Tag Archives: Special

The Blank Canvas

Does God have a plan for your life?  Are you one of the special ones for whom He has set out a purpose?  Or are you just wandering through life, a background person in the lives of those who are special and called of God? 

My pastor tells us often that God has given each of us a “vocation” – a sense of calling that pushes us to do things because we’re made to carry out a certain mission, even when those things don’t make sense to others.  Writers may not ever make any money or have stability, but they must write their thoughts down.  It’s in their bones and they can’t exist any other way.  An engineer must figure out how to make things run better.  It’s just the way it is.  But I talk to many people who don’t feel a sense of calling, who don’t feel there’s something they simply must do. 

When I went to seminary, the leaders of my school realized that if we didn’t know ourselves, we could never know others.  Since pastors primarily work with people, they required us to get to know ourselves.  We took assessments and went through steps and read books.  We learned our personality and temperament, our work style, the role we most often play in a group, our strengths and weaknesses, and more.  I learned a lot about who God has created me to be while I was there.  I learned that it’s more valuable to improve our areas of strength and be the best (an expert) in one thing, than it is to be a well-rounded person who can do most things decently.

When I meet people who don’t feel they have a sense of calling, my assumption has been that they don’t know themselves well enough.  They haven’t submitted themselves to the battery of tests, to self-assessment, and to significant prayer time on the matter.  (I spent years in prayer and regular fasting before God finally told me to go to seminary and then it took three years until it was actually time to go.  But I didn’t give up.  I just kept asking Him what to do and where to go until He finally answered me.) 

But last week I went to hear Donald Miller, a popular author, speak and he said something that stunned me.  He said he doesn’t believe God has a specific plan for most people’s lives.  He said it isn’t a biblical concept.  He said God has a specific plan for some people’s lives, but it’s a small percentage of people.  He said he believes that when we’re born, we have a big, blank canvas in front of us with lots of colors to choose from and we make our own design on it.  That’s God’s gift to us – our free will – and our lives are our own to shape and design. 

That is a hard thing to hear for someone who has submitted herself to total obedience and is waiting for God to give me direction on the next steps in my life.  I believe God does have a specific path I am to walk and that my success in the Kingdom of God depends on my obedience.  I believe I can live a life of frustration and fear, as I have in the past when I wasn’t obeying God in all things, or a life of victory and joy through total obedience.  But if God doesn’t have a specific plan for my life, then who am I obeying?  Is it possible that I am painting my own canvas and obeying my own desires? 

My mind has been whirling with these thoughts.  As I went back over my life, I realized that there are a few times when I have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has spoken to me clearly regarding the direction of my life.  At times I obeyed right away and other times I allowed misery to overtake my life before I submitted.  I can look at the results of those times to convince myself, if no one else, that I had heard from God.

  1. God told me to move to Nashville, TN.  I obeyed and am very thankful.
  2. God told me not to date the sociopath, but I didn’t know why He was telling me that because the guy seemed great, so I ignored Him for a year, which led to misery.
  3. God told me to go to Regent University to seminary.  It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
  4. God told me to wait for a ministry position after I graduated and to turn down the secular jobs offered to me.  I obeyed and am thankful.

When I look at those things, those very specific things, it’s hard for me to imagine that God doesn’t have SOME kind of plan for my life.  All of them were hard.  At the time, they were all much bigger things than I could do on my own, or even wanted to do.  I know they are things I didn’t make up on my own. 

Once I got to Nashville, I didn’t feel any specific calling about where to work or go to church.  I think it’s possible that it didn’t really matter and God could work with whatever I decided.  Or it’s possible that He was guiding my every step and didn’t need to give me a thundering word of direction because I was stumbling upon His will without it.  I can think of many times in my life where that’s been the case.  I made the best decision I could make, given the information I had, and God has used it. 

I suppose it’s possible that I am one of the few people (in Donald Miller’s concept) who God does have a specific plan for.  But that seems like a terribly arrogant thought.  I don’t really buy into the concept that I’m special.  I think it’s narcissistic.  It seems much more reasonable to me that God does have a plan for everyone’s lives and we have to learn to listen and obey. 

