One of my coworkers whom I admire has decided to leave our school this year to pursue other opportunities; she gave the intercom devotion today, and with her permission I am reprinting it. If you’d like to follow her education journey, you can find her blog at On The Banks of the Rubicon.
One of life’s greatest puzzles comes from answering the question “What do I want to do with my life?” I know that for some of you, this question feels more pressing right now than it does for others. But at some point, you will begin to really, truly ponder that question, and I’ll be honest—it can be a heavy question. God has given us free will, which means we get to choose where we go in life and how we use this gift He has given us. This freedom to choose is both wonderful and terrible. Since I was a little girl, I’ve been the “I’ll do it myself” type. Being able to make my own choices has always been a high priority for me. However, sometimes I wish that I didn’t have to make my own choices because I worry about choosing the wrong thing. As I have pondered my answer to that question—“What do I want to do with my life?”—I have often wondered if I was making the “right” choices or choosing the “right” path. Because my life has taken a sizable number of twists and turns, I have felt, at times, that I must be on the wrong path. People, in their attempt to encourage me, have said things like “Keep seeking God’s will for your life!” which has only made things worse, since phrases like that make it sound like wherever I am at in that moment is not in the will of God and that there is a specific set of choices that I need to make in order to be living in the will of God.
Some of you may already be feeling the pressure of these same ideas as you start to look toward choosing a college or career path or think about finding a spouse someday. In my senior English classes, as we’ve discussed life, I’ve heard many students say things like “What if I choose the wrong person to marry?” and “How do I know if God wants me at one college over another?” Underneath these questions is a very specific follow-up question to that first one I threw out. Immediately after “What do I want to do with my life?” we ask “And what if I do it wrong?”
Here is what I want to tell you today: unless you are choosing between a sinful option and a non-sinful option, you cannot choose wrong. Things like colleges and spouses and jobs and where to live…all of these choices have multiple answers and it’s simply up to you to make a choice. There is not just one right way to walk the path of life, and that path doesn’t have one set of right choices which make your life a success. God has given each and every one of you gifts and abilities that He wants you to use for His kingdom, to bring Him glory. And if you spend your life worried that you aren’t on the correct path, you will miss the opportunities He has created along the way for you to put those gifts and abilities to good use.
There is a well-known set of verses in Ephesians that, if you grew up Lutheran or went through confirmation or have ever taken a theology class, you probably had to memorize at some point. Ephesians 2:8-9 says this: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Great verses. Important message. We cannot do anything to earn our own salvation, and the faith that we have been given is a gift from God Himself. But I’ve always liked the verse that comes after these two. Ephesians 2:10 says this: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God, in His wisdom, picked out specific good works for each of us to do in our lifetime. He prepared in advance to make those good works come about by creating each of us with certain skills and abilities and by setting each of us into certain circumstances. Think about that! You are the way you are for very specific reasons. Nothing about you is an accident. The family you were put into isn’t an accident. The place you were born isn’t an accident. Even the time in history you were born isn’t an accident. You are alive here and now because God has good works that He has prepared for you to do in your life and He has given you all that you need in order to do those good works.
But here’s the thing—those opportunities for good works only seem like opportunities if you view your life as a path full of opportunities. If you focus on life as a path full of possible wrong choices and continually ask yourself if you’re on the “right” path, pretty soon, you’re so focused on watching your own feet and on watching where you’re going that you miss out on everything around you. Those good works that God has for you to do will still be accomplished, but your fear of what might go wrong will squelch out any joy that might come from serving God by simply being who He created you to be.
This topic is one that is near and dear to my heart, because, as I mentioned before, my path has taken a bit of a winding route. I’ll be 34 this coming weekend, and in the 12 years since I graduated from college, I have lived in 3 states, have held 14 jobs, and have moved 8 times. There have been many, many times that I have looked around at my life and felt like a failure and like there was no possible way I was doing the right thing given how bumpy the ride had been. So often, when I have looked toward the future, I have felt sadness and fear about what might be coming down the pike. But now that I’ve been walking for a little bit longer through this life, here’s something that I’ve finally been able to see clearly—when I look back on where I’ve been, I see how God has used my winding path to put me exactly where I needed to be at exactly the right moment. My twists and turns have brought me to people and places who needed me and the specific set of gifts that I have. Times when I have felt like there was no way I was even on a path and must be lost have brought me to situations where I was able to talk about Jesus and the freedom that comes from knowing Him. Because that’s the thing, friends—freedom doesn’t come from being on the “right” path and feeling like you’re making the “right” life choices. Freedom comes from knowing that no matter where you are, what your life looks like, or where your life takes you, Jesus has already taken care of the hardest part of the journey—He has made it so that you know the ending. Your life path may be a straight line or it may be full of bends in the road, but your destination has already been determined because of what Jesus did on the cross. God sent His Son so that you can know without a doubt that you will spend eternity with Him when this part of your journey is over. And the Father has given the Holy Spirit to be with you and to live in your heart and to remind you of what is true on this side of eternity. What’s true about life is what God wrote through Paul in Romans 8:28—“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” You have been called according to His purpose. God will work for your good no matter what happens in your life. You are not an accident, and your gifts are meant to be used in your life as you walk the path in front of you. Walk that path with joy, knowing that you are loved and that you are never alone.
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