Doors Open, Closed and Indefinite

12:55 PM

I got cold feet about college the other day. My little brother keeps asking if I'll come back. My little sister wants to come with me. We talk about Skype and texting and phone calls too much. I'm passing many of my lasts -- last home school textbook, last youth rally, last year in youth group, last day I'll ever see certain people. 


It got so bad that I swear I'm bringing a Build-a-Bear for company. 

The firsts are scary too. First day of school. First week of finals. First time living away from home. First eating in the cafeteria (terrifying, really). First all-nighter finishing procrastinated-upon homework -- well, never mind: I got that one down. And then some other firsts -- first guy asking me out? First job? First debate? First F? First heartbreak without mother-comfort? 

Yes, school starts in four months (four months?). And I love my drama queen moments. True. I say I'm a homebody, but I love people and adventure and academics and busyness and the chance to prove I'm not afraid to sing in the shower. Of course everything will work out. 

But the thing that worries me the most isn't shattering a plateful of salad in the cafeteria or getting back my first essay swarmed with red or even falling asleep in class. It's this, and I quote: How do I know God's will?

What if I made up His "provision" for school? What if my confidence that God led me there was presumption, not faith? What if I'm so entrenched in my own desires that even though He's waving red flags all over the place, I plod on stubbornly? How do I know?

It's not just with college. It's with everything. People are no help: they say, "Well, where do you feel God leading you?" (I don't know -- that's why I asked) or "God will show you" (but when and how?) or, worse, "You'll just know" (really?). And then, even if everybody agrees with you and cheers you on, somebody else enters stage left and says, "Are you sure? Really? Why? How come? What if you're wrong?"

(Usually, when naysayers are scarce, I fill that Somebody Else role myself.)

We talk metaphorically about doors. God will open doors -- God will shut doors. But in the end, the language is unhelpful; we still haven't determined how to determine what's an open door or even what lies beyond that open door. Does God ever open doors to dead ends? To complicate things, Christendom's hall of faith is rife with those who received little to no encouragement for doing God's will -- the missionaries whose first converts came years later (or even posthumously), poor Job and his miserable period of testing. We'd be quick to define such tragedies (especially repeated ones, in Job's case) as closed doors. Slammed-and-bolted-on-both-sides doors. But they weren't. The individuals in question did everything right and still everything went wrong. Their hearts were right, their motives pure, their actions righteous. They begged for guidance. They begged for wisdom. They didn't get their answers or their reward until later -- sometimes much later.

No, door-language only confuses things. And that, I think, is where we get everything backward and befuddled. Doors are arrival points: we open them to enter or exit, to arrive in our bedroom or bathroom or to leave them just as quickly. We have a destination -- say, the kitchen -- and eventually by going through enough doors we get there in one piece. We never settle for staying in the garage when we want the kitchen: we know exactly what we want and we don't accept anything less than ending up in the kitchen. We haven't arrived until we reach our (predetermined) destination. And if we haven't, then we haven't, and that's where we get confused.

We -- especially young people -- view life the same way. We need to get all the basics figured out -- college, career, spouse, house, boom; we need to arrive at a settled point; we need to find our place in the world. And once we have, we then go about the mundane of upkeep and sanctification, secure knowing that we're "in God's will." So we narrow our focus to look for doors -- doors leading to higher education, doors leading to marriage, doors leading to jobs, doors leading to calling. We never bother to look at the actual journey: we only want the door and by extension the room, the arrival point. 

But Christianity isn't like that at all, I'm finding. We need no settling and arrival, being in a transient state of passing through to glory. Our main goal is not to fulfill the American dream of college and career, loving marriage, 2.5 kids and a big house. Our life is a race, where we run and we pass through and we always move forward, upward. 

That means that we can move forward confidently, arrive nowhere and still be in God's will.

We want answers. We want arrival. God wants trust. God wants journey. While we may be concerned about what college (if any) we ought to go to, He may be more interested in getting us to focus our gaze on Him alone. While we're busy wondering if so-and-so is the right one, God may be about using that relationship for a different purpose or teaching us about love and sacrifice. He is sovereign, after all, and cares about more details in our life and world beyond degree, career and marriage certificate.

I am not 100% certain if God wants me married or graduated or anything like that. I don't know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my life will go the way I think God's leading. But this I know: God desires me to desire Him. God wants me to trust. God wants me to honor Him. When I do, I am always, always, always in God's will. He handles the steps of those who love Him and delight in His way -- not the ones who figured out His will on their own.

There's a great freedom in that -- quitting the worry, stopping the figuring out, halting the banging on doors and rattling of knobs. When our hearts desire Jesus above all else, when our steps follow Him, we cannot go wrong, even if we do not arrive in the same place. He cannot open doors to dead ends, for ours is a continuous upward path, but He does open doors to detours. And even if we mess up, mess up horribly, through stupidity or stubbornness or sin, He redeems the steps of His righteous ones. 

