I’ve been grateful for “flags in the sand” this week.
Next weekend I will be ordained as a minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and this “moment” has been a cause for significant reflection for me.
As I approach ordination I have found myself feeling a bit lost.
The plan, in 2012, was to come to Canada for one year so that I could complete the residential requirements of my Masters of Theological Studies. Things changed.
I think God knows how I work.
He knew this moment would be a complex one for me.
It is not so much about ordination itself, but about the fact that with the Masters done, and now Ordination done, there isn’t another major personal goal on the horizon… and I think that is why I have felt a bit lost.
Without those major external goals, I have to find my bearings in a different way… and my feelings are not a good guide for me. This week I wrote a list of the things I feel powerless about and it was a long list.
I find myself wanting an external change to help set my personal bearings.
There is something confronting that happens when your external world is not setting your internal agenda… you have to face yourself. I am reminded of the passage from Lamentations which I first discovered in my early 20’s:
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him
Lamentations 3:26-28 (NIV)
There is something actually very important about sitting in silence and having your identity challenged. In this place, I find myself seeing a lot of places where I can grow.
I am also finding myself going back and reading things that have been important for me in the past, and as I do I discover important insights that help me now.
I use software called “Evernote”, which is like a database that holds all your notes, documents and images. It enables me to find all the times I have written personal goal statements or stated things I believed to be true about myself. In moments like this, where I am seeking my bearings, it has been like I am reading these things for the first time.
This morning I was interested to read 2 Peter and discover that I am not the only one who can forget the important things. Peter was writing to a church that knew the important things and was firmly established in them, but he was still convinced they needed reminders:
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
2 Peter 1:12-15 (NIV)
Reading back over my previous attempts to name who I am and where I am going has been really helpful for me.
Rediscovering a prayer that I stumbled upon four years ago has also been really helpful and so has reacquainting myself with my book ( 6 Radical Decisions) and discovering that It still holds true as capturing some of the purpose of my life.
What I am left with is a sense of gratitude for the journey that has brought me to this point, and also a fresh sense that I can’t always trust my internal world to be an accurate guide for the journey God has had me on.
I am so grateful for the metaphorical “flags in the sand” that I have placed over the years of my journey by writing down what I thought God was saying, or naming what I had learned in a particular moment, or holding on to scraps of paper that still hold meaning.
Evernote is a gift for me because it lets me have all these precious documents and images that are my “flags in the sand” in one place.
Each of these things is like a marker, and in moments when I am feeling lost, it is so helpful to be able to trace the journey to this point with the aid of these “flags”.
As I engage with where I have come from, I find that I can relax a bit about where I am going. I realize that I don’t need external things to set my agenda. My life is being shaped by the one who planned the “good works” for me to do (Eph 2:10) before the earth was created.
As I see the flags I am reminded that I can relax, trust, and enjoy the emerging story that has taken 44 years to this point and (hopefully) will continue to unfold for 44 more.
I wonder how many “flags” I will have when I am 88?