By Janel Breitenstein
I think perhaps a reader phrased it best a few weeks ago:
“[My husband] and I have wrestled with our “calling” to adopt years ago. We clearly felt it, and we have second guessed it almost every day since then, wondering what were we thinking? Did God really call us to this or were we just emotionally carried away, or as [this post] put it, is it an act of worship? I think in my naïveté, I assume that if I obey what I think God is clearly placing on my heart, he will “reward” me somehow with happiness and not trouble. My very wise husband points out that this is very bad theology!”
I’ve written before about my temptation to think that if I’m trusting God, leaning not on my own understanding, praying for wisdom, and all that excellent jazz—somehow I will be shielded from failure. And of course there’s a chunk of truth in there. Walking in God’s ways unquestionably shields me—us—from so much error, heartache, and, well, stupidity.
But recently I’ve also found myself questioning whether I made the right decision if there is exquisite pain involved.
Of course avoiding wrong and following the Holy Spirit is a little like Aslan pushing forward spring wherever he goes: Things come alive when God is in them. Yet perhaps I’m forgetting that Jesus, my forerunner, walked straight into God’s will—and straight into death.
A friend recently mused to me that he didn’t think God was “having favor” on him because, after he made a courageous decision, so many things were floundering and deflating around him. God must not be in this.
I wondered aloud to him of this whole theology of “closed” and “open” doors that seem to undergird so much of our decision making as Christians. Who’s to say that a closed door isn’t something through which we are to persevere, or work around? Who’s to say that an open door isn’t one through which we should proceed cautiously, or like Christ to the cross, may lead to utter loss and death before it blooms with life? Sometimes I’m so eager for signs, for certainty from God and freedom from ambiguity, that I…might even be making them up, like a thirsty person might conjure a mirage.
It even feels dangerous to me, to sense that God was “in” something—or not in it—based on what I can see. Sometimes verses carelessly extracted—like Deuteronomy 28, promises like “you will be the head and not the tail”; verses about us having authority over all things—perhaps are twisted to form God into some form of cosmic vending machine, rather than Job’s long view of Though He slay me, I will trust Him.
Marriage is maybe one of the easiest examples when. I’ve related how sometimes the vast differences between my husband and I can alienate us at times. But when I step back from whatever that thing is between us, I (sometimes) recognize how myopic I’ve been; how the zoom lens of my eye is hyper focused on the now and the pain or irritation I’m bent on eliminating, rather than twisting back to the striking panorama God’s creating, and has been—even long before our sixteen years together. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. I’m intrigued by Hebrews’ 12 idea of being “unholy like Esau”: forfeiting the invaluable for the immediate.
I love the story retold by Peter Scazzero of a wise man living on China’s frontiers. When a young man’s horse runs away and the village attempts to console its owner, his wise father asks, “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?” When the horse returns alongside a beautiful stallion and everyone congratulates the young man, the wise man questions, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?” The son falls from the stallion, breaking his hip. Of course, everyone offers their sympathy–and again, the grandfather: “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?” Finally, when nomads invade the border, the Chinese lose 9 out of every 10 of the summoned able-bodied men. Because he is lame, the son survives to care for his father.*
What makes you so sure?
Second-guessing decisions, looking back with what I know now, is unquestionably a step of wisdom. Honest, humble evaluation embraces our capacity to improve, to learn. But perhaps, as my mom used to say, I can’t deal God a card He can’t play. He can redeem even my poorest, most selfish decisions. And I can take His steadfast love to the bank even when decisions I made arm-in-arm with Him feel as if they’re combusting in my hands.
This week, I hope you can experience the settling peace, not of zero regrets, but of a fiercely beloved child with a hope and a future.
This post originally appeared on A Generous Grace, our friend Janel’s personal blog. Check it out here.