I've really been stymied for the past two weeks. It's been very frustrating for me. Plus, the enemy has taken full advantage of my frustration.
Two weeks ago at my Focus of a Warrior meeting we were given the next level of assignment for our group. I had been playing "Catch-Up" with the homework for a while. (Ever since I joined this group Satan has been working over time to fill me with self-doubt and distractions. It often feels like I am wading through a swamp waste deep) I had caught up and was feeling relatively good about it all. Then we got this assignment.
"Vision is the ability to see God's preferable future," so says the manuel we are using. We are supposed to figure out our Personal Vision for our lives. Oh great! Like I can flip a switch and figure that one out in two weeks. I've been trying to figure that out for years and I keep coming up empty.
I'm going to list the questions that are supposed to help me figure this out. If any of you have any suggestions as to how I ought to answer them, please let me know. I have no problem asking for help when it comes to something like this.
#1. The people & circumstances that have most shaped my life are...
#2. When I think of ministry in the future, the area of ministry (Advancing the Kingdom of God) I would love to concentrate upon ________________. Why?
#3. The qualities of character I most admire and desire for God to shape into my life are ______________________. Why?
#4. People who know me well believe I am most used by God when I am involved in _______________________. Why? (I could really use some help with this one.)
#5. My activities that contribute most to God's kingdom are ________________. Why?
#6. From the perspective of my personal life, my activities that I feel are making the greatest contribution to God's kingdom are _________________________. Why?
#7. Though I may have dismissed the thought many times for various reasons, at times I have felt that I really should be doing _______________________. Why?
#8. When people talk about a passion for ministry, I often begin to think about giving my life to accomplishing _______________________. Why?
Just eight questions. You think that would be easy. Instead, it's virtually crippled me over the last two weeks.
I have some personality problems that I wrestle with. For starters, I have felt like an Outsider my entire life. Always an observer, never a participant. That's actually had some good benefits, but I still never feel truly connected as a result. I tend to think so far outside the box that I kind of forget what a box even looks like at times. That tends not to sit very well in a world that values conformity.
The second is that I am filled with self-doubt and have a heavy guilt complex. (Is that because I am Baptist, Scandinavian or both?) I tend not to trust much of what comes into my head. Needless to say, Satan takes full advantage of the guilt complex. He loves to whisper into my ear.
A couple of things that I do know about myself: I am extremely creative...and I mean extremely! Most of the time when I am trying to create something, it is just to see if I CAN. I also have a very high level of curiosity. That's gotten me into some trouble, but it's also served me well. Finally, I have a very high tolerance for controversy, and am not easily shocked by outrageous behavior. (This is a result of working with At-Risk kids for 3 years. Probably the best education I have ever had. I can't get over how much they taught me.)
A couple of other things that I do have a passion for: I love education and teaching. I love the intellectual give & take. I love to learn something new everyday. I also love the sovereign mystery of God, and the centrality of Jesus.
I also like teens and young adults...especially if they are the oddballs. (I used to refer to my former students as the Island of Misfit Toys.) Honestly, how can anyone not like teenagers? They are just so incredibly entertaining. No offense to any teenager that might read this, but the fact of the matter is that you are all a bunch of massive Posers! You have such amazing enthusiasm for so much in life, and yet you are virtually clueless as to how to handle it. I just can't help but enjoy watching that and working with them.
Last weekend I got a call from the mother of one of my former students. I haven't seen this kid in almost 2 years. His Mom said that he still talks about me all the time, and was wondering if we could get together. He is having some troubles in school and was wondering if I could talk to him?
(This kid is a great kid. He has massive ADHD apparently. Once, he brought brass knuckles to school by mistake...he didn't even remember where he had found them. They fell out of his pants in a classroom and he was expelled. I tried to protect him. I got in serious trouble...possibly the reason I was denied tenure. They tell you to be an Advocate for your students, but most administrators don't really mean it. This one in particular had gone out of her way to earn my DISrespect. So be it. I believed in this kid. I still do.)
So anyway, after all this time this kid still thinks about me as being the one teacher who made a connection with him. Honestly, I'm not certain why that is. I have no magic wand. I wish I did. What I do have is a very strong conviction that every person on this planet has potential to make a positive contribution in this world. Sadly, I know that many, if not most, will not live up to that potential. But I still believe it with all of my heart.
