The past few weeks I’ve been going through a pretty intense argument with God. Which, in some ways, is a bit ridiculous because let’s face it, He wins. Even when we don’t listen, He’s still in charge.
Four weeks or so ago, I was in Port Macquarie, struggling over what step to take next in my life, when I had one of those moments where God speaks so clearly, He might as well be sitting next to you. For several months previous, I’d received several invitations to come to a particular church in Melbourne, along with hints about living there. Then I was walking through Port Macquarie one day, gazing up at the skies, just asking God how to work out what step to take next when he just dropped the words straight into my heart. It was one of the clearest directions I’ve ever received in my life.
So, great, right? I was locked in. I had a bit of a holiday in Brisbane to enjoy, and then I would make my way to Melbourne and settle there, so that I could get involved in this church. It’s exciting when God gives you a nice clear direction, because suddenly you’re just raring to go and find out what He has in store for you.
Then Queensland happened.
I’ve never been the greatest fan of Brisbane. I was a rather troubled eighteen year old when I moved up here in the second half of 2000, and the experience was far from wonderful, so it’s never really been high on my list of places to come back to, but I have a fair amount of people I know in both Brisbane and the Gold Coast, so I figured why not take the advantage of escaping winter a little while longer and catch up with a heap of people at the same time? Great idea!
Until I fell in love.
Not with a girl. Okay, so there’s a part of the story may involve a female, but what I fell in love with was the sun, the warmth, the beach, the lifestyle on offer if I was to decide that, instead of going to Melbourne, I would settle down on the Gold Coast. I took a day trip to Byron Bay, came back, stopped at the Gold Coast for the afternoon and evening, and decided there and then that I didn’t want to leave. After a fantastic dinner (if you’re on the Gold Coast, try Moo Moo), I took a walk down to the beach, stared out at the ocean and decided that this was what I wanted.
It’s a reality that we have to accept, that there are going to be times in our lives where God’s plan doesn’t match up perfectly with our desires. We have our thoughts of what it is we want right now, but God sees the whole picture, and He sees a fulfilled life of amazing things that He is just waiting to bless us with, if we would just follow His directions.
Instead, though, like a petulant teenager, I pouted, argued and on a couple of occasions simply flat out refused to even listen. My desire was to stay in Queensland, where the sun shines, the water is warm, and the beaches are sandy and yellow.
Meanwhile, all I could think of was Moses.
In Exodus 3 and 4, God calls Moses to go back to Egypt and be his instrument in freeing the Israelites. Instead of embracing the call of God, though, Moses argues. He raises one point after another in contest against what God’s asking him to do, but in the end, God still won.
My experience wasn’t completely like that. I went through a few stages, and one that was the real standout moment of fatherly love, where it felt like God simply sat me down, stared into my eyes and spoke softly. Those words may stay with me forever.
Joshua, the choice you make here is up to you, and if you decide to stay in Queensland, I will still love you, I will still bless you, I will still have my hand on you. However, if you genuinely want to experience the fullness of what I have for you, then you need to follow my calling, because in Melbourne is the next step of an amazing journey I have for you, one that will take you to places you’re yet to even think of.
Yet even then, I still wasn’t convinced. I’d close my eyes and think of the morning runs along the beach, or the basketball courts just down from where I was intending on living, or a particular person’s face, and with each of those thoughts came a return of those desires.
But there was nothing about God in there. The closest to God I got was looking online for what churches were around, so that I could at least say that I was still going to one; but my heart wasn’t in it. Finding a church in the area was simply a measly effort at justifying my decision to do what I wanted rather than what God wanted.
Following God’s plan isn’t easy. Even Jesus had his moment.
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” ~ Matthew 26:39
Now of course I’m not comparing a decision on where to live with Jesus’ going to the cross. It’s pretty unlikely that either decision on my part will have eternal ramifications on the entire world’s population, but it’s Jesus’ attitude here that is important. “Not as I will, but as You will.” We are called to emulate Jesus, to be like Him, and so if Jesus’ attitude was that his own will came secondary to that of the Father, then how much more should we do the same?
A decision on where to live may not be the most earth-shattering thing that will ever happen in my life, but then, how often do we get into arguments over seemingly minor and insignificant things? When our desires conflict with God’s plan, we need to be well practiced at getting out of our own way and listening to Him instead. The reality is, that God’s perspective of things is far wider, and going to wind up better for us than anything we can try and achieve on our own.
“Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.” ~ Job 40:2