"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Emerson

Sunday, January 4, 2009

You rang?

Hello my blogging friends!

I am back from an uneventful (thank the Lord), albeit not relaxing Christmas and New Year's. I found myself battling what felt like the world's worst ever case of the stomach flu from the night (3am to be percise) after Christmas all the way up to New Year's Eve. Nothing like ringing in the new year with sickness! Anyway, I am back and healthy, hoping you are as well!

Here is part two to of my responses to my inspiration from my friend, Christi. Thanks again Christi for the great ideas!

Christi writes:
"How does someone really hear the Lord talking to them, telling them His plan? People claim they act some way or made a decision because "God told them to." Does the plan or will you hear from God change or do WE just change? Ex: I used to think God was telling me to go to college for a certain profession, I was sure of it. It felt like a calling. Now it doesn't. Did I make up that calling or did God really impress that on my heart and now it is something different?"

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
On the day of my 21st birthday, I was celebrating not only the milestone of becoming what I considered a "real adult", but also my college graduation. My parents encouraged me to seek further education and while I had an interest in psychology, the fear of the GRE math section focused my sights on the legal field. I prayed and prayed asking God to direct my path and it seemed He kept guiding me towards pursuing a law degree. He even laid verses on my heart like, "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed." Psalm 82:3 (NIV) I was sure that I was destined to be the next Atticus Finch or Thurgood Marshell, in a courtroom somewhere, fighting for people who were neglected and disenfranchised.

When I got acceptance letters from some of the best law schools in the country, I thought it was God's way of directing my steps so I kept moving forward. I even got into my top choice, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Then, an offer for an almost full ride scholarship came from a smaller, lesser known law school in Alabama. The dean of the school was friends with one of the greatest legal minds in civil rights law, Morris Dees, whom I hoped to work for one day. I couldn't imagine God giving me any more clearer direction as to what He wanted me to do so I accepted the scholarship, said no to my top choice school, and moved to Birmingham, Alabama, the farthest place I'd ever been from home.

Fast forward six months. While everyone else in my law class seemed to be thriving in the super competative environment that was law school, I was miserable. I hated the fact that there was only one test that determined your entire grade for the class. I hated reading mounds and mounds of the driest, most boring material in the world and yet still having no clue what the law said about anything. I hated the fact that people hid library books and held secret study groups because they didn't want to allow anyone else the chance to understand or become better than them. I hated the fact that my professor told us to get over thinking that the law was about fairness, because it wasn't. Everything inside of me felt like I had made perhaps the most monumental mistake in my life and the fear of exposing that mistake to the rest of the world, ate me up day by day.

Law school dropout. It just sounded so pathetic. It sounded like a quitter. I hated being a quitter. I couldn't understand how it seemed like God had been revealing His will for me so clearly and now that I was following it, it felt like I had made a wrong turn somewhere. In a deep state of anguish, I cried out to God, asking Him to just tell me what to do so that I knew where I was supposed to be. Then, one day as I was sitting in my room, crying and praying, He led me to a passage in The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. There on the left margin, in big bold letters, it said, "God doesn't care about what you do, He cares about who you are." Talk about a screeching halt. What? God didn't care if I was a lawyer or not? I could just be a person who sought Him with all my heart and might, and He wouldn't care that the letters JD didn't follow my last name?

In that moment, I decided to quit law school. I finished out the semester and brought my parents my transcript with the words Dean's List emblazoned underneath my A's and B's. Then, I explained that I would be dropping out of law school and pursuing something else, which I wasn't quite sure about, but I thought it would be teaching. For those of you who are parents and those of you who have parents, you can imagine how bringing home good grades from a school that has given you free tuition and saying you are quitting, goes with two dumbfounded parents sitting in front of you.

But, at that moment, it didn't matter. Everyone elses opinion didn't matter, because God had clearly told me that He didn't care if I was a lawyer or not. If it wasn't what was right for me, then He was okay with that decision. For awhile, I would look back and wonder, had I misheard God's call for me? Can I trust myself in my next pursuit to know that I am truly hearing God's call for my life? How will I know if what I am doing is what He desires me to do?

