Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Open Hand

The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

I had forgotten. It isn't the first time nor the last, I shouldn't wonder. But it was remembered for me and despite me and now I have been made to recall:

My Father controls all things. Yet that word, control, doesn't fully describe the way in which the Almighty works. Perhaps better to say "order." He orders all things according to His will. But contrary to what I once thought, that doesn't mean that God bends me to His will out of a sort of detached "knowing what's best for me" or that He moves me like a pawn on a chess board to be sacrificed in order to win the grand game. His good and gracious will is for my good! He does not devise ways to make me serve Him, but He serves me. How illogical is that? That God orders everything to serve and benefit man, to save me?

So if God orders all things, then nothing that passes in this life occurs "by chance." Each day, each breath, each seemingly insignificant chore, trek to classes, greeting, goodbye, homework assignment, the professor who seems to lay the axe to the neck - all are from the hand of God to serve me, to serve you. A thing which God gives, is, by definition, a 'gift' from Him. So not only life, but those people and events in life are gifts from God to me for my well-being.

To view my existence through this lens, changes my perspective dramatically. Things did not "just happen" in my life, but were meant to be. In this view, nothing is meaningless. Sitting here - typing when I should be sleeping - is not meaningless. I do not have to understand why an event happens for it to become purposeful. Nor does it have to embody a purpose of my own design. In Christ, nothing we do, nothing that happens to us is for naught, not because our actions are so weighty, but because Christ works in us and in our neighbor to accomplish His work (which is to serve and bless both us and our neighbor). In and of themselves my works profit me nothing. Christ's works profit me for salvation, justification, and righteousness. But Christ now takes my works which profit me nothing and joins them to Himself to profit my neighbor.

This had I forgotten.

When I look back at this last seven months, they don't look so worthless anymore. My actions aren't what gives worth to what has befallen. Every event, every decision made, every door closed with my fingers still in the frame, the friends, the frustration, the sickness, the professors, the acne, the assignments I relished, the homework I loathed, the arguments, the tears, the laughter, the exhaustion, even the simple fact that I dwell on the second floor of my hall, is a gift to me from my Father who opens His hand to satisfy my desire and my Brother who died for me and lives for me. For some reason, God ordered this past year in the way He did for me. Which is not to say that sin which took place over the past year was His will for me, but that even that frailty and disease of my flesh is evil which God promises to work out for good by Christ's death. Christ has redeemed me and nothing can befall me apart from His will.

God has worked through weakness and distress. He has brought me low so that I may exult in Him and not in myself. I find it ironic and hilarious that I am most at peace when I have not a clue what will happen and how things will turn out. I am given the most joy when all my best laid plans have been set aside and I can see no further than the next rise in the road. Then I must simply trust. Without vision, without plans of my own devising, with not a little apprehension - with no self-laid scheme - I fall back into the arms which were waiting all along to carry me. It is in being passive, receiving from God's hand what He gives, opening my mouth for Him to fill, that there is peace and rest. When I take to my own feet and search out a rest of my own making, a course of my own choosing to accomplish by my own strength, I find none.

His yoke is easy; his burden is light. But the one I put upon myself is not.


I know that my feelings are fickle and fleeting. Indeed they have rarely not proved treacherous. Yet, I dare to make an observation based on feeling and sensations of restlessness and peace.

Based on sensation, quitting [my current college] and, God-willing, heading to [a different one] is akin to returning from FOR YOU a year and a half ago.

When I left Ridgecrest I finally knew for certain that my sins were forgiven. I also knew for certain that I would not relinquish what I had learned that week from those pastors for the world. I understood that I would have to rebuild my worldview from scratch, would have to rigorously discard all preconceptions that didn't align with the new found orthodoxy. I realized that that would be painful - just how much, I didn't know. I knew it would mean confessing that I had spoken, argued, and professed wrongly for years. Facing my friends with a bran new worldview made my stomach quiver. Facing my parents made it somersault. I wasn't sure just where this whole "confessional Lutheran" thing would take me or just what I might end up disagreeing with my parents about. Until that moment, I had never staunchly disagreed with my parents ideologically. But suddenly it hit me very strongly that I might be obliged to. I felt like my life had been turned upside down, broken into tiny pieces by a giant sledge-hammer and suddenly put back together better than new, only in an unfamiliar pattern.

I had no concrete explanation to offer about what had happened to me or how. I had no clear plan of what I would do other than rejoice in forgiveness won by Christ and given me freely and pay the cost. Yet I had more joy than I have ever felt before and a peace and rest that the world had never given to me.

So now. I had planned Nursing since I was about twelve. It was part of my plan to do "great things for God." I basically did my own triage. The reasoning went like this, and it wasn't bad reasoning from a logical standpoint: The world needs the Gospel. People can't hear the Gospel if they can't understand it. Therefore Bible Translation is what is most needed. Therefore, since that is most important, I should work with Bible Translation. I like languages pretty well, so that should work out. I need to get a degree of some sort before joining a translation group. So what would I need on the mission field? Oh! Nursing! And if I end up having to stop being a translator, or if I need income, Nursing would find me a job pretty much anywhere. And if I get married and my husband dies and I have to support my children, Nursing is a good safety net. So I'll focus all my efforts now on getting a Nursing degree and then I'll decide what I want to really do. I figure I can start Nursing school at 16 and graduate at 18 and then I could go on to another college if I want to do "fun stuff."

Not a bad assessment for a twelve year old. As a result, I was going to do Nursing or perish in the attempt because it appeared to me to be "what God would want me to do." Though I loved History and Literature, I pushed those things out of my mind as possible areas of study because they didn't fit with my idea of God's plan for my life. But things didn't quite work out that way...

I pursued my course as planned with a few minor setbacks. Several factors intervened with the community college route and directed me toward a larger institution of higher education. After what seemed like endless search, we settled on [the college I am at now] because it was the only feasible option for both Classical Greek and Nursing. Unfortunately, Greek has vanished and other aspects of the institution have lost appeal. At the same time, I have come to the realization by way of much advising from mentors I trust that Nursing is not a Divine call for me. When I think of spending the next four years at my current school learning Nursing, I don't feel particularly excited or enthused. Science training at [my school] just doesn't give me a kick like History or some of the other liberal arts. While Nursing is an honorable profession which I may pursue in a shorter program later in life, I no longer see it as the road I must take or die.

Now I am standing at a fork in the road. The last year seems an exercise in facing shut doors. I guess the only door that has not definitively shut is the Nursing program at [my college], but I have a lurking suspicion that if I were thick-headed enough to insist on continuing my self-laid Nursing track that door would slam to as well.

I feel bewildered, yet strangely free and at peace. I don't have any plans for what to do with a major in History and Classics. I can't fully articulate concrete reasons for my transfer. But looking at what is unfolding before me, I know that God has an incredible sense of humor and He is giving me one of the great desires of my heart in the opportunity to pursue History and Classics at this particular place.

Nursing originally was my plan to please God. Strange how God doesn't really seem to have the same plans as I do.

I don't know what is ahead or what will happen in the next four years, but I'm excited. I've made no permanent plans and I can't wait to explore. God is satisfying the desire I had thought I shouldn't have.

So I have many things to be thankful for. Not least of all an overwhelming sense of relief to not be in charge of my life.

Happy Thanksgiving and Good Morning!


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

I both enjoy and appreciate your "thinking out loud," TQ. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of your heart and mind, as you wrestle through some major life decisions and transitions.

TruthQuestioner said...

You're welcome, Pasto'. :D

It's hard to understand where you are going without understanding where you came from. Which is, in a way, why I am pursuing a transfer. :P