In the last few weeks, I’ve been working quite a bit on a couple seminary applications as well as submitting a few job applications. One thought that continues to pop up is where I’m going with all of it – what my goal in life is and how this job or program would assist in achieving that goal. Honestly, it’s been a little stressful. Although I have a decent idea of who I’d like to be, what I’d like to be doing, and where I’d like to be living in five years from now, I don’t actually have a clear and specific goal attached with a five-year layout of how to achieve it. No, the questions on the applications are fairly vague, so they aren’t really asking for anything specific. But when they ask what my goals in life are, all I can really hear is what our society seems to expect of us: When, where, and how are you going to be a success story?
Even within the church (in this Westernized society), we hear elders, teachers, and pastors saying that we should have a college degree by 22 and a full-time job by 22 and a half. And we’re supposed to be married by 23 or sooner with maybe a kid or two on the way. But what came to mind this morning was Jesus’ career – how it began, how it ended, and what happened along the way. He enters the spotlight, as many in our day might expect from a young prodigy, a gun-slinger; resisting the temptations of Satan (or “the satan”), teaching in the synagogues, healing people, beating back the religious elite with an impeccable prowess in argumentation (also known as “lawyering”; see also, “lawyered”***), and kissing little babies along the way. But Luke 3:23 points out something that often goes overlooked; “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age.” Not 22, 23, nor even 25; He was 30.
If Jesus didn’t begin to live His own independent life (separate from his parents) until He was thirty, why are we in such a rush today? Sure, we don’t want to deliberate in doing something for so long that it never gets done. Part of my decision to head back to school this year was because I didn’t want to get stuck in a season of life that was intended to only that: a season. But just because we know we don’t want to wait too long doesn’t mean the right thing to do is to rush into the next phase. When, then, are we supposed to go? When are we supposed to make the move into the next phase?
Answer: When God says it’s time.
I know that’s a very vague answer. But, in my experience, God doesn’t really give a clear answer. And why is that? I believe it’s because God wants us to constantly seek Him, to constantly search Him, and to constantly discern what it is that He wants us to do. If we’re making moves on our own without searching God, then are we actually doing what God had for us? An example comes from my pastor, Scott. He and his family moved down here to Eugene to plant and grow a church. Somewhere along the way in the first few months he was here, Scott landed a job at the New Hope Bible College. And yet, he ended up leaving the job because, as he told us, it was more for his own personal security – not necessarily something God wanted him to do. It was his discernment – his seeking the Lord for an answer – that led him to his decision to leave.
When I say that God doesn’t really give us a clear answer, I mean that He doesn’t do so if we aren’t truly seeking Him for an answer. If we’re asking God if something is the right thing to do after we’ve already done it, then we’re not practicing discernment. Scott left his job only after he started seeking the Lord about it – not after he quit and asked God sometime later while he was picking up groceries.
I’ve been out of college for almost two years now and throughout the entire time I’ve been considering and reconsidering seminary. I did not want to wait this long to decide. When I graduated college, I wanted to have things lined up – I wanted to have the security of knowing where I was going. But God wanted me to do something else. He wanted me to wait on Him; He wanted me to find security in Him, not in the comfort of my own plans. What does that security look like? Even though I’ve decided to apply to seminary this year, I may not get in. Or I may land a full-time job that would help pay off some of my student loans and save up for grad school at a later time. I don’t know, but I’m no longer worried by what I don’t know. That’s what security in the Lord looks like.
No, I’m not going to pretend that I’ve always been here. My closest friends and pastors know that I’ve had many worries and insecurities throughout this long season of discernment. I’m also not going to pretend that I’m always going to feel comfortable about where I am; but I can guarantee that as long as I’m covered in the dust of Rabbi Jesus, I will be content and secure, regardless of what temporary emotions may come my way.
Don’t let the shouts of the world about what you should do, where you should go, or who you should be drown out the whispers of God.
***Slang; not actual words: “lawyered” verb, past tense of “to lawyer”; to defeat someone in argumentation.