But, God really changed me through that experience. It was humbling in many respects. I had always valued education and people with lots of it, and God just reminded me that a person's worth is not determined by what they know or how many letters follow their name. Their worth is intrinsically determined by Him and Him alone. To try something and to fail or to give up can be shattering to our self-image and how we view ourselves, but God taught me that His view should be the only one that matters to us.

Do I think now that I misheard God's call for me at the time? Absolutely not! I think what I didn't understand is that sometimes the outcome of God's call for us may not be the outcome we expected. I think I had prayerfully determined my steps and God guided me, but where He guided me was somewhere other than where I thought He would. How silly of me to assume that I knew the plans He had for me!

It can often be gutwrenching to try to determine if we are following God's will for our lives or our own will. It seems to get fuzzy and clouded at times as we try to figure out if God is giving us direction or not. Let's take a look at what God says about discerning His will from our own:

(1) Pray!: It seems like this is the answer to everything, doesn't it? His word says," Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 You can't make it any plainer than that. His will for us is to pray continually in all circumstances with a heart of joy and thanksgiving. So, if you are ever wondering what His will for you is, it is to PRAY so that you can learn to decipher His more specific will for various decisions you have to make in your life.

(2) Learn about Him and His character: How can you know what another person would decide in a given situation without knowing that person intimately? Think about it. Your best friend, your spouse, your child. Given 100 hypothetical situations, you could probably predict with a certain amount of accuracy what they would choose or do in any one of them. It is because you know them so intimately that you know how they think, how they respond, and how they act. In the same way, we need to know God intimately to determine how He thinks and how He would act in the situations that we might face. Romans 12:2 (we keep coming back to this one, don't we?) says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Only when we renew our minds daily with God's word do we begin to test and know what His perfect will is for our choices and our life!

(3) Seek counsel: Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." As you are making your plans, get good advice from trustworthy, Christ-seeking people. Ask a spiritual mother or father what they believe you should do. A new perspective might give you insight that you hadn't before considered and God might use another person's wisdom to direct your steps.

(4) Commit all your plans to Him: "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3 Often times, our choices are between two very good options. I could have chosen to become a lawyer and help a lot of people or I could have moved on with my plans to become a teacher. Both were fine pursuits and God could have used me in either profession. Sometimes, it doesn't matter what we choose, it just matters that we give Him our plans and be willing to accept any and all changes He makes to them. My study Bible says that we need to, "[trust] God as if everything depended on Him, while working as if everything depended on us." I think that is a wonderful definition of what it means to commit our plans to Him.

(5) Know that no matter what, He can and will work everything out for your good: Romans 8:28 tells us that we can know that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." No matter what choices we make, no matter how much we think we heard the will of God yet stumble in our steps, God will consistently work all situations and circumstances out for our good. We just have to learn and accept that our good sometimes means character lessons and growth, not everything working out perfect and seemlessly.

As you seek to discover God's will for you, your life, and your decisions, remember that "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9. You may start down a path you honestly believe to be God's will for your life at the moment, only to have the path fade away before your very eyes. You may make a choice or decision that you whole heartedly believe God to be calling you to do, only to find the outcome to not be as you expected. Just remember that ultimately God is in control and though things may not have turned out as you exactly planned, they turned out just as He did!

Here's to learning to answer His call...

Until next time,

P.S. Please post any topic ideas you have for future blogs in my comment section!! They are great challenges for me! Make 'em tough so I have to dig deep! Also, if you are a regular reader of my blog, please make yourself known in my "follower" section. It quells my curiousity...


Foley Mason Family said...

I had a similar experience with law school. While I am not sure I want to practice law I know it was the right decision for me. I learned so much about who I was and what I wanted out of life (it took me awhile to come to this realization). Once I let go and relied on faith it all seemed to work out for me. Hopefully faith will help me pass the bar now!
Keep up the great blogging!

Will and Jennifer Farmer said...

I think I'm going to start printing out your blogs and make them into a book. :o)
Question for your next blog- What do you pray for your child each day? And why?