In my earlier, incredibly rambling post about the elusive variable of time, I mentioned that I’d try to make things more tangible by sharing an example of how faulty theology about time can be a bad thing….using an example from my own life.
I first felt a call to ministry when I was barely a teenager. I was already a pretty good piano player and was starting to write songs, and my heart was truly trying to follow God. When I first felt He wanted to use my gifts for Him, and when I accepted that call, I was ecstatic. I was brimming with desire and burning with passion. I fancied myself in the coolest role I could think of–Christian rock star, playing the music my friends all liked at the time. In the charismatic vein in which my church functioned, I was also a favorite target for prophetic words. Some of these were good and right, some were probably a bit inflated, but virtually all of them were filled with promise for the future–amazing things that God was going to do through me. (Perhaps you can understand why I developed such a high-stakes sense of destiny; all of this was quite a lot to live up to.)
When I grew up, instead of becoming a Christian rock star, I found myself leading worship in a small church–and absolutely loving it. I soon saw that I was much more fulfilled in enabling people to worship Jesus along with me than I would have been in just performing for them. I was blessed in that role, and The Wild One began (literally) finding her feet in that role as well; she wound up being the head of the dance department, and together we built a fine arts department that was quite advanced for a church that size. I also began to make waves outside the walls of the church, as other churches and worship leaders in our state began to take notice. I wound up being on a first name basis with some of the “biggest” names (I use that word with a bit of a wince) in the emerging worship music recording industry at that time, and some of them were digging the worship songs I’d written. I felt that it was only a matter of time before I wound up being on a label.
You see, there was something else afoot–something I now believe to be faulty theology about the timing of God. It seemed like everywhere I turned, everything I heard in my circles, was about waiting on the Lord. Don’t kick open any doors; wait for the doors to open for you. Several times, in whatever I was doing in music and ministry, I would feel myself on the verge of breaking into something greater than I had been doing before, and fulfilling my destiny. Each time, I would be met with some form of resistance, and each time at some point, it seemed a so-called prophetic voice would speak into my life about timing, waiting on the Lord. It was a repeated message to me that no matter how “ready” I felt I was for the next season, I was still being deemed immature, premature, still on the Potter’s Wheel. My time had not yet come. Oh, but Lordy, when the time was right–it was gonna be huuuge!
And so, wanting to be an obedient son, I would stifle my ambition, lower my head, and wait.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t times when this sort of thing is legitimate. In fact, I did have some maturing to do, and when I saw some of my record-label worship leader friends encounter shipwreck by falling into sin, I was actually thankful I hadn’t put myself yet into such a high-stakes role. Maybe God was, in fact, protecting me until the right time, guarding me until I could handle the pressure. At the same time, I think there was also a bit of mixture. Looking back at that season and the authority I was under at the time, I realized there had been a whole lot of manipulation going on. I believe that some of those “prophetic words” were tainted with a wrongful desire to keep me under the control of the leadership.
Regardless of how much of it was legitimate and how much of it was contrived, what I did wrong with it was that I allowed it to galvanize into a sort of theology of waiting on the Lord. I made a determination in my soul that any attempt to press into something greater was coming from an overinflated sense of ambition in me, and that whenever it was “time,” I wouldn’t have to exert any force to make it happen: the doors would just open wide for me. I was now programmed not to even try to make something happen, but instead just wait for it to happen. Any attempt to make it happen myself would riddle me with guilt.
And so I waited. And waited. All through my 30s. Into my 40s. I waited. I was faithful in the things I had in front of me to do ministry-wise. When our family felt the call to leave the church we’d served at in order to start something new in Tulsa, we obeyed–even knowing that some of the leads I had within the worship music “industry” would go cold in the process. During the next decade, we persevered against severe resistance when most people would have quit, and people even marveled at how long we lasted. But in matters pertaining to what I felt was my larger destiny in God–I simply stopped looking for the opportunities. I somehow convinced myself that if I just persevered with the crap in front of me, God would reward me with the magical fulfillment of my bigger dreams.
How many of those opportunities passed me by blindly, I may not even know until the next life. But I can’t help but feel that years were wasted by this mentality.
