About two years ago, I stood at the edge of the biggest crossroads I’d wandered to yet in my life. Six months left of college, and I had yet to nail down plans for after my ceremonious exit into the “real” world. I’d narrowed down my possible trajectories to two broad paths – nursing school or going abroad – but couldn’t decide which way to go, and felt like God wasn’t giving me too many hints either.
At the time, I perceived God as having characteristics of a Puppet-Master and Treasure-Map-Maker, deciding where everyone would go and what they would do, laying out one specific “path” for each person. I looked at much of life as a divine game, in which I needed to interpret what I observed and discover this correct path that God had laid out for me. I hunted for “clues” from God – interpreted missed deadlines and failed opportunities as “closed doors,” and what others might deem coincidences as clear thumbs-ups from God.
I tried to make the process both spiritual and scientific, tallying these nudges from the Almighty in the hopes that the scales would tip in one direction or the other, and tell me which path to choose. Though I’ve never heard God’s voice directly (though I believe this is entirely possible), in other major crossroads and decisions that I’d come across in life I’ve felt like I’d received signs from God – through other people, timely situations, and prayer. But at this crossroads, I seemed to feel equal “signs” from both paths.
For a while, I continued along as if both would happen, waiting for my Maker to speak-up and give me that final feather to tip the scales. I applied for nursing schools and for international service organizations, all beginning the following Fall. Then finally, in March, within the span of a week, I got accepted to two programs – one down each path.
Before me were two open doors, both appealing with what seemed like equal amounts of pros and cons. Both used what I had perceived as my “gifts.” Both things I felt I was passionate about. I was praying constantly, and seeking out prayer from others. And still, I felt like I didn’t have that deciding input from God. And that’s when I think God let me learn one of the most valuable “growing-up” lessons so far.
I decided to go to Zambia.
There is weight and meaning behind those words, just the way I’ve said them: I decided…
Standing at the other end of this year, looking back, I don’t think God “called” me, specifically, to Zambia; It was a wonderful and challenging and blessed experience. I believe God knew I would go, maybe even orchestrated several situations so that I’d be aware of the option, but I don’t believe it was God who decided it would be part of my story. It was me who decided, by my free will – and it was God who blessed my decision.
But I think God probably would have blessed a decision to go to nursing school too.
“Free will” makes sense to me more now than it ever has – though I definitely don’t claim to understand it completely. The way I see it, God loves me so much that God lets me make my own choices. God desires and requires simple things from me: to love God and love people, to care for vulnerable people. And I believe that if I prayerfully step into decisions that fit within the above parameters, God’s on-board. God will bless the work.
With this shift in perspective, God lost a lot of controlling and secretive personality traits that I had attributed to God – from Puppet-Master to Helper, from Treasure-Map-Maker to Co-Adventurer.
God became my No. 1 Fan.
God is the Storymaker, but I also believe the Author invites us to be co-writers – not just characters.
I believe God desires and requires simple things from me: love God and others.
I believe this is the extent of my vocation, but this can have hands and feet in a million different ways.
And God leaves it up to me to decide what my hands and feet will do.