Wednesday, June 4, 2014

All or Nothing

We've spent a few days now looking at calling, at the things God is asking us to do with our lives. And I think one of the greatest hurdles most of us have when it comes to this (and pretty much anything) is that we're "all or nothing" people. We may know what God has asked us to do, but there are still details and in those details, we have come up with two possible conclusions:

It will work or it won't. 

God will completely clear the way, carve a path...or He won't. God will provide for every need...or He won't. This will happen...or not. There is no middle ground.

For the sake of putting some skin on this concept, take my recent adventures in the seminary application process. It has been on my heart that God has called me into this, but as months passed between acceptance and registration (with registration looming eerily close), I still hadn't heard anything about financial aid. I had no way to calculate what this all was going to cost me, and whether or not it would be a financial possibility. I spent those intervening months yearning, aching, longing to hear whether this was going to happen...or it wasn't. Whether this would work...or it wouldn't. Whether God was going to provide...or not. I refused to let myself get attached to the idea of moving forward and was left with one timid foot hovering in the air for far too long, waiting to see if I could set it down with any reasonable assurance.

When really, the assurance had already come. It came not in the mail, but in my heart.

What I was really waiting for was to see if God was going to make it possible for me to do this education thing the way it's traditionally done - with a full course load and definite progress and pushing toward that degree in 3, 4 years tops. As April came and went and we got into May with still no word, I was full-on worrying that, in a way that is customary to this world, this was going to be taken away from me because of my limitations. Because of my current station in life. Because I do not, right now, have $35,000 for a degree that I don't think will pay off right away (board certification is a bit of a process in its own, above and beyond the MDiv requirement). And I was stuck in this place of....either it will work out, or it won't. Those were the options.

But my nagging heart would not let go. And as I continued to wait on the mailman every day (because such important information is still delivered snail-mail), all of a sudden I realized that it already is "all." It's already happening. It's already working out. The question I really had was whether or not it would work according to my plan, according to the common convention, according to the traditional way. Then I laughed because we all know that God has never been one for the common convention.

And in that moment, I decided that if I had to take one class at a time, every semester, for as long as it took so that my checkbook didn't break under the pressure of school, then I was going to take one class at a time, every semester, for as long as it took...and I was getting my Masters of Divinity and heading toward board certification and doing what God had called me to do, what He already promised was going to work out.

I put my foot down firmly and realized I already had "all." It was some unfaithful place inside of me that had refused to let go of "nothing."

Long story, I'm sorry. But the point of it all is this: the calling God puts on our lives usually feels big. Whether you're one of those called to be something for Him or to be something of men, it's all the same. Where do you start? How is this going to work out? Is there even a way to do it? And we're so quick to paint ourselves into the all or nothing box. It will work...or it won't. God will provide...or He won't. 

God has provided from the moment He spoke the word. From the very first whisper into your heart, and probably long before, God has been making a way for you to do exactly what He's calling you to do. It doesn't always work according to your plan. It doesn't always look like conventional wisdom or the traditional way. Don't worry; God has never been into either of those things. Conventional wisdom is folly compared to the ways of the Lord. And the traditional ways will never take you somewhere new. (You can't get to a new place by doing things the same old way.)

It'll all work out just the same. And that is faith.

So what is the response we must have to God's calling on our lives? It is not to wait, not to linger to see how things are going to work out. Not to harbor any reservation that it will. Of course it will. In the all or nothing equation, from the very first whisper, you have had it all. Faith, and discipline, then say simply to believe it. Set your foot firmly on the path God has laid before you and take small, diligent steps in a faithful direction. Because this is really happening. 

Maybe not all at once. Maybe not in the big, grand way it looks in your mind. Often not in the overwhelming way we fear. Usually in the quiet, agonizingly slow, painful way of patience and faith. But it's happening. Step into it. And let God show you the way.

**Note: The financial information I had been waiting on finally arrived a few weeks ago. By the grace of God, the next step of my journey is more possible than I ever could have imagined it to be. I am excited to take ever more faithful steps when the seminary adventure begins in just 68 days.**

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