Written by: Laura Chambers (August 2, 2019)
No matter who you are, eventually you’ll come to a crossroads in your life where you ask God, “All right. Where should I go from here?” I can’t help thinking of one of those signposts that are often erected in remote areas by those who have come from far away lands and converged on the site. The post is covered with signs indicating in which direction and how far away the hometowns of various visitors are. For someone who encounters one of those signs upon beginning their journey, it it not merely a reminder of where people have come from; it is instead a list of all the many places one can travel to from here. Choosing the right direction and staying the course all the way there seems like an intimidating endeavour, so much so that you may simply decide it would be better to turn around and remain where you are, instead. Where things are easy, familiar, and predictable.
Who knows what we might have accomplished had we simply chosen one road over all the others and followed it all the way to its destination? Or, for that matter, what if we’d ignored the sign and trusted that as long as there’s any kind of a path at all before us, somebody else must have gone there before and made the way?
Okay, now that I’ve written my own book (practically), I’d like to introduce you to someone who has grown to believe that what we do isn’t nearly as crucial as why and how. Mike Donehey, lead singer of the band Tenth Avenue North, attempts to change our approach to finding our personal vocations in his first book, Finding God’s Life For My Will. (I know that sounds backwards. He said it would.) Rather than asking God to put on His career counselor hat and match our personality profiles with the perfect job, Donehey suggests we seek Him in faith. There would be no need for faith if everything was written in stone and we could read it and know it would all happen letter for letter.
Donehey gives several examples in the book where God shaped his thinking, one moment at a time. He speaks of dreams mercifully dashed by injury and lack of opportunity, and how he realized that if those dreams had come to fruition, he likely would have fallen into the trap of self-centeredness. God will change our desires as we draw closer to Him, making us want His closeness more that any goal we aspire to. Mike also assures us that our relationships with God and other people should not be motivated by what we could gain, but what we can give (and lose, come to think of it.) We can then begin to see setbacks as set-rights instead; divinely orchestrated appointments that pour God’s love into the lives of others, and by extension, ourselves. The podium we find ourselves on must become the floor upon which we kneel to wash the feet of those who look to us for wisdom.
Next, Donehey uses a crazy true story involving the effects of pepper spray (I won’t spoil it for you) to illustrate how we should be so captivated by the love of God that all our qualifications and features mean nothing compared to the fact that He cares for us. Mike reminds us that God didn’t choose to involve us in the story of the world because we’re indispensable for the task ahead; we make things more complicated and difficult, not less. Yet He wants us to participate regardless, united as one together, not around one of us. We are also admonished not to be discouraged if we feel like our prayers are having no immediate impact, that we’re not getting any “bang for our buck”, as it were. God will always honor our attempted prayers, even missed shots that end in sleep, distraction, discouragement, or frustration.
Donehey then shares the pain and sorrow of his and his wife’s first pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage, and how it illustrates the necessity of finding joy and gratitude even amid unexplained tragedy. Jesus too bore immense suffering, yet glorious beauty sprung up from it to change something unimaginably horrible into hope. Mike shares that we can open up new opportunities and possibilities when we agree to anything God places in front of us, even when there are unanswered questions and dark valleys ahead. Refusing for any reason tells us much about our hearts and what we need God to change. It’s okay to ask why and wonder if as long as it comes from a seeking heart rather than a defiant one. Because He has accepted us, we can confidently accept whatever He sends into our lives. We are free to expose our darkness to His light, our brokenness to His healing touch, and watch Him transform our stained befores into beautiful afters. By that token, we can learn to make the best of bad situations in our lives, learning and growing in the process.
What it all boils down to in the end is that we don’t have to know the answer to every question, or all the twists and turns the road will take. Donehey affirms that certainty about our current or imminent calling is not the point; certainty about our underlying mission (to serve God and other people to the best of our abilities) and the character of the One who calls us is. Finding God’s Life For Our Will liberates us from the paralysis of uncertainty and enables us to trust that our God-given abilities and passions were given to us for a purpose. With a combination of honesty, humor, humility, and authenticity (which is just a fancy way of saying you’ll enjoy and relate to this book), Mike Donehey encourages us to swap out the hairpin we’ve been using to try to pick the lock to our future for the actual key to a richer life in Christ.