Teacher? Lawyer? Preacher? On Trusting God to Make My Paths Straight

When I was eight years old my grandfather asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought through all the jobs the adults I knew had--teacher, coach, truck driver--and all the jobs people on TV had--doctor, news anchor, deep sea diver. I scrolled through these jobs like you’d scroll through your Facebook feed, looking for a satisfying place to stop. I said to my grandfather, yanking the truth from my gut, “A preacher.” I said this on a Sunday night at church, just before the service started, just before he’d climb the stairs and deliver the sermon he’d worked on all week. This job of his seemed like the best job I could imagine. Who wouldn’t want to spend all day reading and teaching about God?

That night he’d smile as if I’d picked both the exact right and exact wrong answer. I’d spend the next 25 years figuring out why.

I’m in my mid-thirties, and if you’d asked me, even just two or three years ago, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I probably wouldn’t have had a clear answer. That’s because my journey into a profession has been anything but straightforward. Maybe the murkiness started at eight when the thing I most wanted to be wasn’t something for me, not in the way I understood it then. Since then, it’s been a lot of wandering in the dark.

In middle school I said I wanted to find a cure for cancer. In high school I decided to be a lawyer. Then a news anchor. Then a judge. Then, briefly, a Judge Attorney General for the American Navy. In college I jumped back onto the lawyer track, majored in English, which spurred a desire to read books all day, and promptly switched my professional goals to either publishing or professoring. When I graduated college without having been accepted to an advanced degree program (because I didn’t apply), I decided to try my hand at house-wifing. Which I hated and was bad at. Unless you count binge-watching TLC as a house-wifing skill. I was great at that.

Eventually, I got a job at a newspaper as a reporter. I’d always been a good writer, was the college paper editor. But I quit reporting six months in to go to graduate school for English. I was great at grad school, leading me to wonder if perhaps I should just go forever. Instead, I took a job after graduation teaching freshmen how to read and write critically. I’d leave that job after two years to go to New York City with my husband to plant a church. That effort would end after only a year, and I’d find myself back in the same town in which I attended college, once again questioning my future, this time while I carried and birthed two little girls.

For the next seven years I’d struggle with my vocation. During those years I taught some, both about writing and about God. I learned photography and videography. I wrote a lot. Received a few rejection letters for book and article proposals (most editors didn’t bother to write back). And I prayed. I prayed that God would make a way for me. That He’d show me where to go and what to be.

And the whole time I was mostly a mess about it.

It all came to a dramatic head when my husband and I finally decided to enroll our girls in public school. For the first time since before they were born, I had the opportunity to pursue full time employment. And I cried about it every day.

We needed me to work. We needed the money. But I refused to consider jobs. I wanted to throw up every time Justin asked me what I wanted to do. I didn’t know why I felt that way, so viscerally opposed to teaching English or working for a marketing company or a newspaper, but I did. At first I thought I was afraid. Then I thought maybe I was unsure of myself. But when it came right down to it, when my husband pushed and pried and basically shoved his hand down my throat and yanked up the the truth, he found that same truth I’d told my Papa at eight years old. I wanted to be a preacher.

No, not a preacher. I wanted to read and teach about God all day.

There it was, clear as day, my vocation.

All along, I had been wanting to do one thing. All along I’d been pushing against everything that wasn’t it. All along I’d been unintentionally learning how to do it better--cultivating my skills as a teacher, reader, problem solver, leader, discerner and writer. Working alongside my husband in ministry, teaching Bible classes, creating church environments and events, building websites and online communities, reading my Bible like it might burn up before I had the chance to finish...

All along the path seemed dark and mysterious and full of what seemed like dead ends, but all along God was laying track.

I started writing tonight in response to Proverbs 3:5-6. I needed to write a short devotional for a website (this is already much too long). It’s a famous passage. You know it:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

   and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

   and he will make your paths straight.

For whatever reason, when I read this tonight, I thought about all those years when trust was so hard, when sight was nil and faith was all, when I leaned on God like a blind woman with a cane, tapping around in the dark, looking for curbs and ditches--God, cane and curb.

I don’t know that I submitted my ways to Him every day, but I sure did try. I prayed a hundred times, “God, I just want to do what you want me to do. Show me what you want me to do.”

I didn’t know it then, but always He has been making my paths straight.

Since that day when Justin helped me see clearly, when we realized what it was I was made to do, neither of us have ever wavered in our commitment to the call--even though then it seemed crazy and still it takes trust, leaning not on our understanding.

If you’d asked me if there was a way for a woman to make a living in ministry within the churches of Christ, I’d have said, No way. And yet, here I am, writing books, speaking at churches and conferences, on staff at my church enabling testimonies, helping with communication and online community. Under my name on our church website is the word “Minister.” I’m pinching myself like ten times a day.

In some ways, I see more clearly what God’s up to now. And that makes the trust easier, of course. But I’m still tempted, perhaps more tempted, to make my own way, to push my own agenda, to set my own goals and chart my own course. I think, "I see what you're doing, God. I'll take it from here."

Nope.

I don’t know why this is the thing I wrote tonight. I tried to write something else. Maybe God wanted one of you wandering in the fog of uncertainty to know that trust works when the will of God is what you're seeking most. Trusting is like walking on an ever unfolding path, you can't see any path ahead, but every time you take a step your foot falls on solid ground. Maybe that's why I wrote this tonight and stayed up too late editing it. Whatever the reason, it's what I wrote, and I’m reminded of two things in the writing:

  1. When we submit to God, He takes us where we need to go.

  2. There’s always somewhere more to go.

Thus, I’m not done trusting.