You arrive at the play thinking you are on time and settle into your seat, eyes fixed on the curtain, anxious for it to start. You wait, ready for the opening scene. House lights are still blaring. You settle further into your seat. Nothing. You check your watch, wondering if you read the time wrong. You know this is going to be a great play, but what’s going on? What is taking so long?
This is what is has felt like at times for me, praying daily for God’s wisdom and guidance regarding a major move and my husband’s future employment. I know God is going to do something incredible, but when? In Psalm 78, God is reminding the ancient Hebrews about all that he had done for them, from parting the Red Sea to leading them through the desert and establishing them as the Israelite nation, despite their unfaithfulness. It’s also a reminder for me to look “behind the scenes,” or my past, and make note of the times God was faithful whether I recognized it or not. If I can focus on how God provided and guided then, it helps to strengthen my trust in him for the future.
The scenes of my past seven years go something like this. I left an ESL (teaching English as a second language) job in Kansas to pursue an MFA in creative writing at where I hoped would be the University of San Francisco. Why would I leave a financially stable job do something this “risky?” Because I knew I didn’t want to teach ESL the rest of my life, or settle in Kansas. I was actually obsessed with the West Coast in my early 30s. Anne Lamott’s vivid essays, grounded with descriptions of her small community north of San Francisco where she hiked in the mountains and walked the beaches danced in my mind. Furthermore, a church friend and native of California invited me to travel with her to San Francisco to visit her family, and we drove by the University of San Francisco where I had first applied for the MFA. But God has own plans for me.
How different would my life be today if I had either stayed in Kansas and done a writing program part-time at the University where I was teaching, or been accepted at USF? I also applied to a smaller University in Pennsylvania as a “backup plan.” If I had had to make a choice between moving East or West seven years ago, I would have raced off to California. But God had His own plans for me, which apparently included moving to Pittsburgh, a place I had never been and knew no one, but where I could finally do the one thing I loved most. Write, and make a new life and identity.
Divine guidance. It didn’t occur to me at that time in my life to pray about where or what God wanted me to be. Much like the Israelites, I was miserable and self-centered, and didn’t understand or appreciate that God was about to rain down blessings on me in Pittsburgh. Newly divorced after struggling for years in an unhealthy relationship, I had finally accepted being single and childless after years of longing for a family and was focused only on the MFA. I wasn’t angry or scared or wasting emotional energy trying to change anyone. God was continuing the process of healing my heart and drawing me closer to him. I was lead to the church in my neighborhood, and from there, to a unique group of other young adults and graduate students where I started developing relationships with like-minded people who knew nothing of my past mistakes. It was a chance to start over, much like God was giving the Israelites after their 70 years exile in Babylon. I finally felt free to be me. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come 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 29:11-13)
Why doesn’t God give us a peek behind the scenes into our future? Not because he is deceptive or trying to hide something, but because he is so gracious and kind with his infinite wisdom. Even a glimpse would overwhelm us. If we know exactly what our futures will be, we will either be terrified to live in the present, or arrogant with what seems to be good fortune. Neither is good because we won’t be motivated to seek God for comfort and wisdom. I think God’s way of protecting us from ourselves. It’s the primary way in which he teaches us to trust him. We would never learn to trust him. Instead, he wants us to rest on his promises in the scriptures. We know that God is good and we know that all things – tragedy and joy – work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
And so we talk to God and stay in the Word. Scripture and the Holy Spirit are like the cordless mike and earpiece we wear. Always listening for further direction and updates by the Executive Producer who is flawlessly coordinating everything behind the scenes in His production of the lives He has given us to serve him. Shhhhh. “What? What’s that Lord? Oh, it’s time!” The house lights are dimming. The curtain is rising! This is gonna be good!