Have you ever doubted direction you were once so sure was from God or wondered how to figure out God’s direction for your life?
I sure have; in fact, my recent journey into retirement has definitely caused me to reevaluate everything I’ve previously found purposeful.
Perhaps it’s the aging thing. When you retire you realize that your time on earth is limited. You find yourself pouring possible activities through a finer sieve that blocks ambitions so tempting in your younger years. There’s no more corporate ladders to climb. No more positioning yourself so you can shine brighter and promote higher.
For the past twenty years I’d championed literacy and the arts in education, so holding onto the mast meant being faithful to do what was best for students and teachers instead of pursuing positions that paid better or promoted my career.
But now those career days are over. The bustle of managing a household full of active children seems like a blip on the horizon of a far away dream. Basically, I’ve gotten far more picky when considering what to do with my time.
This reevaluation has affected my artistic life. Doubts ate away at my confidence that my art mattered. Maybe it’s just me or common with other creatives, but bouts with insecurity crept into the void where my job used to be. You have lots of time to think; in fact, too much time.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about divine direction. In the past, I’d pray for direction, and then wait until an opportunity came my way. The door would open, the beyond beckon, and my curiosity would get the better of me.
Sometimes I’d get it right, but far more often the path would end up in disappointment. Honestly, I’ve always found it difficult to discern whether I’m on the right path with pursuits outside of work.
So in the middle of my directional musings, my husband and I went out to prune roses, shrubs, and trees in our backyard. I’d been itching to hack down the bushy plant my daughter-in-law, Laura, named “It” because it’s so bulbous and awkward looking (right bottom corner).
“I want to cut down It!” I announced.
“Let’s wait on trimming It because the truck’s almost full,” my husband tried to reason with me.
“No, I’ve been wanting to cut that down ever since we moved in. I hate that ugly thing!” I insisted.
“Do what you want.” He retorted.
So I took the hedge trimmer and hacked away until I hit something hard near the bottom. I reached down into the bush and pulled out an iron stake with a bird on top. I chuckled because I’d also been thinking about Matthew 10: 29-31:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
I remembered the mixed media collage I’d made and pondered the poem once again.
Then I went back at it and laid the hedger into the bush and hit something hard again. I reached in and pulled out a white cross with one of my favorite scriptures etched into the stone:
This verse and the one before have served as a guide throughout my life, bringing me comfort and reminding me that God’s ways and purposes are often far different than what I think they should be:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
This ironic finding of the bird and the cross have got me thinking about divine guidance, and what I’ve learned over the course of a lifetime:
Tip 1: We want a recipe for guidance when He wants a relationship with us.
Tip 2: Our trusting Him is more important than figuring out direction.
Tip 3: We can’t lean on our own understanding because only God sees the big picture.
Tip 4: Acknowledging Him in all our ways takes a whole lot of surrender of our wills.
Tip 5: Straight paths in scripture have more to do with living a life pleasing to Him than taking a certain direction.
Tip 6: We should make wise choices but ultimately, we have less control over circumstances than we like to think we have.
Tip 7: Sometimes discontentment is the Lord’s way of getting our attention so we’ll draw closer to Him and listen to His heart.
Tip 8: If we pray the words of Jesus, “Not my will but thine be done,” the Lord is faithful to fulfill that desire.
Tip 9: Only God’s Spirit can guide us down the right path: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11
Tip 10: Often we can only discern which paths were the right paths when we look over our shoulders at the past.
Here’s an excerpt from a previous post, Invisible Guide:
What a wonderful God we follow whom invisibly prepares our destiny. Is this the walk of faith required? Those who truly love Him more than knowing what comes next will follow such an elusive guide. Those who only care about certainty and control will fall aside in the midst of such rigors of trust.
I hope my tips about divine guidance will help you be at peace with the not knowing. I also hope this post showed you how the good Lord can deliver messages in the most unusual ways as you seek to know His direction for your life.