Baffled, I stared at 30 kindergarteners milling around my classroom. For the second time, I said, “Okay, everyone, let’s sit down in a circle together.” Six children sat near me, sort of circle-ish, although one sat behind me, for reasons known only to him. A dozen students plopped down at various points in the room, not near me. The rest continued to mingle and chatter.
Just as I feared I’d need to place each child, bodily, into a circle, another teacher walked by and heard my dilemma. “Need some help?” she offered with a smile.
“Yes, pleeeeeeeease.” Humbled, I welcomed her into the room. I mean, good grief, my second day of teaching elementary music and I couldn’t even get 5-year olds into a circle!
“Most of them don’t know that command yet, so we use a few tricks of the trade.” With that, my rescuer grabbed some yarn from her classroom and came back to create a circle on the floor. She invited all the children to sit on the yarn. The whole process took 3 minutes. This experience became the first in a looooong list of reminders I accumulated that year, that God did not endow me with elementary teaching gifts.
When I returned to the teaching field, after a 20-some year absence, all doors remained closed except for the one above. I never aspired to educate young children. Truthfully, I endured my mornings with them during my student teaching semester. I much preferred my afternoons with high schoolers. Even knowing this about myself, I decided that since this door opened, God must be on the other side. I spent a tough year learning that every opportunity doesn’t come from our Father.
As we think about God’s will, and discovering our open doors, consider a few misguided folks from the Bible. Abraham committed adultery with Hagar because of a crazy plan hatched by his barren wife, Sarah. Must be okay if the wife says so, right? Wrong.
In I Samuel 13, King Saul is nervous before a battle. The prophet, Samuel, is late to perform his priestly duties before Israel marches out. As King Saul’s troops become restless, he interprets Samuel’s tardiness as an open door for him to make a sacrifice himself. This act is in direct disobedience to God’s commands. The result is that God sets aside Saul as King of Israel, in favor of David, “a man after God’s own heart.”
Ponder Samson’s popularity and favor with Philistine women, ultimately leading to his torture, enslavement and death. What about Judas’ partnership and open door with the religious leaders who orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion? The entrance to that viper’s nest opened wide for the traitorous disciple.
Not every wrong door will lead us into profound sin, but at the least, they will waste our time and energies on pursuits and people that don’t line up with God’s destiny for us.
How do we avoid becoming entangled with opportunities that don’t originate with God? Here’s some filters that I use:
- Don’t ignore a lack of peace or conversely, God’s distinct call for you.
I felt weird about committing myself to educate little kids, and I blew it off. In general, the Holy Spirit doesn’t shout. A quiet voice kept speaking, “This is not for you,” to me, but I ignored it because I wanted to do something. It turned out to be something alright.
When God leads us somewhere, we wear the shoes of peace with confidence. There is blessing, provision and favor in the right place, even during persecution and personal attacks. (Read Nehemiah’s story.) We might feel anxiety, like Gideon, when He calls us to do works much greater than our imaginations, but that shouldn’t be a dominating sensation. I like to think about it as a bride and groom preparing for their wedding. They may feel nervous about the details coming together correctly, but that shouldn’t change their certainty that they belong together.
This last weekend I attended my first writer’s conference. I’m a newbie in that world and although the retreat, speakers and fellow learners were outstanding, my primary takeaway was this: “So, there’s a thousand things I need to know, and do, to be a successful writer. I think I might know five and be doing three.” I felt overwhelmed by the new language, social cues and sheer body of information.
Like Gideon, part of me started to say, “This must be a mistake. There are thousands of people better skilled and equipped to write than me.” As soon as I started to form those thoughts, God’s sweet voice said, “That may be true, but they don’t know your stories and hard-learned lessons. I’ve got plans for you.”
- Take note of God’s patterns in your life.
Look back over the times you’ve walked through doors that led you into relationships and circumstances clearly blessed by God. What did that look like? Everyone’s path will be unique, but if you look at several examples, you’ll see a pattern. Consider how you arrived at places where you are celebrated, not just tolerated.
One of the major criteria for me, is obedience. When I am in a mindset of “wherever you want me with whomever you want me, Lord,” is when I’ve entered those most meaningful experiences of my life. This is not to say that I didn’t endure trials and hardships in those places and relationships, but God provided me with all the resources I needed to carry on and fulfill his purposes for me.
I met my husband Ken, shortly after I laid my dreams of marriage definitively on the altar of “not my will but yours, God.” My favorite teaching job came to me when I laid those dreams back at the foot of the cross also.
God wants you to know his destiny for you, and all the open doors along the way. Intimacy with him, submission to his methods and obedience to his instructions, are the best ways I’ve found my open doors and moved past the ones closed to me.