For the 20-something Bible college graduate, life can appear to be a series of serious, yet adventurous choices of what is to be one’s future. Actually, I think as a general rule of thumb, this difficulty in traversing the “wood between the worlds” and selecting the correct pool that leads to an untainted Narnia rather than a dying Charn, extends to all 20-something God-conscious individuals. It’s just that this Bible college graduate feels lost, oh so very lost.
You see, I’ve been handed a series of flow charts and graphs, stupefied prayers, and advice ranging from “what feels right?” to “these things aren’t right or wrong you just have to decide” to “what is the Spirit telling you?” Well, the first appears to rely on my flawed reasoning and the latter is encrypt – if I knew what the Spirit was requesting, I wouldn’t need that advice!
This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” (Jeremiah 29:10-13)
Hermeneutically speaking, I am not in captivity in Babylon, though some days I’d probably prefer it to my life. I am however going to say that this verse, quoted by hundreds of thousands of Christians, has not been misapplied to us. If God has a plan for those (the Jewish remnant) He was speaking to through Jeremiah and that included specifically drawing them from Babylon and returning their hearts to Him, I think it is fairly safe to conclude that He has plans for me, for you, for all of us. But what are they?
Psalm 33 tells me that the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, that He foils the plans of man, of nations. Proverbs 16:1 states, “to man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.” Later in that chapter, wisdom states that “the Lord works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster.” If I commit my plans to the Lord, I will succeed (16:3), but they may fail for lack of counsel (15:22, 20:18), and though I carry many plans in my heart, it’s truly God’s sovereignty over all that prevails (19:21).
But this all sends me into a cocoon, as Del Tackett would comment. God’s sovereignty is undeniable, which can be found through proper exegesis of the Scriptures. Near every prophet chimes in with Isaiah in saying ‘what the Lord says, goes’ (19:3). But they also recognize those whose plans are not of the Lord (30:1) and there are those who attempt to hide their plans from him (29:18). So if there are plans that are not of the Lord, that are attempted to be secretive and do succeed – what does that say? I would defend to the death that despite the success of the plans of ungodly, God’s will is still done, even if that steps on my free-will, sun-tanned, flip-flop clad toes. Are we free to choose? I believe so. Can my plans fail as well as succeed? Yes. Are either of those conclusions a sign of whether I walked with the Lord? No, I don’t think so. His end – success or failure or dissipation to neither are still, in the end, His ends.
So where does this leave me?
The confused 20-something with so much freedom to do as I please and the assumption that the ‘ends’ will be what the Lord would have? I’m in the understanding that some things are of God and others are not. Jesus replied that He did His Father’s will – spoke as he would; acted as he would. He chastised others, specifically his disciples (ahem…Peter) for acting outside of his will, going so far as to say it was the actions of satan. Pharisees too were told that their lies and unjust treatment toward others came from the father of lies, the prince of darkness – Satan. No, my choices and plans have repercussions, just as they have a source – either the selfish ego-driven me or the walking-in-step-with-the-Spirit me. But that still leaves me trying to decide.
After three years in Bible college and two years church planting in a dark, bound tourist trap in South Central Montana, I’m not sure the organized church corporate is where I want to be. Somehow, a paycheck drawn from the church account has become a liquidator of my passion and heart to serve. Now, do I walk back to school with a bag of Granny Apple Smiths for my new teachers under a new agenda to enter the ‘secular’ work force? Am I forsaking ‘my call’? What if my call doesn’t resemble what it had? If a new job and unpaid service to the Lord is my true calling – that makes the world my oyster (kudos to whoever figures out the origin of that preposterous saying), and if I can literally go anywhere and do anything (obviously within my moral boundaries), then where would the Lord have me? And is there someone who would accompany me?
Bigger question that reveals the content of my heart: why do I have to know?
Relient K. . . I’ve been thinking, overthinking…
“Trustfulness is based on confidence in God whose ways I do not understand; if I did, there would be no need for trust.”- Oswald Chambers