talked to Christie. I talked to the pastor of the very large church I was attending at the time (he may or may not have used the phrase, “Heck, I’d do it,” to announce the choice he recommended). In one moment of insanity I even wrote “F” (for Fuller, the school in Pasadena) on a small piece of paper and “R” (for Regent, the school in Vancouver) on another small piece of paper, crumpled them up, and asked the impossibly obnoxious spoiled junior high student I was tutoring at the time to pick one.
I don’t remember what he picked.
But I do remember that, in my mind, this was a big decision..
And surely God had a plan for me.
I just had to figure out what it was.
But as the days turned into weeks it became apparent that God was not as intent on revealing his will as I was on discovering it.
This seemed very strange to me.
After all, this was a big decision that was going to seriously impact the rest of my life. Surely God must have a will for this decision, or at least a preference. And surely if there were any decision for which an aspiring preacher man should be able to discern the will of God, it is a decision such as this. And surely God would be disappointed with me if I made the “wrong” choice.
Have you been there?
Have you been in that place where you’ve got a big decision to make and you’re doing all of the stuff you’ve been taught to do (or at least assumed you should do) when you need God’s guidance and all you’re getting is static?
I honestly don’t remember how I finally made the decision. I just know that on one December morning on the way to work I took advantage of the fact that in 2006 it was legal to handle a cell phone while driving and called the guy who would be my boss in San Diego and told him I’d take the job. I started a few months later, still thoroughly confused by God’s apparent silence on such a life-altering decision.
What I know now but didn’t know then is that God has a very different definition of “life-altering decision”.
And he has spoken to the decisions that truly are life-altering.
He has spoken saying that he wills my holiness (1 Thess. 4:3).
He has spoken saying he wills that I would seek first his kingdom (Matt. 6:33).
He has spoken saying he wills that I would trust him (Prov. 3:5).
And on and on I could go.
And those are the decisions that will most impact my life.
I’ll be honest, that was a hard for me to get my mind around for a long time.
Surely who I marry, or what job I take, or what city I live in, or how many children I have, or what school(s) I attend will have the greatest impact on my life.
God says otherwise.
In fact, he grants us freedom in making those decisions.
But he tells us to be holy. He tells us to seek his kingdom. He tells us to trust him. He tells us to marry a fellow believer. He tells us to number our days.
But he doesn’t say “Move to San Diego and take the job” (I made that decision though I was not 100% sure it was God’s will), he doesn’t say, “Marry Christie,” (I made that decision though I was not 100% sure it was God’s will), he does not say “Go to this school,” (I probably don’t need to repeat myself again).
Surely we can and should pray, and surely on occasion God may guide us in these sorts of decisions. But when he is silent we must remember that while the specifics of God’s will may be a mystery, it surely is not his will that we spend our days obsessing over gaining clarity from him in areas where he has never promised to be clear.
We are instead better off loving him, pursuing holiness, loving others, seeking his kingdom, living on mission and doing as we please. The decisions to be faithful in those areas are the biggest decisions we will ever make. And in those areas he has been wonderfully, beautifully, mercifully clear.