Hey there! It’s hot here in central Texas. So hot that when I hung my clothes on the line yesterday the first items were dry by the time I finished pinning everything! But that’s okay, I can deal with the heat. In fact, a few storm fronts came through last night dropping the temperature and humidity and leaving behind a comfortable breezy morning. I’m taking this not-to-be-taken-for-granted moment by sitting on my deck and enjoying the breeze and sounds of nature around me.
But, I have to admit, I struggled a bit to get out here this morning. While the heat may be less in the natural world around me, it’s heating up in my heart today. I am struggling with trust today. I am struggling to trust myself that I have heard God’s voice and that I am doing a valuable thing with my life. I am struggling to trust that I have anything to say to anybody that will add value to their life. And, I’m struggling to trust God to provide for my needs as I take this pretty big step of faith in my life. Can you relate?
And here’s the kicker: I did this to myself. I added the heat of anxiety in my heart. I did something last night I shouldn’t have done: I looked at my former company’s website and saw my old position posted. Ouch. It’s not that I really want my job back, it’s not that I’m unhappy where I am, it’s just that I made myself a promise on day one of my lay off that I would not look back and I’m disappointed in myself that I did.
My friend responded to my “I just lost my job” text with this admonishment: “Remember Lot’s wife: Don’t look back!” (Genesis 19:26)
No sissy girl “I’m so sorry – how are you doing?” response or a lame pep talk about how “when God closes one door…” (even though I truly do believe that cliche because God tells me it’s true in Jeremiah 29: 11-13!).
Nope, she just said: “Don’t spend one second of the rest of your life looking back. That door is closed. That chapter has ended. Better and newer things lie in front of you. Don’t you want God’s best? Of course, you do and He’s had this whole thing planned for you all along because He is Jehovah Jireh – My Provider: The One who sees ahead and makes provision.” OK, she didn’t say all that in the text but that’s what her text said to my heart. And I believe that was a God-inspired word for me.
So, why did I look back last night? I don’t know. I guess I was curious. I guess I was doubting that I had what it takes to make my life what I want on my own terms. Maybe I was just feeling the heat of jumping into self-employment where it was up to me to make my own way. And, I looked back. That looking back led to a few texts this morning and a little more self-doubt. Then I repented. On the bathroom floor, on my knees, with dogs licking my tears, I asked God to forgive me for looking back. But how can we be sure that Jesus is the one who truly closed that door and is calling us to a new thing?
Here’s what my gut and experience and His word tell me about moving on:
- No matter what you did or how you planned and manipulated, the circumstances did not work out like you thought they would.
A few years ago, I made a lateral move with my company because I wanted to be back in a position that felt more in line with my innate abilities, my strengths, and my passion. I passed up a promotion and a raise to make this move. I spent oodles of time in prayer before doing this, got advice from trusted friends and colleagues, made my pros and cons list, and felt confident in my decision. That step was followed by a series of decisions that were out of my control and led me to the place where my job was eliminated. And here’s the kicker: had I stayed where I was I’d still have a job and that raise and promotion.
OOMPH. I gotta go with God had a bigger plan than I did on this. I cannot look back with regrets. I believe that even though my decision led to unemployment, that was His plan all along. In fact, when I was told I was being released, I experienced a split second of shock followed by an immense wave of relief that said: “you are free to pursue that God-dream now.” I called my husband and cried for about one second and then proclaimed: “I’ve never lived my life on my terms anyway. I’ve always asked God to direct my paths, so I have no doubt that He is in this and He’ll make a way.” So, when circumstances just seem to work outside of your control to bring you to a crossroad, or a place of wide-open opportunities, that’s a good sign that God is in control.
- You’ve had a God-dream but you never felt like the timing was right or that you were prepared or life just kept getting in the way.
I’ve had a God-dream for about 20 years. I’ve started and faltered and stopped and put it on the back burner several times but the dream never died. It gnawed and nagged and wooed me ALL. THE. TIME. Working extremely hard to get where I was in my career only to be set back in a very illogical way, made me stop and hit the pause button. I immediately promised myself I would not jump back into the pace and track on which I had been running. I would take time to clear my head, settle my emotions, tackle some mundane tasks around the house that would give me time to think, and I would be purposeful about my next moves.
