Refuse to be Passive

The Wisdom of Stability in a Mobile Culture

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2013 at 8:06 am

When you pray, be careful what you ask for. You just might get it. So when you pray for discernment of God’s will and for him to show you his way, be ready for the answer. Often it is neither what you expect nor what you hope for.

About a month ago a friend emailed me with a job opportunity in central London. The pay was appallingly low, but I had the skill set and believed in the work that they were doing. I applied for the position, noting that I was an international applicant, and, provided that they couldn’t find a local applicant, they seemed interested in bringing me over on a work visa. I have been working towards a return to England ever since my semester abroad at Oxford in university. As I already am a bit of a nomad with a good dose of wander lust, this opportunity seemed to be the perfect match.

Now, a month later, the closing date on the post looms less than ten days away. I’ve been praying consistently about this opportunity—for wisdom and discernment of God’s will. After all, if our hearts are willing, there is no limit on where God will take us. There have been a number of times in the past where I heard the word, “Go,” and made plans for departure, having only a semblance of an idea of what was in store.

This time was different though. The more I prayed, the more I got a niggling feeling that I was not going to hear that word. I was not going to be told, “Go.”  But that doesn’t make any sense to me. Isn’t God in the business of sending people? Isn’t that what the great commission is all about? I set aside the feeling of unease that was rising and continued to pray.

Two weeks ago I was sitting in church. We were reflecting on a passage of scripture. I no longer know which one, but I do remember that it had absolutely nothing to do with my future in England. And yet, as I read one of the lines of scripture, the words came to me. “You’re not done here yet.”  Immediately following that was a list of all the blessings that God has poured out on me following my return to Edmonton, chased by a list of all the reasons I couldn’t leave—all the opportunities to develop, all the opportunities that are part of my roll as a Christ-follower. Could God use someone else? Absolutely. Is he calling me? Yes. As this realization dawned on me, I wanted to go into denial. My eyes welled up with tears and I had to leave the service. Maybe this was just my mind, and not the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Regardless, I was so distraught over this that I said, “Well, if I have to stay, I might as well get involved.” I volunteered for three events that day. Maybe that was a bit of an emotional decision. Thankfully two of the three are for one-time events.  But still, God could change his mind, couldn’t he? Not that he’s really known for that, but it happens. I took hold of one little word out of that entire sentence—You’re not done here yet. That last word, the word yet, gave me a bit of comfort. England may still be in the cards for the future, just not now.

If there was any niggling doubt left in my mind, it was solidified a week and a half later. This past Wednesday I went to my evening Theologizers group, and had my friend present me with a book I’d requested from him last week. It was a book by an author I greatly admire—Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove—who is a member of intentional community and the new monastic movement. I didn’t know what the book was called, but when my friend mentioned he had a few extra copies, I jumped at the chance to get one. As he handed over the book, I looked down at the title: The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I knew exactly what I would find within the pages of the book. I left the meeting that night and walked to the bus stop, waiting for the number 8 to come and whisk me towards home. It was a balmy evening and I sat on the bench, waiting. I took out the book, and opened it, deciding to bite the proverbial bullet. The foreword was by another of my faith heroes, who is also an excellent author—Kathleen Norris (I don’t think she’s related to Chuck). As I began to read, I knew I was right. She spoke of the gutsy move it was for Wilson-Hartgrove to write a book on staying in place, building faith and community in a culture that is always encouraging to go bigger, go wider, go farther. She spoke of the roll that stability and putting down roots plays in developing our spiritual life, and the way that we only ever find true stability when we quit our wandering. In that place where we commit to our Christian community, our neighbhourhood and our city , we find out purpose. We find life. Life is relational, and relationships take time. The fulfilment that our culture is looking for by being constantly on the move can only be found when we slow down and take a closer look. Our society once again is grasping at straws in the dark. They don’t see the greater purpose, they don’t see where fulfilment can be found.

I’m only a couple of chapters into the book, but I’m already drafting my letter withdrawing my application for the position in London. I know that if I don’t do this, and they eventually offer me the position, that I wouldn’t be able to say no. I’ve always listened to the spirit in the past when he said, “Go.” What a hypocrite I’d be if I didn’t also listen when the message was, “Stay.”

So be careful what you pray for. Be careful when praying for wisdom and discernment about opportunities in your path. God answers prayer. Are you sure you want to know?

 

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