Direction/Guidance <–> Courage/Discipline
We all are faced with decisions every day – some of them minor, some profoundly major.
I have been immersed in the high school, college, young adult scene for a while now, and that age range has a variety of relatively serious decisions to be made. Who to date, where to go to college, what major to study in college, what job to take, who to marry, when to have kids, etc.
I have seen so many followers of Jesus agonize of “finding God’s will” for their lives – painstakingly seeking direction and guidance from God – looking for signs, feelings of inner-peace, closed and open doors, etc.
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that there is validity in seeking direction and guidance from God on important decisions. However, what is typically lacking from most followers decision making process is the other end of the tension – courage and discipline. Asking for, and working for, the courage and the discipline to love, and to follow/obey the principles and wisdom that God has laid out for us in his word and through wise counsel.
I have done some deep research on the idea of a singular “God’s will for one’s life”. The details of that won’t really serve any purpose here. The executive summary is, much of the notion of a singular “will of God” for our lives that we risk “missing” is not supported in the Bible, but more entrenched in relatively recent tradition.
Here is a quick story to illustrate the overall issue. If there is one person for you to marry, and one person for your spouse to marry, then, if you marry the “wrong person”, not only are you and your spouses messed up for life – since you shouldn’t get divorced – but, the people you should have married are messed up for life. Of course, if the people you both should have married, themselves get married, they will be messing up not only their own lives, but the lives of the people they marry, etc. Then, each couples kids – if they choose to have them – will have parents in a marriage outside of God’s “perfect will” and as such, they will be missing out to some degree. Think about it, in the “singular will” case, one “wrong” date that leads to one “wrong” marriage, and you could literally mess up the lives of hundreds, thousands or more people. That’s a lot of pressure! Date the wrong person and the whole world can suffer!
I think about my own journey as a parent. Originally, I was way too involved in pushing my kids towards a particular career choice, towards or away from a particular dating relationship, etc. Over time, I realized, to be a really good parent, I need to trust my kids. Trust that they will attack the decisions of life with the love, wisdom, principles, values, courage and discipline my wife and I have tried to instill in them. I don’t want robots. I don’t want them to date who I would date, and become who I became. I want them to be fully unique express of the masterpiece God made them to be. That requires them to live their own lives, make their own decisions. Of course they can come to me for counsel, but, they need to choose their own path.
God is a “good, good Father.” God is a better “parent” than we can ever be. God trains us up to make our own decisions. He expects us to operate within the principles and values he has “taught us” and instilled in us. He also expects us to be driven by sacrificial love for him, and for everyone in our lives. Living by principles, values and love does not require a crystal ball, or a horoscope. It requires, courage, discipline and study. It requires faith.
I have slowly come to the realization that my original job as a parent is pretty much done once my kids leave the house for college. For better or worse, my wife and I have modeled principles, values and love for our children. We hope they not only follow them, but follow them better than we ever did. We hope they learn from our what we have done well as well as from our mistakes. We could never plot the course of their lives for them – but we can prepare them with love and wisdom.
I hope my wife and I can be there for our kids, grandkids, and even great-grandkids for years to come. Wise counsel is a gift to give, and a gift to receive. But I am very content to watch my kids live, make their own choices, and flourish as the masterpiece God made them to be. That masterpiece is already inside of them. No one but them can fully unleash it. Not even God is willing to force it in them.
In the past, my advice was very one-sided – seek Gods direction, guidance and will. Look for “signs”, inner-peace, closed/open doors, fleeces, etc. I am sure those things have some value and some reality. But, I have become more focused on balancing out that side of the tension with prayer for courage and discipline to love the way we have been taught to love. To be guided by our principles and values we know to be true and right.
That takes so much more courage and discipline than it does clairvoyance, crystal balls and visions. It’s difficult to love the people in your life sacrificially. It’s difficult to do the right thing when there is little perceived reward. I need discipline and courage to follow the example that Jesus has set for me in my life – moment to movement and decade to decade. My kids, and the young adults like them need courage and discipline as well.