I have so many kids. Our house is so loud. We are always instructing, always parenting, always hoping for bedtime to be right around the corner.
If there is one thing that makes life easier, it’s that our kids are pretty good listeners. We explain something to them and they totally get it—the third time. We ask them to do something and they absolutely do it–after we’ve threatened to take away sweets.
I’m forever telling them, “I need you to listen the first time.” And since I’ve told them this more than three times, I just assume they understand what is expected of them.
Then again, I also assumed I understood the message myself.
Then this past month came and I realized that I am just a kid in the kingdom of God. I love to listen to Him. I love hearing his instructions. His voice makes me feel safe and at home. But just like a child, I process his instructions with a deer-in-the-headlights-look and then, as soon as the shock passes and I embrace the fact that God actually offered guidance, I return to what I was doing. Or worse, I take off in a different direction.
It’s the spiritual squirrel.
I listen, but I forget the instructions were given with a purpose: to evoke a specific action from me.
Most of the time this works out alright. There’s nothing monumental hinging upon my perfect obedience, and God–in his grace–will let me skin my knees on the journey, knowing I’ll run back to him.
Sometimes there’s more at stake. I think back to the last few months I spent finishing my degree and the constant question lingering in my mind: What am I preparing for? What am I doing next?
I was eager to know I could do something and that my degree wasn’t in vain. So I set off hunting.
I found some glorious things which could easily consume my time. I have met some insanely captivating people with whom I could lose my evenings and weekends as I listened to their story. I have discovered some intensely challenging projects which beckon me to take them on.
In short: I have been seduced by some mighty fine squirrels.
And in the process, I forgot where I was supposed to be going. It seems God’s instructions have faded in the exhilaration of the hunt.
And as I stand, hands full of prey I found without prayer, I look all around and realize: There will always be something wonderful, something good to distract me from God’s plan.
It’s heartbreaking, if you think about it. These places I travel as I chase these squirrels are sometimes so beautiful, but I don’t belong there. These people I meet are so inspiring, but I’m not always to become life-long friends. These projects I uncover tickle the edges of my mind, but they are not to be taken on.
Because they aren’t always mine.
And if I possess them, then I haven’t followed the instructions.
Not only that, but if I possess them, then I have stolen someone else’s catch.
That opportunity belonged to someone else. That relationship was to be guided by another. That project was better suited to the skills of someone else. And here I am, keeping them all for myself, afraid to let go.
Afraid to let go.
Let’s face it. Sometimes, sometimes the Lord gives instructions that sound completely insane. I’m thinking Jeremiah and his linen underwear. Or his purchasing of condemned land. Or what about Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute. Or Abraham’s willingness to let Hagar leave. Or Noah’s boat. Or Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well. Or Ananais’ instructions to go seek out Saul, the martyr-maker of the early church.
There had to be some fear there.
Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear that the skills or talents or promises one possesses simply aren’t enough.
Sometimes, as a parent, I’ll instruct my kids to embark on a task that’s beyond their skill level. I realize that. They realize that. There is going to be whining involved, but in the end, they are going to attempt the task. Whether they choose to focus on the looming sense of failure or the potential to grow in their own ability is up to them.
It’s their attitude. It’s their growth. I simply provide the opportunity for them to blossom.
Are you here with me? Is there an opportunity before you and you are scared pantless? Are you looking at the task God has set before you, certain that he has confused you with someone else?
Are you looking all around for some squirrels to distract you?
Can I send you an invitation?…
Do you want to lean in to God together? I hear the adventure will blow our minds.
Sometimes, I look at the lives of those who seem to be riding the arteries of God–their lives pulse with passion and purpose and I wonder, is that a 1st world privilege?
This week the Lord simply whispered, “That, my child, is a kingdom privilege.”
Will you join me?