Guidance Needed?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everyone in your life (including those you trust absolutely, those with whom you have very little true relationship, and all the people who fall in the middle) thinks they alone have the answer and that they know, without a doubt, the path you should take? What serves to make life even MORE complicated (as if it needed any help at all) is that each of these dear advice-givers, who usually do have your best interests in mind, tends to offer a wide variety of different advice and admonitions. Such guidance many times falls to extremes, or you get a few suggestions for all the different options involved, which leaves you once again, where you began.

Not all of this is unsolicited advice, either. I generally seek it out and ask for it… I tend to desperately need to bounce ideas and thoughts off of people and process circumstances out loud.  The results though, of such a practice, can be one of the most frustrating things ever, especially if you’re honestly seeking guidance and wisdom. I’m definitely pretty hard-headed and stubborn… but I like to think that I at least try to be teachable and try to seek out opportunities to be taught. I’m constantly praying that if I’m moving in a direction that isn’t God’s will that He’ll stop me, and that if I’m seeking anything that isn’t in His plan, that He’ll change my heart. In fact, I don’t ask, I beg.

The problem comes when  no one seems to quite understand… I guess I’m learning that each person brings their own biases into a conversation and such lenses provide the filter through which each individual sees the world. No one can truly understand my heart or my life or my situation in the same way I can, which thankfully forces me to turn to the only One who really can. I’m finding more and more that the best perspective is the heavenly one, one that focuses on others, the kingdom, and eternity… and not on me or what’s best for me.

I’m learning that even though I truly crave to communicate and to be known and to be taught, the best teacher is the Holy Spirit Himself. Now, please don’t misunderstand – I am not at all negating the value of the wisdom of those around us… I feel that mentorship by godly men and women is definitely one of the most amazing experiences ever and is so vital to our maturity in the faith. I’m merely saying that at some points in life it is necessary to trust your heart and the promises of God and move and live in faith, according to Scripture, rather than in what people tell you based on the way they perceive a situation. The advice that the world has to offer is false, has no merit, and exists in a sphere that has no idea of the true meanings of faith, hope, and love.

So, when seeking wisdom and guidance, I’m learning I have to be selective with where I turn. And I’ve found the best place to run is to God. Scripture is so full of promises regarding wisdom and understanding… and of God’s promise to let us hear from Him. Here are a few I’m holding on to:

1 Kings 4:29-31: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.”

Job 12:13: “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.”

and Job 28:12-28:

But where shall wisdom be found?

And where is the place of understanding?

13 Man does not know its worth,

and it is not found in the land of the living.

14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’

and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’

15 It cannot be bought for gold,

and silver cannot be weighed as its price.

16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,

in precious onyx or sapphire.

17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,

nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.

18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;

the price of wisdom is above, pearls.

19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,

nor can it be valued in pure gold.

20 “From where, then, does wisdom come?

And where is the place of understanding?

21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living

and concealed from the birds of the air.

22 Abaddon and Death say,

‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’

23 “God understands the way to it,

and he knows its place.

24 For he looks to the ends of the earth

and sees everything under the heavens.

25 When he gave to the wind its weight

and apportioned the waters by measure,

26 when he made a decree for the rain

and a way for the lightning of the thunder,

27 then he saw it and declared it;

he established it, and searched it out.

28 And he said to man,

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ”

Wisdom is so important that Proverbs tells us many times to seek it above all other things. I find myself praying Colossians 1:9-11 over myself daily (and changing it up a bit to make it personal):

“Lord, I ask that you will fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that I can walk in a manner worthy of You, fully pleasing to You, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in my knowledge of You. Strengthen me with all power, according to Your glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.”

These verses all point in the right direction – to the true source of all wisdom and seem to encapsulate all that I need – knowledge of His will, wisdom and understanding, fruit, strength, endurance, and patience.

beautiful rescues

We were rescued a long time ago. It’s a story we tell, but not often enough.

Tonight in small group the last few of the girls shared their stories of how they came to know Christ. I’m always totally and completely amazed at how unique each story and journey is, even though the ultimate theme is SALVATION. Pain, grace, forgiveness, and redemption are woven into each story, whether the storyteller was raised in church, in a broken, hurting family, or in a broken, hurting family that was also in church. We’re saved from so much, and yet… we forget all too often. I think we tend to lose sight of what such a rescue really means… what we were really saved from. When we focus on today and its problems and troubles, we fail to look at the big picture… and we forget how important these stories really are.