I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
PHILIPPIANS 3:12

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14 impressions

  1. Thank you so much, Bailey. This is so true. The journey is the important part; our destination depends on how we travel.

    I am a black and white perfectionist, and I like knowing exactly what God wants me to do. If I go to Collage, it either is God's will or it isn't. End of story.

    But the Christian life is so much more than that! The Christian life is learning to lean on God, and trust and obey Him.

    Thank you for posting this!

    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Katelyn

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  2. So gloriously true! Thank you, Lee dear...

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  3. Thank you for this!

    I'm a bit of a control freak, and not knowing exactly what's going on scares me to death. :)

    There's been something in my life lately that I've been praying constantly about, praying for God to show me His will. For Him to close that door (here we go with the doors again :) if it's not His will. I don't always trust my judgement and I just don't want to mess up, you know? Thanks for reminding me that it might not be a definite yes-or-no thing right away and that God might have plans for this that are different from mine. Already I can see Him using it to change me in little subtle ways.

    ~Kristin

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  4. wow...these were my thoughts this morning as I headed off to talk with 2 colleges academic advisors. "Is this just my idea Lord or is it yours?" yes moment by moment, He leads.

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  5. Wow, this comes at a great time in my life...there's a lot of pressure to get things figured out and have a "plan" for your life.

    It's hard, because like Katelyn I keep expecting black and white "plans" that I can follow and not mess up. My inner self screams at this...trusting stuff. =P

    Anyways, thanks for the awesome post.
    Andrew

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  6. Kristin, I know exactly what you mean. Always, always find your answer in Jesus Himself -- always, always define God's will as drawing nearer to Him. Plans and problems come and go, but THIS we can be sure on. Praying for you, sweet friend!

    And the rest of you guys, you're so encouraging! It seems that this has been lesson everybody's learning in my neck of the woods. Glad we can journey together. :)

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  7. My CRU leader and I were talking about something that I feel is relevant to this situation and revolves around 1 Peter 5:7. Seriously, this is the only way I'm surviving life at SNC.

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  8. so true Bailey! Thank you for the reminders...it can be so hard for me to not be "in control" and to just let God work. :) blessings as you continue on to this new season of life!

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  9. There is a slim book by John MacArthur that helped me tremendously at a time when I agonized over "God's will". It's called (appropriately) "Found: God's Will". If you have anxiety about this subject, then I would recommend checking it out. I don't agree with all MacArthur's theology, but think he nailed this one. It sells for about $1 used on Amazon. :)

    ♥ee

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  10. What college are you going to? My sister was only 6 when I went away to college. That was the hardest thing, leaving my sister,

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  11. I'm going to Hillsdale College. My sister's barely going to be three when I go. :(

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  12. This is a lovely give-and-take post for me, Bailey:

    - Take. As always, you give me great encouragement. Not surprising. :-) I know I made some wrong choices in my college-selection phase (I'll do a post on that someday ...), and I do worry a lot about how God will use me now that I'm on a completely different path than I once envisioned. Thank you for reminding me that my life's goal is not to "arrive" at a destination, but to follow the Lord step by step and focus on my relationship with Him.

    - Give. I just wanted to encourage you not to worry too much about all the "firsts" you mentioned, about going away and starting college. You'll do great! College is exciting and full of new experiences and discoveries, and I know you're going to love it! You can always come to us blog friends who are in college already, too, and we'll be glad to offer advice and sympathy. ;-)

    Thanks again for the post, my friend!

    Love,
    Vicki

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  13. This is a bit late, but I'll offer my two cents anyhow :o)

    The future is the single biggest source of worry for me. My thought process goes a bit like this: I need to follow the Lord's leading and be in the center of His will. But what if this isn't, and I'm going the opposite direction of all His plans? After all, God's only omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent. If I make a wrong decision, I might throw Him off! I could completely mess up His plans for my life!

    Yeah. It's ridiculous.

    My comfort in the midst of this is simple: I don't have to be 100% certain, because He already is. Always has been, always will be. I just have to seek first His kingdom, not saying 'What shall I eat?' or 'What shall I drink?' or 'What shall I wear?'

    It seems that, when consoling confused teenagers, people always pull out the trusty Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you." While that's a wonderful verse, I find even more eye-opening the next two verses:

    "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

    I've been clinging to these promises for the past weeks. They're an inspiration in the pursuit of the Obsession.

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  14. This is exactly what I needed to read. "How can I KNOW God's will?" is something that has been much on my mind.

    Thank you for pointing back to Christ and the Word.

    ~Rachel H.

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