As much as I like having a phone that allows me to make calls, send notes, and take pictures, there are some functions that I’m not sure I’ll ever completely trust. For example, the GPS directions. I simply do not understand people who can get in a vehicle traveling at high rates of speed on multi-lane highways and then only receive verbal information for one step at a time along the route. No, thank you. That is essentially the same as driving blindfolded!
Nothing against Siri (or in my case, Nigel), but when it comes to getting from point A to point B, I am not a turn-by-turn kind of gal. I need advance information. Therefore, I will stick to my low-tech method of trip planning. Call me old school, but I want to know every single turn I’ll be making on the way to my destination before I even put the car in gear. Rather than trusting my destiny to a device, I get on the computer before I leave the house and get a bird’s-eye view of my route. I want to see the whole map and have it in my head, so that as I drive I am confident that I’m heading in the right direction.
I know. I can feel your eyes rolling.
But I’d venture to guess that even if you place complete trust in your cell phone’s navigation system, when it comes to fulfilling God’s call on your life, you share my desire to see every step along the way.
What Is God’s Will for My Life?
For the past two years I have been meeting with a wonderful group of women. Although there are nearly forty years between the youngest and the oldest members of the group, each one of us is in a season of transition right now. (I mean, aren’t we always?) Without fail our list of prayer concerns each week carries requests for clarity, direction, guidance…(you get the picture). Whether the issue is what job to take, what to major in, or where to live, we want clear directions – in advance – about what to do in each situation so that we can be sure we are carrying out God’s will for our lives.
However, I’ve realized recently that maybe our requests for direction may not actually be God’s will. We want a map before we go, but God doesn’t often operate that way. Instead of producing detailed maps of our lives – complete with a satellite perspective – God seems to prefer the “Lewis and Clark” method of mapping. In his book A Glorious Dark, author A.J. Swoboda notes that the explorers set out on their journey west, paying attention along the way and taking copious notes as they went. The map, however, was not completed in all its detail until they had survived the trip. Swoboda then observes, “Most maps are written as we walk.”
Perhaps God’s answer to my prayer for direction is as simple as this: “Start walking.”
I am reminded of Pastor Clint’s story a few weeks ago about agonizing over discerning God’s will regarding summer job opportunities. His wise mother advised him to just pick one and see what God did with it. It turned out to be great advice. Because isn’t it so easy to get twisted with worry that our every choice must be God’s will or else we’ve failed? It can be paralyzing.
Understanding God’s Will
The book of Romans suggests that such worry is probably wasted. According to Romans 4, Abraham was counted as righteous not because of the path he took, but because of his belief that God would fulfill His promises. God made a promise to Abraham and then told him to start walking. It wasn’t the act of walking that made Abraham right with God. Nor was it getting each individual step exactly right along the way.
What God counted as righteous was the faith that was proven by Abraham’s walking. In fact, when the Lord called Abraham, the instructions were to leave his home and his family and go. But God didn’t actually tell him where – or even how to get there. God’s words to Abraham were, “Go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). There was no forwarding address. Abraham had to start walking by faith and continue walking by faith for a really long time, trusting that the Lord was taking him to where the covenant would be fulfilled.
God’s will was for Abraham to walk with Him.
Along the way, Abraham proved himself to be at various times brave, generous, and obedient, and at other times cowardly, selfish, and foolish. In a word, Abraham was human. His righteousness was not from his actions, which were wildly inconsistent. In fact, there were numerous times when his actions were decidedly not God’s will. (coughcoughHagar) Rather, what God counted as righteous was Abraham’s belief – against all odds and in spite of his own failures – that God keeps His promises. Walking with God is what made him righteous.
I find this oddly liberating.
It’s not that the Lord doesn’t have a plan for my life. I just think that He leaves a lot of room for creativity (mine and His) in carrying out that plan. It frees me of the paralysis of needing to have every step exactly correct. And while I don’t think Abraham’s story is permission for me to treat sin lightly, I do find comfort in the fact that God has factored my fallen nature into His perfect plan. He knows with whom He is working.
Maybe that’s the thing. When Jesus called His disciples, His directions were concise: “Follow Me.” Perhaps it’s as simple as that. God’s will isn’t about me getting the steps right, but how He works in me as I walk with Him.