A few weeks ago, I got a new tattoo of a compass on my foot. I read recently that the compass is a more powerful tool than a map, because a map has two fixed points to begin and end and a fixed route between them. A compass, on the other hand, allows you to change your direction and even your destination. Your journey can be fluid, and you can be free.
This idea resonated with me; I love the idea of following God wherever He calls me. I love the freedom of changing my path as I find it, which includes the freedom to fail and re-route and move forward over peaks and through valleys. There is so much movement in a strong faith journey.
But there was an element of journey that I did not consider: what you must leave behind.
I’ve spent a great deal of time praying about and meditating on the fact that many doors will not be opened to me, and some I believe are open will be closed. Since we’re pretty accustomed to instant gratification, it makes sense that we’d become a people who not only receive instantly, but also want instantly. That is to say, it’s not just enough to expect an immediate turnaround once we make a decision, but that our decisions are actually becoming quite immediate, too. If a friend is reading a book, I decide instantly that I also want to read it and order it on Amazon–all in about 40 seconds.
By that logic, it makes sense how many times a day I find a path that isn’t mine. I see a life I dream about, a vocation I know I’d like, a job I think I’d be good at, and I say immediately, “Lord, could that be what you’re calling me to!?” without any real thought or discernment. Just a whim of a prayer. To which the answer is obviously (usually), “No, Erin, eyes on the road.”
What I have far less experience with are the moments when the Lord gently reminds us that there are many choices in life that we cannot make if we also choose to follow His plan for us. And that it’s not always a matter of right or wrong, but right or wrong for you. In my life, opportunities, jobs, friendships, and relationships have all come and gone quite naturally, some with a more abrupt stop than others, but not frequently. However, the more I invest in the idea of following God’s plan for my life with fervor and intention, the more it seems that the number of challenges in my life–the things I’m being asked to give up–is increasing.
When God increases your leadership capacity, He gives you greater problems to solve.
Bill Hybels, Willowcreek Church
God is calling each of us to be a leader in some capacity. That means shaping us and growing us up strong and ready to live as He asks.
To grow new, healthy crops, first the old, dead brush must be burned away. Lately, it has felt like God is burning away the brush of my life to make room for a thriving beginning. In the book of Job, we read, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Lord.” (1:21). So my prayer has been not for healing or for answers, or even to get back what I once had; but for vision. Vision to see not the end of the road, but just the next step. Letting go takes a great deal of faith, but hands clenched around one thing cannot be open to receive another.
Because while burning is painful, the garden will one day be beautiful.