“I don’t know. But it’s not an ‘I don’t know’ like I have no ideas, it’s an ‘I don’t know’ like I have so many ideas.
This is how I’ve started answering people when we’re talking about seminary and they ask, “so…what are you going to do with that?”
I have a lot of ideas and a lot of passions and it seems like every time I try something new I end up falling in love with it just as hard as all the other things. I guess I thought that as soon as I got to seminary, I’d figure it out. Yeah, some mystery and unknown is okay, but we should really get the game plan nailed down as soon as possible.
Sure, it’s only a couple weeks into the first semester of my four-year-long (if I’m lucky) program, but my addiction to five-year-plans is a strong one. So I found myself trying to manufacture the sensation of certainty: I’d twirl around and throw a dart at one of my ideas and try and force it to be the one.
That hasn’t been working out so well.
I’m discovering that none of us are as simple as we’d like to be – or as simple as we think everyone else is.
I love doing ministry – with kids, with youth, with college students, with adults. I love churches and ministry organizations. I love teaching and writing and planning curriculum and mixing buckets of slime. I love politics and international relations and their weird intersections with Christian faith and culture.
Pick one or two of those, stir them together, and you might have a fairly defined plan.
But all of them? It’s a jumbled mess.
As much as we often want to fit into a predetermined set of loves and characteristics and feel like we make sense, it doesn’t seem to work that way.
My confusion probably looks different from yours, but I’ve seen it all my life: shockingly, we humans usually have a range of interests and passions and desires that don’t always match up with a neat job description or social stereotype.
Last week was a great illustration of this for me:
I spent Monday writing a journal article about patriotism and faith in America, footnotes and Augustine references included.
Tuesday, I went to class all day, got a little teary-eyed during a lecture that turned into a sermon about John 2, went home and wrote a blog post about it.
Wednesday, I organized and edited 1st grade Sunday School curriculum, laminated Books of the Bible posters, and learned the hand motions to “Cast Your Cares.” Then I inexplicably lead a group of middle school girls into a heated discussion of the problem of evil.
And you know what? I loved every little bit of all of it. I loved writing about politics and making snarky remarks about Donald Trump, I loved studying the Bible, I loved doing mundane church office work, I loved teaching middle school girls.
So I found myself praying almost daily: “Lord, give me direction. Show me where you’re leading.”
And early one morning, when the unnecessary weight of needing to make premature decisions fell heavy on my shoulders, I tripped up and said – “Lord, give me direction. Or, don’t.”
That second sentence was all Him.
What on earth was I saying? Of course give me direction, Lord. I need it! I am hopelessly lost without it! But I felt Him saying – you can ask for direction all you want, but sometimes I’m not going to give it.
At this point, I’m probably getting close to losing you. “What do you mean, sometimes He won’t give it to you?”
I’m not talking about the clear direction He gives in His Word, or the promise He has made to be with us, I’m talking about the kind of guidance that only a vulnerable and forgetful little human would ask for.
I’ve been craving a lightning-in-the-sky, tears streaming down my face, wet fleece kind of moment.
I’ve been waiting for that crystallizing experience where he divulges the whole plan.
Sometimes, He doesn’t give me that.
Instead, I think He’s asking me to stay brave, prayerfully navigating the unknown without a map.
I think He’s training my heart to listen hard and my eyes to stay fixed on Him.
There is such faith and hope wrapped up in the quiet, slow moments of each unknown step. It’s not always dramatic, all glorious glowing lights and that determined glint in my eye. Sometimes the bravest thing to do is to live in the fog for a little while.
Sometimes He does give people a clear vision – a specific passion that practically comes complete with its own website; and sometimes there’s a million options and ideas and nothing feels totally certain.
So I’m sitting in this fog memorizing Greek words that I can already tell you aren’t exactly making anything clearer.
I think a lot of you are in this fog with me, though. We’re all slogging through it, bumping into each other, a little afraid to admit that we don’t see clearly either.
We’re holding His hand, but we’re also tugging on His pant leg. Lord, tell us where to go and what to do!
And if His response to you is anything like His response to me right now, it’s frustratingly non-specific: follow Me.
Every bone in my body wants a more specific command. I want GPS-level direction, God, not something short enough to cross-stitch!
But I’m realizing that if the road ahead was crystal-clear, I might be tempted to let go of His hand. I might accept the plan with a thank-you-very-much, but I’m good at following directions, I can take it from here.
But if this fog is where our grip on His hand gets tighter and our hearts learn to follow hard after Him, maybe this fog is actually the best place to be.
He isn’t asking us to just follow directions, He’s asking us to follow Him.