What I didn’t understand as a counterbalance to waiting on the Lord was that God had given me a mind, a strength of will, and a sense of ambition–and a dream. He hadn’t given me those things just so I could sit passively on them. Sometimes He doesn’t just solve our problems or break through our resistance because He’s already equipped us with the tools we need in order to break through it ourselves, if we would just put forth the effort. He doesn’t always have to work a miracle. Sometimes we wait on God, but sometimes God is waiting on us.
When my religion finally failed me, I went through an extended season of questioning everything that I had assumed to be true. The whole timing of God thing was definitely one of the things that went onto the examination table. As I looked at my age, and realized that there were now at least some things I had wanted to do that would be much harder to accomplish in my 40s than in my 20s or 30s, I began to question how many boats I had missed–how many times my so-called breakthrough might have passed me by because I didn’t even see the opportunity–because I had faulty theology about the timing of God, and my role within it. I began to understand that the dreams I’d carried in my heart all those years should not have been passed off as sinful, selfish ambition; God had actually put those dreams there in order to help chart my course through life. It had been my responsibility before God to pursue those dreams, but I had let corrupt church leadership and faulty theology rob me of moment after moment when I could have made the leap.
As I went through my deconstruction, I grieved the loss of time. I encountered some dear, encouraging souls who saw both my predicament and my potential, and told me that it was not too late, that it was never too late to do what I had always wanted to do with my life. In truth, I agree with them, but only partly. Realistically speaking, there are things I had once dreamed of doing that require a level of energy and stamina that I no longer seem to have in my mid-40s. I am quickly losing my desire, for example, to build a career as a performing musical artist, because I see that the road to that career usually involves long nights playing in bars in front of drunk people for very little pay. I wouldn’t have minded that in my 20s, but in truth if I were going that way, I should have started 20 years ago. That’s just reality.
The good news, though, is that while my theology of the timing of God has changed, my theology of destiny has also changed. I used to think my “destiny” or my “calling” was a very narrow pathway, one which I could only achieve by following a very specific set of steps. Of course, at the time, I believed that road somehow involved being a platform worship leader in church. But when my deconstruction alienated me from that platform–and when I understood that God was actually guiding me in that process–I was forced to reevaluate this part of my life as well. I realized that if the gifts and calling of God are truly irrevocable, then there had to be other outlets for my talents and gifts than just the few things I had relegated them toward.
What does this mean? It means that while there are certain things I thought I wanted that I honestly may never fulfill, there are other things that are open to me that could be just as rewarding and fulfilling, and would still very much serve the divine purposes of God.
That is the path I’m now pursuing. And that’s where my current sense of hope and excitement is now coming from.
I’ve mentioned in earlier posts from the past few weeks that my family has a sense once again that we are “on the verge” of something. Each of us, with our own skill sets–The Wild One, The Director, and I –each of us now feeling this in our own way, and we are blessed to have one another to encourage each other in the process of pressing through the resistance that inevitably comes in these seasons.
Only this time, my faulty theology of the timing of God is no longer there to hinder me. This time, I feel I have permission to look for opportunities and to seize them when they come.
I’m not ready yet to give details, but within the past month I have seen an opportunity that would take a bit of work to capture, but one that is definitely doable with a little effort. I may have to swim a little to catch the boat, but I definitely can reach it. There are no guarantees (there seldom are), but it could certainly lead to other, bigger opportunities. And the best part is, I no longer feel guilty for putting forth the effort. This is a boat I do not have to miss.
Is it ambitious of me? Definitely. Is it sin? No.
This is one part of my life where I feel I’m finally getting a handle on the elusive variable of time. I understand waiting on the Lord probably better than most, but I am now learning that more often than I realized, God is saying “go for it.” That’s what I feel right now.
The last thing I’ll say in this very long, very personal post is this–and this is more of an observation than a doctrine. In my experience, the timing of God may come in cycles or seasons, where if you miss one opportunity, another will eventually come round. Those times when I felt I was “on the verge” before may have been absolutely genuine, but my wrong thinking about God’s timing prevented me from taking hold of something new at an appropriate time. But God in His faithfulness does not just give us one shot at it. It might look different next time, but with eyes to see and a heart to act, we can catch the next wave.
That’s what I think, anyway. 🙂