"Now What?" {A Post for the Graduates}

Photo courtesy of Hannah Hanson
My brother joined the ranks of high school graduates last Sunday along with some other youth from our church, and, as always, it was great to stop and praise them for the many ways they have illustrated Christian character in their homes and abroad.

And so there are the speeches, and the cake, and the (embarrassing) baby pictures, and the old friends, and the new friends, and: THE question, "So... what are you going to do next?"

Yes. That question. Some of us know at age 6 what our calling is. Some of us are brilliantly talented in a certain area that naturally leads us to a certain vocation. And others of us feel like the jack of all trades and the master of none, with a plethora of opportunities before us, little discernment, and a whole lot of pressure to get it right. 

And then, of course, there are others of us that aren't even the jack of any trade. Or at least, haven't discovered it yet. Isn't it curious that God designed life in such a way that we make some of our most life-impacting decisions when we have the least experience?

I love hearing Dad recall his past. He had no desire whatsoever to be a pastor when he was growing up; the thought didn't even cross his mind. In fact, he was a pre-med major in college on his way to becoming a doctor, when a man knocked on his door, shared the Gospel with him and lead him to Christ a few days later.

After that, he knew the Lord wasn't leading him towards the medical field, and so he started taking English courses, thinking maybe law school was the thing for him. An offer to teach at the University of South Dakota and work on a master's degree in English directed him differently, however. After teaching at USD, he taught English in the University of New Orleans. He then received a grant to teach and pursue a PhD in religion and literature and also to teach at the University of Virginia. However, before the semester began, he was deeply impressed that was not where God wanted him, so he began a retreat of seeking the Lord. 
Photo courtesy of Hannah Hanson
That began 5 years of reading, praying, studying, meditating. During that period, churches began to ask him to speak, which led to a vision of planting a church in South Dakota. At the end of Dad's 5-year retreat, he met and married Mom. He then spent 8 years in personnel management and public relations, the last 3 of which he also attended and taught at seminary in the evenings. 

Then I was born.

(Totally irrelevant to the point I'm about to make... just thought I'd mention it.) Dad graduated, and the Lord opened the door to go to South Dakota to take over a church plant work in Sioux Falls, where he has been for 19 years, as of Father's Day. 

None of the occupations leading up to his pastoring were what Dad wanted to do the rest of his life, and yet God was preparing him for just that! If you had asked him at the time he graduated from high school, however, you might as well have asked how many hairs were on his head. God's ways certainly are not ours, and are not liberally unveiled by our desire to know them. And yet, have comfort that we are HIS workmanship created in Christ Jesus. He's not going to leave us unfinished, or leave us to plod along our own way, if we belong to Him. God has already ordained what works we're supposed to do, and He's preparing us for the task. A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. 

So back to why I brought up Dad. Even though he didn't begin pastoring until he was in his mid-30s,  the college writing classes he taught for a number of years helped him to organize thoughts and express himself with clarity. His 5-year retreat developed his prayer life. Eight years in public relations and personnel management taught him how to lead. See now, how God was weaving together Dad's occupations to equip him for the real work? Truly, we walk by faith, and not by sight.

Proverbs 119:105 says,

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Familiar, right? But have you ever stopped to think about how much light a lamp gives in darkness? It doesn't give much! Especially a lamp that the Psalmist would have been familiar with at the time of his writing. A lamp like that would only have given enough light for the very next step. God's Word IS light to our path, it does guide us. He does direct our steps, but often only a few at a time. Hence, we must needs be constantly abiding, lest we loose direction.

Have you ever seen a miner's hat with a lamp in front? Suppose a miner is down in the mine, and the light shines twenty-five feet out in front of him. And suppose he says, I'm not going to take another step until I can see the end of the tunnel. Then he would never take another step. Unless he walks in the light he already has, he will never receive more light. But as he walks in the light, he will find a light moving out in front of him. And the more he walks, the more the light will move.

And so a believer keeps taking the next step, and the next step . . . .

- Dr. Curtis Hutson, How to Know the Will of God

Just as grace leads to grace, direction leads to more direction, and usually in small doses. Focus on doing the next best, right thing; always the next best thing. We sometimes cannot see our life calling until in retrospect. God is faithful. We can be, "confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in [us] will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" (Phil. 1:6)

Labels: ,