Is There A Center To God’s Will?
A friend recently requested prayer on his blog, that he would be in the “center of God’s will.” I smile when I hear that phrase, because it brings to mind some target-shaped center of God’s will. Or a narrow mountain trail with steep drop offs to either side.
For a long time in my Christian journey, I thought that there was some “sweet spot” of God’s will, and once I found that “center” or remained on that “path”, all would be well and life would go on swimmingly. My life hasn’t really born that out, and every time I approach finding God’s will with those images, I am left frustrated and more confused than ever.
Scripture gives no black-and-white blueprint for finding God’s will or walking in it, which explains why there are so very many Christian books and videos on the subject.
The Bible provides some passages…
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality 1 Thessalonians 4:3a NIV
Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:17 NIV
Yes, I can walk in the spirit of those verses, but do I buy that house? Marry that person? Take that job?
I want a map to the destination with all the stops clearly marked. Or a periscope that lets me see above the fog of my choices. And this isn’t because I lack faith. I do, sometimes. But it’s because I want to please God so badly.
God has never given me a map, blueprint, or periscope, and at 50+ years, I’ve stopped looking for them. I think I see God smile as I typed that, because he knows I still go back to the blueprint idea when I feel uncertain and afraid.
God gives me life with himself and the agency and the desire to discern God’s activity and be a part of it. The times I feel God’s greatest pleasure are when I am living in those truths.
Did you know that often the word that is used for God’s will in scripture is better translated “longing” or “heart’s desire”?
So if I sit in the thought of being in the center of God’s longing, what does that mean?
The first thing I notice is that my position at the center is more about awareness of being at the center of God’s longing than about me finding and moving into some target-shaped space. This doesn’t mean that I am to be self-centered or think of myself at the center of God’s universe.
It’s an awareness that God knows me and God’s loving thoughts, emotions, and longings are toward me always, as they are toward all of creation. I don’t have to “find” that longing, I’m already smack-dab in it.
It also doesn’t mean my choices don’t matter. They, do, but what matters most is that God is pleased that I want to please him. God loves that I love him and care about how my choices intersect with what he desires for me and this world. He promises to to those who love him and hear his call to work all things (including my choices) together for good.
I consider my life choices for the last two years, and how I have felt more aware of being centered in the longing of God for me. In his longing for me to experience “life to the full”. In living out how he saw me when he first thought me up in eternity past.
- In late 2014 I became keenly aware of my need for a better understanding of the process of discernment. I also began to have a persistent vision and longing to use my creative gifting to spiritually encourage and companion with others.
- My journey into counseling brought the idea of spiritual direction and formation into my awareness. My counselor thought I should look at spiritual direction, in addition to life coaching and counseling as possible second careers. She also coached me through my artistic perfectionism.
- While still in discernment on my career path, in early 2016 God led me to a website promoting a spiritual formation workshop — on discernment. My teacher was a former priest who spent 5 years discerning his call into a marriage relationship.
- While I was at that workshop my understanding of discernment grew and expanded. I also found that many at the workshop were either spiritual directors or in training to become directors. I met a friend by way of a displaced hip that I endured the first two days of the workshop (she helped me find places to store my cold compresses). She was in training to be a spiritual director at a program that was 30 minutes from my home.
- I met through a mutual friend another graduate of the same program. We’ve become friends and meet weekly for bible journaling. She answered a multitude of questions and encouraged me to attend orientation and pray about committing to the 3 year program.
- I attended orientation for the training program, and have completed the first year, which focuses on discernment of calling. I’m now in my second year, and will begin companioning with directees this year.
- At the beginning of entering the program I met my current spiritual director, and she has spoken prophetically about how God is using my creative gifting.
I’d really like to say that I had a lot to do with each of these steps along the way, each of which felt to be in the center of God’s longing for me. When each step brightened before me, I felt the pleasure of God and being at the center of God’s heart’s desire.
When I looked back, I saw how God strung each circumstance together in a journey that I’m still on, and don’t see beyond a few steps. I have hopes, anticipations, and goals, but they seem to be taking a back seat to remaining aware of God’s movement.
It all feels marvelous and miraculous, and not because I did much more than prayer and taking time to be aware of what God was already saying and doing.
The times I’ve felt most at the center have felt like I was being carried along with the current while doing a bit of swimming myself. But the current and the water was keeping me afloat more than my swimming was. That thought keeps me grounded or “humble” (the root of that word is humus — ground, by the way!)
Finally, I have realized through experience is that in this current, while it is centered in God’s longing for me, is not always smooth, and the course is certainly taking me places that I would never have chosen for myself. I’m noticing that the journey to “find God’s will” through discernment is more about being still and listening for God’s voice and activity and moving toward that, than striking out on my own, creating a blueprint, and asking God to bless it, no matter how lofty or noble the plan.
How about you?
Have these reflections on God’s will and discernment brought some new awareness to you?
How do you feel when you sit with the idea that you, at this moment, are at the center of God’s longing?
Are you noticing where God is moving, right now, near you? Will you move toward that?