So many opportunities, so little time.
For years I’ve prayed, in an ongoing and fervent way, that God would open and shut doors as I careen through life. I’ve learned through many years of detours and crappy consequences that God’s plans for me are a whole heckuva lot better than my plans for myself.
Sometimes my plans and His coincide, sometimes they don’t. It all depends on the sensitivity and clarity of my hearing. It took me a long time to even WANT to listen to God’s voice and obey, let alone ferret out which voice is which amongst the drivel and cultural indignities that define our society in 2019. Is it my voice I hear? Is it Twitter or Instagram? Facebook? Ads that assault me in every discernable media outlet?
I’ve learned that when I do actually decipher a direction from God, it’s up to me to step out and find out. Activity is involved. Focused, intentional activity in the direction I’ve heard, expecting open and shut doors to guide me. I love the way God is crafting my character lately through shut doors (said no one ever). Just last week, I got a hefty dose of door-shutting. True life experiences are so much fun, aren’t they?
In waiting for my editor to get back to me on the latest batch of changes to my second book, “The Deadening,” I decided I’d contact a local magazine and pitch an idea for a series of articles to fill the void. To my surprise, they loved the idea, and furthermore, they paid a good fee for said articles. I wrote one. Got a check. Wrote the next one. Got a check. Wrote the next one. Got a check. All the while, mind you, coming up with ideas and writing these articles was distracting me from working on book number four, not a good thing, but…the checks kept rolling in! How could I NOT write the articles? Plus, as a super-duper bonus, they were quite vocal in how much they loved them. I was about as happy as a duck in a pond. Keep in mind, I continued to pray that God open and shut doors. This, I figured, was a safeguard.
Article four was edited by the magazine into a mere shadow of itself, which disappointed me. Article five was “pitch us some ideas” and when I did, the response was “sorry, our staff is already working on those ideas. Have any ideas for yada yada yada? (months down the road). By this time I’m starting to get the idea that the lack of specificity in direction for future articles means: no thanks, we’re good. Suddenly, I experience an epiphany. Not only am I wasting time crafting ideas for this magazine that they apparently already have covered, but I’m beginning to suspect that this is their way of weeding out unnecessary writers. I’m slow, but I’m not stupid.
God closed the door, and I’ve finally learned not to resurrect the door, not to bang on the door, not to jerk open the door and demand attention, not to ask why. What happened was a detour from what God wanted me to do (primarily), which was work on my next manuscript. And the next. And the next. So, in my quest for maturity as a Christ-follower, I decided not to have a pity party and instead, rejoice in the fact that the detour was short and I even made a little money.
I had the distinct impression, after this lucid and years-in-the-making reaction, that God patted me on the back and said ‘Good job, daughter, they’re getting shorter, these detours of yours’.
When I lost the opportunity (well, maybe not, since I left the door open…), I felt a little slice of me slide away. But the problem…the ongoing problem…is that the slice of validation I got from clutching the title ‘valued writing contributer’ was not the kind of validation that is life-giving. The kind of validation that is eternal and incredibly rewarding is from God. The validation that says ‘well done, good and faithful servant’, or ‘well done, enter into your rest’, or ‘way to go, girl, you held your tongue when you wanted to cuss out the person at Wal-Mart with hundreds of coupons holding up the line but didn’t. Instead you smiled, and silently prayed a blessing over them. Well done!’ This is true validation, and as I get older, I seek it like a sunflower seeks the sun.
Additionally, I’m distracted by emotional responses that are not grounded in practicality or a sense of direction. By way of example, I got all teary-eyed after church a few weeks ago, and found one of the ministry leaders and declared I wanted to do something, anything to serve. The following week I was called in and given an opportunity which I slept on, then said yes. After weeks of waiting for a yay or nay and instruction or whatever they needed me to undertake regarding the opportunity, I decided all the waiting was ridiculous. I emailed them for a direction. Swiftly, on little wings of rejection, I was told that there wasn’t really enough interest and thanks but no thanks. Shut door number two, all in one week.
Seriously? I could’ve used an open door or two at that point. Then I realized all the ‘no’s’ led me straight to a more intentional path for the better stuff. Not that the other two opportunities weren’t good, but they apparently weren’t the best decisions in this season of my life. This is where faith steps in, takes me by the hand, and tells me to hang in there. Shut doors do not mean I have no value. I’m of great value, the Bible says. (And so are you, dear reader.) Yes, I’m being molded. Yes, I’m experiencing the (painful) blessing of shut doors. And…God impresses upon me, if I would only WAIT a second or two, in contentment and trust, HE would give me a shove in the right direction instead of having to correct my course all the time.
Okay, I whisper for the thousandth time. Okay.