A few years ago I felt the Lord explain to me that He was not going to lead me in an “obvious” way. I was attending a Christian conference and I clearly heard the Holy Spirit indicate I needed to leave the meeting as soon as it was over. As the day ended I felt a nagging obligation to help with clean up of the room, although I knew God was indicating I needed to leave immediately after the meeting portion.
My flesh felt very uncomfortable leaving that day without assisting in taking down the tables and picking up the room. Although probably no one else really noticed, I felt like a bum, as if I was shirking my duty and responsibility. It’s a conversation the Lord has given extra insight on at different points over the last few years and pointed me back to in order to help me understand why He isn’t blessing things I feel I “should” do.
I admit that many times where it has seemed like I should zig, I feel God pushing me to the zag and I do feel at times like people close to my situations are looking at me, wondering a bit why I went zag instead of zig. I suppose some of them sometimes feel my zag should have been a zig, so this dialogue with the Lord helps me at those times when I seem to sidestep the obvious next choice.
The Common English Bible version says in Psalm 23:3b, “He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.” I love that it says proper paths. I feel that God has been leading me in the proper paths for my life, for my journey, for my learning. I don’t mean being a part of something, or doing what is expected is wrong – except when the Lord God Almighty isn’t on board with our plans, then it is wrong for us.
Not going the obvious route began a couple years before he gave me that terminology. It really began the winter of 2011-2012 after my friend had powerfully spoken into my life that God wasn’t done with me yet. In conversations following the initial exchange, my friend began saying that this calling meant I needed to return to our church’s leadership program. I had gone into the program fresh out of high school, when they allowed 18 year olds to enter the program for a year or two. Typically people who entered the program were older as it was not a typical college setting for people just starting out in life, but required more maturity and mastery of life. When my friend first said I needed to return to the program, I felt disturbed and bothered by the idea.
Almost twenty years had passed since I had been released at the end of my third year with the encouragement to develop myself, go to college, develop a work skill and reapply a few years down the road. I had considered returning to the program at different times over the years, but somehow then at the end of 2011 and the start of 2012, the more my friend said that this call from God meant I needed to go through this four-year program again (you didn’t get credit for previously completed time), the more my discomfort with the idea grew. It wasn’t about the time it would take, I just couldn’t get at peace with the idea of returning to that program.
Finally, I began to say to Father God in my conversations with him, I will not go back to that program, so how can I fulfill the calling you say you have for me? I began to repeat this question, almost as a challenge to Daddy God for several weeks, perhaps even a couple months. It was a bit like, Okay, you say this is what you want, but I’m not going to do this, so how can that be? It reminds me a bit, on a smaller scale, of how Mary asked how could she get pregnant without knowing a man. Finally one night God simply, but powerfully, told me the name of a different church I was to go to.
The power of God’s instruction dried up my question, even though the answer was beyond radical for who I was. I had been with that ministry my whole life and had never desired to go anywhere else or to know much about any other group. The answer of me going to another church was not at all the answer I expected. Except after God gave me that answer something happened so that I no longer enjoyed going to my home bible fellowships with that group. I’d always been faithful to attend home fellowships, even during drug use and checking myself into psych wards, I was a bible-thumping, bible-fellowship attending gal!
For the first time in my life, I genuinely began to struggle to attend home bible fellowships. Even worse, the times I did go, I felt worse after I went! It was unsettling and disturbing. It seemed even crazier because there was new exciting leadership doing all sorts of innovative, interesting things but I could barely bring myself to be a part of it without feeling worse for the effort! So, after 39 years in one ministry, eight months after God told me I was going to go to Christian Family Fellowship Ministry, I did.
That was a huge zag where it seemed I should have zigged! Mostly none of my family or friends from there understand or even ask me why I left. They love me, but I suspect they feel, as I used to feel when I was a part of that group and people left, that I have made the wrong decision. At a minimum, they find my new language and affiliation with mainstream churches as odd and somewhat disturbing.
One day God led me to a beautiful park and urged me deep into the paths winding into the wood and I felt Jesus speaking so clearly to me. He was telling me he was going to ask me to step off of the path. He kept telling me to prepare myself, that I would need to step off of the path. Then the moment came where he told me to step off the path. I cannot express to you the horror and dismay that flooded my whole being. I had been saying, Okay, Okay the whole time that he was telling me to get ready, but the moment it came to take the action – WOAH! My flesh REVOLTED!
And I stood there on the edge of a worn gravel path, the spirit willing and the flesh stiff with resistance. It sounded so simple – step off of the path, sure, okay Lord, I’m ready, then he said, NOW and all of me freaked out and went rigid. Aghast I stood at the edge of the path reasoning with the Lord. Anything to get out of stepping OFF the path! He said, Do you really think you’re going to find the things I’ve promised you here, on this path? On the path that so many have walked before? On the path that others laid? Do you truly believe that is where the dreams we’ve dreamt will be fulfilled?!
Ah, Well, when you put it that way, Lord.
And I stepped onto the leaf covered floor of the wood, self conscious of any other park goers deep in this less visited section of wood that might witness me leaving the safety of the beaten path. And I spent part of an afternoon getting over myself and talking to God and having an extraordinary unexpected afternoon that I still draw learning from.
In the middle of a Star Wars movie as the character is inexplicably drawn by “the force” to a hidden heirloom God began to download to me a greater understanding about why he can’t always explain to me where he is leading me. Sometimes I simply can’t fathom the process, I have to walk through the process and discover the learning in the journey. Some lessons cannot be given, they can only be earned through days layered upon days, in conversations and prayers and weeping and resolution regardless of emotions. Some understanding isn’t imparted, it’s developed, day in and day out. Faithfulness is not instantaneous, it has to be earned.
God also helped me realize that discretion around what I’m doing and where I’m going is sometimes necessary and at times if he showed me where we were going, I would be so excited that I would reveal plans that need to remain hidden. Remember that if the devil had known what was going to happen on the third day he never would have crucified Jesus Christ!!
And the truth is that sometimes if we knew how good the other side of this struggle would be, we could never bear to do the NECESSARY things to GET to tomorrow. But I’ll save that for another blog on another day.
The Father continues to surprise me with the things He leads me to as much as the things He leads me away from. Sometimes walking away, his arm around me, I’m still looking back, saying, Hey, uh, wait, I thought we were doing that thing. And He smiles at me and clarifies that part was my idea, not His idea.
Praise God, thank you Jesus, we are off and running….again. Praise God indeed and Amen.