A rescue story, one in which we become “free or delivered from confinement, violence, danger, or evil,” is a story that is generally told over and over… and each time with just as much enthusiasm… because one who was lost is now found… recovered and brought back from the brink of death. When we hear of a lost child being recovered, or of a trapped miner being freed, those stories spread like wildfire online, are picked up by all the news outlets, and usually remain in the news for several days. The more dramatic stories, like long-lost kidnapping victims being returned, remain in the news for months or years, even.  Generally PEOPLE Magazine runs a several page spread of photos and a human interest story and then they check in with the individual several months or a year down the road to see how they’re doing. Rescues are really big deals.

At the beginning of the fall semester, John shared again with the Gathering  the story of how he was found by Christ. I’ve heard the story many times, but I’m always totally amazed all over again at the lengths God will go to, just to get our attention. I grabbed a CD (quite appropriately entitled “Rescue”) and listened again this week… I feel like we need to remember these stories of rescue more often. The grace wrapped up in John’s story amazes me and every time I hear him describe the relief and the feelings that came with his salvation, I’m totally reminded of my own story… and of the grace I myself have been given.

Colossians 1:13-14, 21-22 paints such a beautiful picture of this grace:

13:-14: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

21-22: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…”

Wow. How can we fail to be amazed perpetually, much less daily?

 

Identity

As Capitol Hill staffers have begun to trickle back into the DC area for the last week or so, traffic has greatly increased on the Capital beltway and I-395, giving me moments of great frustration, as well as additional time to reflect and listen to the Holy Spirit. I have realized again in the last few weeks, just from my time sitting waiting to get across the 14th Street Bridge, the human proclivity to self-identify and our great need for genuine identity.

We are siblings, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, employees, supporters, sports fans, and the list goes on and on. We see ourselves by the roles we fill, rather than by who we really are. We crave identity and we jump to identify ourselves based on where we come from, our last name, our relationships, who we know, and where we live. I’m not sure if it’s just because we are desperate to belong to something greater than ourselves or if it’s because we want to define ourselves before someone else has the opportunity to do so.

We do it when we meet new people, we do it in casual conversation, and we  tend to display all of our affiliations and many of the things we love on the exteriors of our cars. So recently, I’ve been getting to know the people in the cars around me (just their exterior, of course), just from seeing their back dashboard or bumper. It astonishes me that I can tell where an individual went to school, where their kids go to elementary school, what neighborhood they live in, gym they belong to, sports team they support, and many times their favorite vacation destination – all from sitting behind them or passing them on the road.

Even I’m not exempt from this. I laughed the other day as I passed a suburban with an elementary school honor society bumper sticker, and OBX sticker, and a bumper sticker that showed that the family had four kids, a cat and a dog, and then I realized that I do the same thing. I have a red and blue American University School of Public Affairs sticker in the back of my car that I’ve had since I first moved to Washington. I’m proud of my school and of my accomplishments there and it’s part of how I define myself.

But the thing that I’ve begun to realize recently is simple: in a city where so many define their lives by the politician and ideology they support, the university they graduated from, their job title, and their roles within their family or society… it’s that much more important that as a follower of Christ that I draw my entire identity from Christ alone. I don’t want the car I drive, my job, or even my family to define who I am. Does that mean I’m going to pull down my AU sticker or throw a bunch of Jesus fish on my bumper? No. Because really, that will never define who anyone is or how they choose to live.

What it does mean is that I have to give that much more effort to living as Paul did:

Galatians 2:20 I have been tcrucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives uin me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, vwho loved me and wgave himself for me.

And always remembering that my identity must always be found in my life in and through Christ:

Colossians 2:6-15

6 hTherefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 irooted and jbuilt up in him and kestablished in the faith, just las you were taught, abounding min thanksgiving.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For rin him the whole fullness of deity dwells sbodily, 10 and tyou have been filled in him, who is uthe head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also vyou were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by wputting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 xhaving been buried with him in baptism, in which yyou were also raised with him through faith in zthe powerful working of God, zwho raised him from the dead. 13 aAnd you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God bmade alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by ccanceling dthe record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 wHe disarmed the rulers and authorities2 and eput them to open shame, by ftriumphing over them in him.