I began to ask “what if?” what if I had pursued this God-dream six years ago? Where would it be now? And what if I didn’t pursue it now? Where would I be in another six years and what kind of regret would I possibly have? I took stock of all the things that had led up to this moment and I realized none of it had been by chance, including the fact that we had already downsized our home and simplified our living expenses to the place where I was not panicked into finding a job to replace my income. Now that is freedom and I think no small coincidence. Remember, Jehovah Jireh? He knew all along.
- You weren’t really happy where you were but you couldn’t figure out how to untangle yourself from that place (or you didn’t have the courage to do it).
You hear stories about how people are devastated after a relationship breaks up but once the shock is over they admit they weren’t happy in that relationship anyway. Or how they didn’t know they were choking under the city lights until they spent a week in the country and decided that the hustle and bustle of the city was not a healthy place for them. Indeed, that’s where I was. On my best days I felt exhausted and stressed at the end of the day, but on my worst, I felt defeated and demoralized. I’m not placing blame on anyone but myself. I was being passive in my trajectory in life and that resulted in a lack of fulfillment and purpose.
So, honestly, what was I doing it for? The paycheck and the “security” of the corporate job? I guess all that is an illusion anyway because God says He will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19) And what are my needs anyway? He knows that my needs go way beyond a paycheck and a 401K plan. I need fulfillment and purpose in everything I do. I need rest. I need to make a difference every single day. I need to have a creative outlet. And I need to bring Him glory. He’s meeting those needs and I can trust Him to meet the others too, always remembering that Jesus said in Luke 12:
“Consider how the wildflowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- Your focus was off and you couldn’t seem to clean the lens.
Whenever I am in a place or circumstance that I know is not where I need to be, I lose focus. I lose focus on God’s grace and the beauty that surrounds me. I begin to see only the negative, my focus narrows until I can only seem to find aggravation, stress, and negativity. Clearly, I don’t need a theological discourse on this for us to all agree this is not a healthy way to live! Negativity has been shown to lead to patterns in the brain that develop into subconscious habits that cause us to only see the negative in a situation or to become boxed in and unable to find positive problem-solving solutions. Daniel Amen discusses this in depth in his book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, which I highly recommend.
Stress is bad for our bodies in a myriad of ways and it’s talked about constantly on health talk shows, the news, and in social media. One of the most obvious signs of stress for me is a narrowing of my focus. I am no longer able to enjoy my downtime or appreciate the beautiful things around me because stress bundles me up in a knot and I can’t relax enough to just be in the moment. So, for me, stress is an enemy and was not leading to a fulfilled and sustainable life.
- And the big one: You know you’ve moved on when you are no longer interested in looking back.
I know, I know, I just said I peeked and turned my head a little, but honestly, I am not turning around. I am not going to end up as salt, or whatever it is we turn into in New Testament times (maybe just a hollow, unfulfilled person?). In any case, I love this quote from Maya Angelou – and maybe you’ve seen it on my homepage.
If you must look back, do so forgivingly.
If you must look forward, do it prayerfully.
However, the wisest thing to do is to be present.
Oh, and by the way, when I looked up this quote in my quote journal that I started keeping as I embarked on this God-dream, it was the very first quote I penned. So, ya, I know not to look back unless it means forgiving and healing, I know not to look forward unless I do so in prayer, confessing that God holds my future in His hands. And scripture tells me that I ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15); therefore I know that to be in the present moment is the greatest plan of all.
My hope is that I will be able to say, with each passing day:
I followed my path [the one designed by God for me]…
I kept my way.
I kept my balance.
And I saw my dream
growing closer with every step. ~ S. Ramsey
Truthfully, I don’t want to be a pillar of salt – especially in the hot Texas sun – and I don’t want to be a ragged woman trying to fulfill my destiny on my own, so I’m drinking in my life as it is right now…prayerfully believing God for tomorrow. I hope you’ll choose the same today. I hope you will continue to chase this dream with me and that we can remind each other: “Remember Lots wife!” ~ Mary
If you want more encouragement to step out of step with the world and chase that God-dream go here.