“I’ll never leave California.”
“I’ll never be in full time ministry.”
“I’ll never be a pastor.”
“I’ll never homeschool my kids.”
Famous. Last. Words.
Over the past few years, the Lord has been slowly challenging the way I think about and use certain words. Words like busy and should. But this one- “never”- was the real doozy.Its not that I was intentionally being defiant. And it wasn’t the type of “never” that comes from insecurity (as in, “I could never do that…because I’m afraid I’m not good enough”). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wrestled with my fair share of definace and insecurity. But these “nevers” were coming from a different place. A place that said “I have a plan, and I’m sticking to it.” The problem is that the plan was mine. It was based on my wants, needs, dreams, desires, and ability. And it failed to take into account the fact that God might have some purposes for my life that I hadn’t even considered yet. When I said “I’ll never”, what I was really saying was “That doesn’t fit into my plan. So I’m not doing it.” I didn’t mean to be prideful, but the truth is that’s exactly what I was doing. I had placed myself- my own ambitions and logic-at the center of everything, instead of rightfully placing the Lord there.
It all started when my husband and I were living in 29 Palms. A tiny little desert town hidden away in the middle of the Mojave in Southern California. A dry, brown speck on the map that we had grown to love dearly. Due to a series of circumstances out of our control we found ourselves at the end of our season there, and we began asking the question “Now what?” As we prayed about it, we both felt the Lord calling us to Hampton, Virginia. My first response? “I’ll NEVER move to Hampton.” First off, I was born in Hampton. I hadn’t lived there for 20 years, and I had no plans to go back. Secondly, I just didn’t want to. I could think of hundreds of places I’d rather live than Hampton, Virginia. The Lord’s response? “Trust me.”
Once we had settled in our hearts to follow the Lord, the next instructions were even more surprising- “Go now.” Now this wasn’t just a matter of “I don’t want to”, but also “That could NEVER happen!” We had a lease to get out of, a household to pack up, arrangements to make. Aside from that, we had no plan for what we’d do when we arrived in Virginia. No place to live, no jobs, no idea what we were supposed to be doing there. This “never” was not only challenging, it was logically impossible! Add to that the fact that I was 5 months pregnant with our first child, and the whole thing sounded like one big ball of crazy.
Yet there we were, two weeks later, saying goodbye to friends and starting out on a cross country road trip with no idea what we’d do when we arrived on the east coast. Leaving all our “nevers” in the dust of the desert, and following the “Trust me” invitation from the Lord.
Turns out He had plans for us. Good plans. Plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future. Plans that asked us simply to listen and obey. Plans that included a place to live and a job for Mike.
It wasn’t long after that I found myself being invited into a full time volunteer position at our church. Of course, I said no. Becuase vocational ministry was NEVER part of my plan. It wasn’t what I’d paid good money getting a college degree for. It wasn’t the life I’d mapped out.
And yet there was God again, whispering “Trust me. Do it.”
A year later I was invited on staff.
I said “no”.
A year after I’d been on staff I was offered a new position that would allow me to walk farther in ministry and leadership.
I said “no”.
A year after starting my new role I was asked if I’d ever considered that God might be calling me to be a pastor.
I said “no”.
On the evening of my ordination ceremony as campus pastor-after years of watching God’s faithfulness at work, seeing His plan unfold, watching Him guide and provide-I boldly, naively, and pridefully prayed “Lord, I’ll NEVER say never again!”
Then, two years later, He asked me to move into a new season. To leave the job, title, paycheck, and platform.
I asked “what’s next?”
But He didn’t tell me.
I asked “why?”
He said “Trust me.”
I asked “how will we pay our bills?”
He responded, “Have I failed you yet?”
During my years on staff, I had adjusted my life plans. I had discovered more of what God had planned for my life, the gifts and passions He’d wired into me, but the plan was still mine. And He was asking me again to surrender it all in order to follow Him.
There were plenty more “nevers” that followed after that.
“I’ll NEVER be a stay at home mom.”
“I’ll NEVER homeschool my kids.”
“I’ll NEVER do anything weird and creative, like be a writer.”
I would have missed out on a lot if I’d followed my “nevers”.
I would have missed out on understanding grace.
I would have missed seeing the hand of God move in power in our lives.
I would have missed the joy of seeing Him provide day after day.
I would have missed the opportunity to learn, and grow, and discover what His kingdom is really all about.
I would have missed the chance to really know Him, and in turn know myself.
I would have missed the chance to be used by God to minister to others.
I would have missed the feeling of His comfort and healing when the tears fall hard and the hurt is so deep you fear that you’ll never recover.
I would have missed the precious moments with my kids.
I would have missed the blessing of obedience.
I would have missed the fullness and abundance of living a life fully surrendered.
There is freedom in surrender. We are able to grab onto so much of who God is when we let go of ourselves. Looking back on the last 10 years, despite the trials, challenge, questions, pain, and changes-I can say with confidence, it was worth it.
There is a God who created you for a purpose. He has plans for you. Plans to “accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) And He makes a promise to you, also. He promises that not only does He have a plan for you, but that “they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
We are invited to leave all and follow Him. To put it all on the table, holding nothing back, and boldly ask- “Lord what do you have for me?” To do the things that seem crazy and illogical to the rest of the world, but are actually what kingdom culture is all about.
It doesn’t mean that God’s going to ask you to pack everything, move across the country, change careers, or leave your job. But I believe He is inviting you to trust Him. To trust that He knows you better than you know yourself. That He doesn’t want to make you miserable. In fact its just the opposite-He wants you to live fully alive. Walking in the wholeness of His good plan for you. But to do that, we must first ask. Ask Him about your kids, your marriage, your job, your dreams, your friends, your family, your future, your fears, your hopes. Ask with open ears, open hands, and an open heart.
And when He speaks, I encourage you to leave your “nevers” behind and run freely into all that He invites you into! You won’t regret it.
(I’d love to share with you some of the tools our family uses to reflect on our journey and pray into what God may have in store next. Sign up here and I’ll send you a free 5-part video series explaining the tools.)