Why does God sometimes leave us in suspense?
Three years ago I came across a posting for the position of director of education with a ministry called Renovaré. Reading the job description I felt every fibre of my being was buzzing, like someone struck a tuning fork and held it against my chest. Although I’d long enjoyed freelancing, I found myself murmuring, "I think this is what I’m supposed to be when I grow up."
I submitted my resumé and held my breath. Soon I received a note explaining the vetting team was working through 110 applications. It would be a while before I knew if I was even on the shortlist.
The waiting, as Tom Petty once observed, is the hardest part. I committed the position, the vetting team and even the other candidates to prayer.
The problem was I was still buzzing. As the days dragged on, a swirling mix of excitement, anxiety and impatience intensified. I was having trouble sleeping.
I went to see my spiritual director Karen and confessed with irritation I couldn’t calm down. Ironically, the organization I was feeling so wound up about was renowned for advocating a peaceful, centred way of life.
It was the work of Renovaré that had first introduced me to the writings of Thomas Kelly, and I had long ago selected an excerpt from Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion as my vision statement:
Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. … It is triumphant. It is radiant… . We need not get frantic. He is at the helm. And when our little day is done, we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.
So why wasn’t I able to lie down quietly in peace?
Karen listened empathetically to my confession. She reassured me a season of excitement was not necessarily at odds with a centred life. Still, she said, it might be a good idea to discuss my anxiety about my anxiety with God.
"Go stroll around my yard," Karen said. "Walk as slowly as possible. And after each step don’t take the next one until you feel released to do so."
I obeyed, wondering if the neighbours were watching. Gradually my heart rate slowed, and I began praying through Scripture. "Be a light unto my path," I managed. "I’m trying not to lean on my own understanding. I’m committing my way to you.
"Soon I was engaged in a lively conversation. "Look," I told the Lord. "I trust you. I only want this job if it’s the right fit. I’m good whatever the outcome. But you already know what’s going to happen, so couldn’t you tell me and let me finally get some sleep?"
I had a sudden, strong sense of God’s loving amusement.
I remembered the first time my husband and I showed our kids our favourite movie The Princess Bride. "Why," the Spirit seemed to be asking, "didn’t you just tell your kids how it ends and save them two hours?"
I got the point. We wanted our children to experience the film, and we took great delight watching them discover — and even be changed by — all the surprises it held. If we had jumped them to the end, we’d have robbed them of a wonderful journey.
It was several more weeks before I learned the outcome of my job application. I remained in a state of anticipation. But I also enjoyed a persistent sense of God’s delight in showing me new terrain. I became aware that, whether I got the job or not, who I became on the journey might be as important as the destination.
And when, at last, I began my new role as director of education, I discovered a quote from another Renovaré voice, Dallas Willard: "The main thing God gets out of your life is not the achievements you accomplish, it’s the person you become."
These days, when I find myself in suspense, I remember that becoming takes time. I picture God unfolding the next chapter of my life with the same delight I take in showing my kids a great movie. That’s when I pray a very Princess Bride prayer: "As you wish."
Carolyn Arends (www.CarolynArends.com) is a recording artist, author and director of education for Renovaré. Find more of these columns at www.FaithToday.ca/GoWithGod.