I also learned something from my Shrink many years ago. What you hold in the forefront of your mind towards another person, they WILL pick up on it and live up to it. Call is ESP, call it a Vibe you transmit, call it the Spirit World, whatever. If you think negative thoughts towards others...that they are stupid, worthless, whatever, don't be surprised that those folks fulfill your expectations. So with that in mind, I would always search for any good qualities and skills that any student of mine had. That is what I held in the forefront of my mind. It took some serious self-discipline to make that a habit, but it finally stuck. And, to be honest, it was a lot easier with some to find the good stuff than it was for others.
ANYWAY, this call from my former student's Mom was a bit of a confirmation as to where I ought to be thinking about God's vision for my life.
All of that having been said, I have developed a very blurred vision of what God might wish for me. #1. I would really like to stay in some area of education. #2. I would really like to try and combine that with ministry in some way. #3. I am good with teens and young adults...especially if they are oddballs.
I am an oddball. That is fairly obvious to anyone who knows me. Always feeling like an outsider? Well, maybe that will serve me well with whoever I have to work with and minister too. I just get a feeling that I was meant to work in a niche that most others could not fill.
What is driving me crazy is that my gut tells me that all of my present circumstances are keeping me here until I figure out this whole "Vision Thing." I've been in the holding pattern for almost two years now. I hate it. I want to get on with what God wants me to do with my life. I don't care about making a ton of money. (Although, after 2 years of living in poverty, it would be nice to get a little bump up at least) I could care less about fame. I just want to fulfill my destiny by doing what God desires and advancing the kingdom. That is really all I want. And it feels like until I can figure out this Vision Thing, I am going to be stuck here spinning in circles. All of the job enquiries, all of the applications, all of the searching mean nothing. I desperately want to know what God's desire is. I KNOW that it is there! I just beg Him to reveal it to me. (I would also like to have it confirmed by others, because as I said before, I tend not to trust my own judgement)
If any reader would like to pray about this for me, I'd sure appreciate it. I don't even care if you aren't a Believer. Pray anyway. It's hardly as if the God of the Universe is deaf!
Last Sunday at Living Waters, Pastor Scott began a series on Prayer. He spoke about how we can approach the throne of Christ in Confidence & Expectancy. When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, he ended his teaching with some stories. (Jesus loves to tell stories. I think it is hard-wired into the human brain to love a good story.) Then he encouraged his followers by saying;
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For EVERYONE who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door WILL be opened."
A caution about that; some people pray very selfishly. They pray for material things as a luxury, and things like that. I don't see how that would honor God, and I certainly do not see any reason He should answer such a thing in a positive fashion.
Pastor Scott said something that I thought was brilliant. He said that a lot of the time people honestly don't KNOW what to pray for or about. I don't think that there are too many folks at Living Waters that would want to pray in a selfish manner. But sometimes you worry about what it is right & proper to pray for. So Scott said, "Ask yourself What Would Jesus Pray For?" Would Jesus pray for a healthy & loving marriage? Would he pray for reconciliation & peace? Of course he would.
Would Jesus pray that I would know his will for my life and what the next steps are for me? I am certain of it! Would he pray that I keep on working to clean up the selfish & self-destructive areas of my life that keep me from following him fully? Yeah, I'm guessing he would.
So, I would like to pray that in confidence. I would certainly ask that you pray that for me too.
It is so strange to look back on my life thus far. More often than not, I see a perfectly straight line. A perfect road through all of the good & bad. A path that God led me down to shape me into a worker who can do a task, an assignment, that only I can do, because it was His good pleasure to show his glory & peace to a hurting world through some imperfect act of obedience on my part. But when I look forward, it always seems to be a haze.
Whenever He finally reveals His vision for me, I truly believe that the doors will be thrown wide open for my next step. Most likely, knowing my weird life, it will come straight at me and be an almost complete surprise.
Until then, I suppose my main task is to continue to wait upon His timing and just keep asking & seeking. I will not knock on the door. I will pound on it until my fists are bloody. I am sooooooooo hungry to know.