I’m really struggling with this issue and would love to know what you think.  Here are a few Scriptures I found to support my point of view.  Is your opinion different?  Please post your comments below. 

Proverbs 19:21 (Amplified Bible)
Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.

Psalm 33:10
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to naught; He makes the thoughts and plans of the peoples of no effect.

Isaiah 46:10-11
1
Declaring the end and the result from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure and purpose, calling a ravenous bird from the east–the man [Cyrus] who executes My counsel from a far country. Yes, I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, and I will do it.

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Am I Special?

A young mother recently asked me a question that has been bothering her:  “Am I special?”  She qualified her question by letting me know that she has heard that everyone is special, but if everyone is special then is anyone really special? 

I understood her question well because it is one I have battled with myself over the years.  If I am special in some way, then the things that happen to everyone else shouldn’t happen to me.  My destiny should be greater than that of those around me.  Even being a Christian can be used as an excuse to think that we are somehow special and excused from the things that “regular” people go through.  Don’t the Psalms state repeatedly that God gives rewards to those who walk in His ways?  If I walk in God’s ways, then I am special and should expect to be treated as such.

But the truth is that even Christians, sometimes especially Christians, struggle and have difficulties in life.  We are not always spared from injury, illness, poverty, and slander.  All Christians don’t live in mansions, dress in the finest clothes, and sing hymns all day long while we read the Bible and pray together.  We are regular people who understand that our source is God and anything good that happens in life is a gift from God. 

I looked up the word “special” in the dictionary and found this definition – distinguished from what is ordinary or usual.  What distinguishes me from the ordinary or usual?  I am a human being just like everyone else.  I was born, I am living my life, and I will die – just like everyone else.  In that case, the only truly “special” people in the world are those who somehow defy those circumstances: Enoch, who did not die but was taken up into heaven by God, also Elijah; and Jesus, who was born to a virgin and raised from the dead.  So unless I can find a way to get taken up to heaven by God through a means other than death, I’m regular, not special. 

So what should I strive for in life?  I thought I was special, the handiwork of God, created for a unique purpose and called by Him to make a difference in the world.  The answer to all of that is – yes, I am the handiwork of God (just like everyone else), I am created for a unique purpose (just like everyone else), and I am called by Him to make a difference in the world (just like everyone else). 

Every single person has something about them that is unique (existing as the only one or sole example) and if they embrace it, will make them stand out in the crowd and cause the awe of God to fall on those around them who see the glory of what God has made.  The thing is, we don’t embrace our uniqueness very often.  We try to hide it because we don’t want to be different from the crowd.  We want to fit in!  We’re afraid others won’t like our uniqueness or might reject us.  Yet we admire those who try new things and effectively harness their creativity into things that we cannot imagine. 

 The second piece to that puzzle is that we all have a calling from God to make a difference in the world.  Once we discover what makes us unique, we have to ask God how that thing should be used for His glory. 

I used to be afraid to fully surrender myself to God and be made into His image because I thought I’d lose my own identity.  I was afraid I’d become some sort of Christian robot.  What I have found in my surrender (more fully every day) is that instead of making me like everyone else, God calls me to do things that are totally unique.  God knows better than me what talents are hidden in me and He calls them forward and puts them to use for His glory.  Then I begin to see myself through His eyes and the work that I do becomes fulfilling and effective.  The closer I draw to God, the more He pulls forward those unique talents, and the more fulfilled and blessed I become.  I begin to sparkle and people notice.  I find such joy in realizing that the more I fully surrender myself to God, the more He makes me into His image, and the more unique I become. 

So I told the woman that she isn’t special.  She is a regular human being with flaws and problems, working to get closer to God.  However, the more fully we know God, the more we become like Him and the more our uniqueness shines through.  She and I are working together to grow in our relationship with the Lord. As we grow closer to Him, the fears and cares of this life become less and less important and pleasing God grows in our estimation of success.  And pleasing God is what allows Him to take our unique talents, gifts, personality, and experience to make us into a unique and beautiful instrument for His glory.

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