Flicking through a notebook I started in my final few months at university, I came across some prayers that I had written to God. By looking back at my prayers that I wrote over a year ago, I have come to realise that He has answered my prayers, in ways that I would not have anticipated.
Questions, Prayers, Petitions
In my notebook I wrote the following just over a year ago:
I pray that I can trust in you and not try and figure out a career on my own. I know if you want me in ministry it will happen. If you want me in charity/NGO work it will happen. Help me to trust, but to try.
That prayer is still on my heart over a year later. However, through this period of waiting my trust is increasing. I am experiencing a renewed dependence and reliance on the One who establishes my steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Another prayer followed shortly after:
Thinking and praying about my next steps. Please help me to know my calling in time and for it to be as clear as day. Help me not to be too busy! Help me to live for you and die to my own selfishness.
Answers, Waiting, Wisdom
I am still thinking and praying about my next steps. Nonetheless, I do not want to miss a step or I could stumble and fall! Maybe by focusing too much on the steps ahead, I miss the important step that I am on now. There is a purpose for being at this point in time, so rather than becoming impatient that I am not there yet, I shall rejoice in the fact that I am here now!
God has kept me from being busy. I am practically on sabbatical. After the last four years being filled with intensity through illness, studying, wedding planning and marriage, maybe resting is not such a bad thing! In this time of waiting, my attention has been on serving the Lord in church, through Oxfam, on my blog, through my writing and helping others in between all of that. I recall two verses in particular at this point:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men… Colossians 3:23
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Each step is for the Lord – whatever that step may be! Whether it is a moment of great trial or elated joy. I am living for His glory and renown and oh, how He loves me. When I fail, when I struggle, when I rejoice, when I am downcast, when I am peaceful… in everything, I am loved. And so are you, friends!
Dying to my own selfishness is harder. I battle with my own desires and sometimes try to place what I want ahead of what others may want or what is best. I try to rationalize everything regarding a job and career. Pros and cons. Skills and qualifications. It is good to use our intelligence and exert some level of wisdom. However…:
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding… Proverbs 2:6
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5
True wisdom, knowledge and understanding come from God. And what it more, we can ask God who gives us wisdom generously! The clarity that I prayed for regarding my ‘calling’ is being made known day by day – in snippets if you will. Little bits of what I know God is asking me to do are becoming more clear. This is good as I am no good with information overload! It may not be a flash across the sky, in bright letters with a clear-cut, solid, sure answer. But where would my faith be if that were the case?
‘In The World, Not Of The World’ – Feelings of Failure and a Citizenship In Heaven
For weeks, I had been asking God ‘How can I be in the world, but not of it?’ I was struggling with simple conversations with everyday people when I knew nine times out of ten I would be asked about my job. How can I navigate the expectations of society, when I know that all I am simply doing is trying to focus on and trust in God alone?
The answer hit me square in the eyes whilst reading a book by Alister McGrath called ‘The Journey: Pilgrims in the Land of the Spirit’. He quoted Paul in the New Testament with the idea that our ‘citizenship is in heaven’. Alister McGrath states that this ‘image lends dignity and new depths of meaning to the Christian life – especially the feeling of being outsiders to a culture; in the world and yet not of the world’.
Wow – finally a bit of clarity on this feeling I have been carrying around with me.
Moreover, McGrath continues to point me to a bigger purpose and understanding of my feelings of being a failure. A failure in the eyes of the world for not landing a graduate job. Getting funny looks when I tell people that I am a housewife (and delighted by this, I must add!) Having endless advice chipped in on what jobs to aim for, where to look, what employers think etc.
McGrath has this to say about failure:
“Failure is so often defined with reference to the standards of the world; there is a need to realise that what the world counts as failure may count as a crown in the sight of God.”
N.B: At this point, I must mention that my husband has been telling me this very thing for a while. I am sorry Joel for not listening to you in the first place and thank you for your godliness and insight!
This is a comforting thought. When we are secure in the knowledge that we have citizenship in heaven and that our failures to the world are crowns to Christ, we can navigate this world without being of this world. We are expectant exiles looking forward to the promised land!