It seems like a lot of life comes to us or even at us, often leaving us with the feeling that we have no choice in the matter. Sometimes it’s little things like our kid gets on a lousy little league team, the restaurant runs out of the special of the day that sounded so good to us, some car wreck in front of us brings traffic to a crawl or a storm comes in and rains out our plans for a big day outdoors. We didn’t do anything to cause these things, they just happened to us. Other times however it’s big things, difficult things, painful things, things that can alter the course of our life. A loved one gets cancer, our pastor gets caught in an affair and our church is a mess, our child has a learning disability that makes school way too difficult and painful, or in my case your job comes to an end. It wasn’t my choice to leave YS, the choice was made for me. I wasn’t the only one involved in the “downsizing” but I had no say in the decision and in a sense it was done “to me”. Of course nothing is really that clear cut in real life. Very seldom are things completely one way or another. Seldom are any of us completely innocent or without any responsibility in a situation but we can still be left with a feeling or a sense that something was done to us and we had no choice. But of course that is not true. We always have a choice. WE ALWAYS GET TO CHOOSE! This was not how I envisioned leaving YS, this was not the time I would have chosen to leave YS but I do have a choice in HOW I leave YS. I get to choose my response. We all get to choose how we respond to something that comes our way. We get to choose our response and in the end that may be the most important choice of all.
In the difficult “big things” that come our way there are many questions that flood our minds and emotions. You know the “why”, “how”, “what”, “who” and “where” type of questions. Some questions come at you like waves on the beach one after the other while others you hunt down, sometimes in hot pursuit of them. For me I have found chasing the “why” question to be the least productive and in fact actually a waste of time. Do we ever get an answer to that question that is truly satisfying? I don’t think so and at least for me it often ends up an exercise in self -justification, self-pity or blame placing. Not a very healthy place to take up residence and not a place where I find God hanging out much. For me there are other questions that are much more powerful, much more life giving and more God finding. The “what”, “how”, “who” and “where” questions area much better place to live in. Chasing down answers to these questions are allowing me to leave the way I want to leave. I want to leave with integrity, grace and gratitude so these are the questions I am choosing to ask myself these days to help me stay that course:
What is God trying to teach me in this?
What do I need to lean about my myself?
What is going to be revealed in me?
What if all that God has taught me to this point has been preparing me for what is next?
How can I respond to this situation with integrity, grace and faithfulness?
How can I find God in this? Can I embrace that God is in the midst of this? Can I remember that it was God who brought me to YS so can’t it be that God is leading me away from YS?
How can I be anything but grateful for the wild and exiting ride it has been at YS?
How can I be anything but thankful that God has allowed me to minister to youth workers for 32 years?
Who am I going to become in this process?
Who is God bringing into my life right now and for what purpose?
Who can speak truth into my life that I need to listen to?
Where am I placing my trust?
Where am I finding my identity?
Where am I going to serve next and can I embrace this as an adventure with God?
These are the questions that bring me life, hope and faith these days. My guess is that in a difficult situation you might be facing it is questions like these that will bring light to dark places. Remember we get to choose our response. It is never helpful to play the victim, to think we have no choice in a situation. That posture gets us nowhere and in my case is an act of faithlessness. It is saying that what I am going through is outside Gods control. It’s denying, as crazy as it may seem, that God may just be in this after all. This does not mean denying the real pain of a situation or acting like it is all no big deal or playing some “happy Christian” game. It’s just the opposite, choosing these responses and ones like them allow us to embrace our pain and grow through it. My leaving YS is incredibly painful for me and I have been on an emotional roller coaster and imagine I will for a while. I don’t try to deny that. But, and it’s a big But, it’s not the end of the story. I get to choose how to respond to what God has put in front of me and to embrace the adventure. To me it’s all about the journey and we get to choose how to embrace that journey and that is a pretty awesome thing.