Posted tagged ‘closed doors’

Discerning Perseverance

March 4, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       March 4, 2016

                                    

This past month I have been going through the application process to be a substitute teacher here in Colorado. Your first question might be “Why?” My response, besides the fact that Walmart wasn’t hiring any new store greeters, would be “Why not?” I enjoy being around young people, and I get tired of hearing people say “Act your age!” At my age I’ve got one foot heading towards a tombstone!

The process, however, has been an exercise in frustration. It’s like an ongoing visit to the DMV, something very few of us list as one of our pleasurable activities. On the Colorado Department of Education application it seems I was asked about five times whether or not I’ve committed a felony. By the fifth time I was starting to think that I had…kind of like when my mom would keep asking me “Are you sure you didn’t do that?” I’m sure at some time through the process I confessed to her that I had committed some offense that my brother, Charlie, had really done.

In my application process I’ve struggled with new technology that I didn’t have to worry about when I applied for a summer job at Rollyson Aluminum Products back in 1973. How do I scan a document? How can I attach something to an on-line application without staples or paper clips? Why do I have to be reminded of the sad state of my first year college grades?

A friend of mine suggested that the torture of the process is God’s way of telling me that there is unconfessed sin in my life, and that I should repent…and then become a pastor again! I failed to connect the dots of his reasoning, but it did make me think of the Christian exalting of the ability to persevere. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4 that “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” In James it says to “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

So the question is how does one discern the need to persevere versus God closing a door you keep trying to go through? One of my favorite Far Side cartoons is of a bespectacled young boy trying to enter the door to his school. He’s pushing, but the sign on the door says to pull. Above the door is a sign that says “School for the Academically Talented and Gifted.”

No matter how spiritually connected a person is there will be a constant discernment struggle about whether he is to keep on keeping on…trusting in God…persevering in the faith…and seeing that the door is closed.

I know I’ve confused those two a number of times over the years. The temptation to persevere gets easily attached to something that offers more prestige, more power, and more money. Closed doors are often in the background of decisions that offer no enhancing of my resume. Inconvenience gets viewed as a sign that God is saying “No!”

Going back to “sin in my life”, I recognize that the distance I put between myself and God because of my desire to be in control also causes a blurred vision of what I am being called to do or not do.

In my life recently I’ve had several situations where discernment has been needed. I wish I could say that I’ve nailed it every time, but there have been a few times where I’ve been pushing on the door when the sign says “Pull!” Quite frankly, when I’ve stepped back and finally seen what the sign says I turn red in spiritual embarrassment!

The Disappointment of New Possibilities

April 19, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  April 19, 2013

 

This past week I had the door closed on me twice in regards to opportunities related to one of my passions, one of the things that I’ve been involved in that energize me. Suddenly what looked like a new venture, a new chapter, became a brick wall. A few days the brick wall re-emerged in regards to another possibility.

What does a person do when the wind is taken out of the sail? I admit that my initial reaction was one of self-pity and confusion. My ego jumped into the ring and became the center of attention. When the situation revolves around something that we are passionate about it is easy to go that way. Most of us believe that our giftedness is always affirmed with a “yes”, as it relates to the area we are gifted in. Our value gets tied up with the opportunity.

When our passions, experience, and skill get presented with a new opportunity that is seemingly in perfect harmony with them we assume this is the way of God. This is the door that is being opened for us. We even spiritualize it by saying that all we need to do is have faith to walk through it.

But there are times when perfect alignment is not the tell-tale sign that this is what God was preparing for us all along.

Sometimes God is in the closed doors! That’s hard for most of us to hear because we believe more in open doors than closed doors. Closed doors require us to look further. Closed doors make us wait. Closed doors can sometimes even be an indication that a chapter has ended. We’d prefer a “Let’s Make A Deal” scenario where we get to choose between three doors instead of two closed doors and one open.

I remember a number of years ago being contacted by a pastoral search committee. One Sunday they inconspicuously visited the worship service at the church I pastored. Carol and I met with them about a month later “on their turf” and, from all indications, we felt God was calling us to move there. Then, in the midst of that, they went in another direction. We were disappointed, but ultimately the church I was pastor of went through a new period of fruitfulness.

It is hard to see the possibilities in rejection. It requires a willingness to trust that God knows what he is doing, and that he desires the best for each one of us… that hard news can lead us to good news.

It encourages me to know that God even gave stop signs to Paul and Silas. In Acts 16:6-7 we read of how the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching in certain areas, while not letting them even enter into other areas. It doesn’t take a seminary professor to be able to determine that Paul was being very effective in his ministry. You would think that all doors would be opened to him! But God had specific plans for him. A closed door one moment could be connected to a fulfilled purpose a few years down the road.

So my discouragement is tinted by eyes looking for new directions. The glare of being turned down will gradually dim and suddenly there in front of me will be the defined way.