“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” Proverbs 16:9
As a family we have been reading the book Training Hearts Teaching Minds by Starr Meade- for our evening devotions and we recently worked through the topic of God’s providence. When it comes to God’s providence we as humans want to try and understand immediately what God is planning for us. We wish that we could see ahead to understand why we must go down the road we are going, or maybe that he would drop us a little note to guide us in the right direction … or just send a bolt of lightning that wakes us up and clarifies our situation. Whatever it is that we are wishing for, the end result is the same, we do not know what God’s purpose is for us in this life, each day again we start fresh and we move forward in our desire to serve Him to the best of our ability and that is the best that we can do. Sometimes we can look back and begin to get a small glimpse into God’s plan by seeing how the pieces fit together even at times where we thought things were all going wrong. Ultimately, as we go through each day of our lives, we know that God is there, watching over us, guiding us, caring for us and we must trust in Him every step of the way.
It can especially become difficult to see and know how to accept God’s providence when one has to make a decision … where neither decision is against God’s word but yet a decision has to be made. God has a purpose also for putting these trials on our path and He has His reason for why the answer to the decision is not immediately clear, but as we walk through this decision-making time it can become difficult and murky to understand if one is making the choice for their own benefit or because they want to serve God as He desires them to.
For the past seven months we have been working our way through one of these decision making processes. Many times in the past seven months I had thought through how I would write this blog post if/when the day came. I’m sure if I wrote each of them down at the time I would have a large variety of posts to work my way through. Whether any of those posts would have included the peacefulness that we now have in our decision I am not sure, but they certainly would have displayed the rollercoaster ride that the past months have been like, especially for Rob. At certain points in the last seven months I would call it a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, going one way or the other or just hanging there wondering what was next. At other times it was more like a pendulum swinging back and forth from one decision to another, sometimes at a rapid pace, other times more slowly. Regardless it has been stressful, making for many discussions and prayers and I am glad that we can now move forward with the clear decision we have made.
On April 27, 2012 Rob wrote his last exam for year 3 at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS). With one more year of school and a couple more sets of exams he would be done 3.5 years of University schooling and 4 years of theological training and have his M.Div. We were finally in the home stretch. What we did not know at that point (although in all honesty we suspected it) was that this was Rob’s very last exam ever at the CRTS. As of last week Rob has decided that he will not be returning to the CRTS in the fall but hopes to instead to graduate in September with a Bachelor of Theology
Back track some months and one would see the rollercoaster ride that it took to get to this point. I made brief mention in my Survived Year 3 post that Year 3 was indeed the hardest year for more reasons then one. While I could go through several posts of all that caused these stresses I will save you the agony and suffice to say that during this time Rob came to know that he had to seriously consider whether he was truly cut out for the ministry. There were many aspects to consider but in the end it came down to whether he was really cut out for this. Those who know Rob know that he is not necessarily a desk boy, he is a blue collar guy with a natural ability to be a handy man at everything along with being a mechanic, engineer, truck driver and farmer. He loves the outdoors and everything about the country. Yet for 6.5 years he worked hard in his office from sun-up to long past sun-down with his heart set on bringing the faithful word of God to His people. There were times that he wonders if he was cut out for it, but not until this year did he truly have to begin to question his ability to continue.
In the end it’s probably best to describe it as Rob does … from a perspective that is from Rob’s natural side. Rob has had to opportunity to work with guys training to be mechanics and he has seen one guy come through who had two left hands, at the end of the day this guy could get the job done, but in the meantime the mechanics would be shaking their heads wondering what he was doing or how he was ever going to be efficient in his job. This is Rob at his desk. I don’t think anyone can say that he did not try hard and that he did not put his hardest and most into his work … at the end of the day the work got done, but it took longer then the guy with the natural ability and that extra time did not allow him the freedom to put the extra special touch on what he was doing as he was just doing what was needed to get it done. For Rob the biggest struggle was getting his research on paper to present in a clear and concise manner for others to hear and learn. With the realization that a minsters number one job is the preaching of the word he also knew that if one cannot do this aspect of the job well then the rest of his job becomes a bigger challenge. The struggle came in determining whether it would just take time to learn how to better put things on paper (realistically he had only written 5 sermons during his three years of school) and while sometimes it just seems right to go with ones natural ability he also had to work through whether the easiest route is the right route.
In January it was decided that Rob would not go to Classis this summer to Speak and Edifying Word (SEW) but instead would work with two of the professors on writing sermons to help him gain experience in this area. This decision was met with some ups and downs at times as he wondered whether it would be better to just get out there and try the job … but in the end we see this was the right direction to go as Rob did not even make it through his first sermon and the answer became clear. I don’t know if anyone can explain, not even Rob, why the answer suddenly became clear at this point. Nothing different happened, the sermons routine presented it’s regular struggles of trying to get it together after the research was done … but for Rob it suddenly became not only clear but peaceful. Prior to last week it was always a swinging pendulum but the pendulum suddenly stopped. It has been almost a week and pendulum remains in the same position, Rob no longer questions whether to keep going or stop, the only questions remaining are the ones that we cannot answer and do not need to look for the answers to: why did the Lord lead us on this journey in the first place? why did it take over 6 years to reach this conclusion? is there a purpose to the fact that he went long enough to complete with a BA? what does the Lord have in store now? how does he use what he has learned to benefit others? etc.
We know that we can now go forward without being pulled in many different directions and for the time being that is simply what we do and we take one day at a time, knowing the God looks after us each day and that He has a purpose for this also. We have ridden the rollercoaster from time to time in the past in our lives. This hasn’t made us any more experienced or better at the ride, but it does teach us time and again to rely on Him alone, to have patience and take the ride with our faith in Him knowing that at some point we will arrive at the end of the ride … one way or another.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3: 5-6