Maybe one day I will go back to school. Maybe I will be a nurse. Better yet, maybe I will work where I will have even more opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.
Wait. I already have that job. Could any job be more valuable than raising a family?
Oh, I mean after that. Later. When they’re older.
Don’t worry about that. It is not time for that. Right now is precious. Right now is busy. Right now you need to focus and concentrate all your energy, creativity, goals, and dreams on the task at hand. Who has an overwhelming job and considers beginning a whole new one? Not wise. Focus on what you are doing right now, not what you may or may not be doing far later in life.
Fleeting thoughts pass through my subconscious like unfinished puzzle pieces trying to connect. My inner dialogue surprises me. I recall in days past how anxious I have always been to do the next thing. And the next thing. And…the next thing. I consider the contentment given to me at the very moment I recognize that this is not a one-way thought process. It is, rather, a two-way conversation complete with wisdom-bearing insight, gentle correction, and, yes, father-like authority.
The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 floods into my soul at its very core and I stop. I feel its truth. I give thanks. I remove my self-focus, cease my day-dreaming, and begin to pray for more wisdom. I start to remember all the wrong decisions the Lord has kept me from. I look around and wonder. Just how many people are living from one big idea to the next, never considering what is most useful in life?
Joan Baez asked how many roads a man must walk down before he can rightly be called a man. I think she had it wrong. She should have asked which roads a man must walk down before he can graduate to manhood. Quantity never trumps quality in this game of life. There are a lot of good things we can put our hands to and accomplish. As a goal-oriented person, I completely get that. We want to do as much as we can while we can because the alternative is to waste our lives. But…
What if we are so busy accomplishing quasi-meaningless, wholly self-absorbed goals that we miss the moral of the moments we are already making?
Changing the course of our lives, no matter how big or small of a way, gives us pseudo-control. We feel empowered when we can make decisions and work toward goals we have set up in our own little minds. It creates a certain level of forgetfulness about our smallness; our fear of insignificance; our utter dependence on the Creator for all things. And if we succeed – the more we succeed – our pseudo-self-sufficiency is confirmed; reinforced even. And isn’t that just what we want? A false comfort assuring us that we are god and have no need for his help and direction?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is, all to often, a resounding “yes” even among those of us who call him Father.
I used to run a lot more than I do now. I began running in high school soccer. As I got older my running career morphed from team to personal fitness to individual achievement to identity. I went from running at the gym on the treadmill to lifting three times a day to marathoning to triathlons to mud runs. When running got boring, I renewed my love for the outdoors with dirtbikes, then streetbikes. I took up boxing. I like change. But sometimes, dare I say many times, seeking change, while it is often neutral, is simply an indication of discontent. It is a sign of the human condition which grasps and paws at everything except what is right in front of us. To pour into these new endeavors – whatever they may be – is so much easier than pouring into the lot God has given. It gives us a false sense of hard work and effort when the truth is that we are being lazy about our calling.
God has given me a lot. My lot is serving a businessman husband, teaching my children, and running a household. I must measure any new “goals” popping randomly into my head as fast as yesterday’s bubble gum by usefulness.
Usefulness. Is it useful? Is it practical? Does it benefit my family or does it tend to neglect or hinder them in the name of my personal satisfaction and need for significance?
And who would argue that exercise is not useful? Or nursing? The way in which we plan has a lot to do with whether or not things are useful and a lot less to do with whether they are “good” things.
Do I run on my free time or do I run every race I can find at the expense of my family’s time and money? Do I take up a new career while I already have a full-time God-given role or do I wait to consider those changes when life stage more readily permits?
I guess the bottom line is that neutrality is no indicator regarding what one should or should not do with his or her life. Just because something is not wrong, it is not, by default necessarily right to do. We need to stop asking ourselves what is wrong with this or that and begin asking God what is right with it.
Then we will know what me must and must not do. The Lord leads. He directs. He provides. He protects. Moving ahead frantically – as our culture insists we so do – is utter foolishness; folly; absurdity for we who have a faithful Father to follow.
So which roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?
Ask the Lord. He’s got your map.