God and a Map [World Vision ACT:S]

Originally posted 1/25/13 for World Vision ACT:S. This is still once of my favorite pieces, 2 years later.

When I was younger, I was fascinated with globes. I would spin one and stop it with my index finger- where my finger landed was where I’d someday live. I had a long list of future homes. The how or when I’d move there didn’t matter, in my mind the possibilities were endless- I was going to go where my heart desired.

Since then I’ve experienced distant cultures, conversed in another’s language, eaten traditional fare, worshipped our God in astounding churches, and danced on cobblestone streets. I’ve marked a few places off my list- adding some along the way. I also moved and made a life in Seattle, Washington- a city I love, a city filled with vibrant energy, a city I want to settle down in. It’s both familiar and spectacular at the same time.

I am determined to fit this city, these people, and the general way of life into my life plan. I’ll still explore the world, but return here to recharge and find comfort.

Except this is my plan, and I’m not the strategist.

A few weeks ago I began ignoring whispers in my heart telling me I wasn’t happy in Seattle. I cut the whispers off before they could fully take shape. I prayed God would take them from me.

“Why would God want me to be unhappy in a place I love? In a place where I first fully experienced Him? This can’t be right.”

One Sunday morning, as friends and I pulled into church, I was in a foul mood. We were late, parked 4 blocks away, it was raining, and we had to sit in the overflow section. I was not open to experiencing God that morning. I only half-heartedly listened to the pastor explain that blessings from God are blessings that ultimately belong to God, meaning God can give and take blessings as He wills. The pastor continued to say God creates seasons to remind us of His love and grace, but also seasons to challenge the faith we have in His desire to see us happy. We can’t predict what and who He will guide to our lives, instead we have to willingly place all blessings of happiness, security, and hope in His hand for Him to take away when it’s time, trusting that He does so with the best intentions for our lives.

By the end of the sermon my mood shifted. Those heart whispers were shouting “Seattle. Seattle. Stop trying to hold this blessing so tightly.”

I had been pondering volunteering abroad for a few months, or moving somewhere in Europe to pursue a master’s degree. Both fit into my ambition of experiencing the world, and would be great next life steps. But both were conjured up by me with the intent of going on my schedule and returning safely to Seattle within a few years. Even though I told myself God was all over these plans, the truth is he wasn’t. I wouldn’t let him in enough to shape my desires. I was trying to go where my heart desired instead of following Christ’s desire for me.

I am head on in a collision of my own desires for the future (which are based on only what I know) and the part of my heart that continues to grow close to Christ, knowing He has a future planned beyond the current constrains of my imagination. Henry Nouwen sums this collision up well in his book, “In the Name of Jesus,” in which he explores our nature as sheep and Jesus as our shepherd:

The World says, “When you were young you were dependent and could not go where you wanted, but when you grow old you will be able to make your own decision, do your own way, and control your own destiny.” But Jesus has a different vision of maturity: It is the ability and willingness to be led where you would rather not go. (81)”

My heart wants to follow Christ; this means letting Him lead and I must develop maturity to be willing to go where I would rather not go. For now, I am growing to understand that this means first leaving blessings with Him in order to then “go.” I love my internship at World Vision ACT:S and I have a leased home with 2 friends- I am not leaving right now. But Christ is working in my heart, He’s preparing me- the preparation is a sign in itself that the Lord is faithful and wants to see His children happy. I am enjoying the blessings of this city I love with an open hand for when God decides it’s time to take this blessing and replace it with another. The replacement only realized when I fully embrace the willingness to go where He wants me to go.