"Look here, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.' How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.' Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." (James 4:13-17)
During the school year this past year, I was homeschooling my younger two kids while the older two went to public school. This wasn't a new thing. We'd been homeschooling for several years by that point, but the older boys had gone off to public school as we felt led to send them. At the start of the year, therefore, I submitted paperwork that said I planned to homeschool both my fourth grader and my first grader all year long. If you had talked to me last summer, I likely would have told you that I planned to continue homeschooling indefinitely. I enjoy the extra time I get with my babies by doing so.
But by Christmas break, I was getting this feeling like my daughter needed to go to public school. I pushed it away, of course, because why? But every few days, I would just get this overwhelming feeling about it. I prayed about it. I talked to my best friend about it over and over again (we beat that proverbial horse until it looked like a monkey*). I even mentioned the idea here and there to my husband. But I didn't make any sort of decision. Finally, in February, I took a tiny step. I told my husband that I thought we should actually look into it for the rest of the school year. I thought that surely he would say no, that it was silly to send her for just a couple of months, and I would be in the clear on this one. But he went and said, "yes, I agree." *LOUD SIGH*
I have to insert here that I felt a little like Jonah with the message to Tarsus. In that story, he was afraid to go and didn't want to give a message of mercy to the evil people of Tarsus (see the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament for the whole story). Like him, I really didn't want to do what I felt like God was leading me to do. I was struggling with the exact thing James warns about in verse 17! "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." Thankfully, God has blessed me with an amazing, overly honest sometimes, and encouraging husband along with an honest, loving, pushy-in-a-great-way, Jesus-knows-what-he's-doing-so-just-do-it best friend.
I took another tiny step. I called the school and talked to the admissions lady about what I would need to do to get my daughter enrolled. She gave me the steps and I completed them. Step by step over the next several days, I walked the path that I felt God had laid out for me and before I knew it, I was standing in the elementary school office on my daughter's first day of school in the public school system (ever!). My fourth grader walked into her classroom with her teacher and a class full of kids that she didn't know. And you know what happened? She loved it, of course!
By the end of the school year, I found myself wishing that I'd been brave sooner, that we had enrolled her in school sooner. Even though I missed her like crazy when she was gone during the day, I knew without a doubt that she was where God wanted her and she was loving every minute of it. In fact, when the last day rolled around this year, she was super sad to see the year come to a close. If it had been her choice, she would have kept going to school all summer long. Haha.
So why did it take me so long to listen? Well, I'm not sure which it was but I can think of a few reasons that could have led to my choices:
1. I wanted it my way- Who doesn't love doing things their own way? Don't we all love life a little bit more when things are going our own way? The problem here is that my way didn't match up with God's way.
2. Fear- Honestly, this was the biggest deciding factor for me. I was afraid to take the steps forward on this decision. What if she hated it? What if she struggled? What if she failed? What if something happened to her either in school or on the bus on the way to school?
3. Was it really God or was this a trick? You can only sit in indecision for so long before you're actually making a decision by not deciding. Whew, that was a mouthful. But it makes sense, right? If I had continued to waffle on my decision, we would have easily ended up at the end of our school year (my daughter only needed another 60 days or so of school by February as we always start early so we can end early). At some point, after talking to plenty of people who also love God and love me, I needed to take a step of faith and see what God guided me to do next.
The next time you are feeling like God is leading you to do something, no matter what it is, move forward using these steps:
1. Pray about what you're feeling. Talk to God about it and see what he shows you. He may never speak audibly to you (I don't know, I'm not you) but he does speak- through his followers, through memes and billboards, through messages at church, and especially through His Word.
2. Check the Bible. Open it up and see what it says in there about what you're being called to do. If you are feeling called to do something that goes against the Bible's teaching, it's not God calling you. God is never ever going to call you to do something that he has already said no to in the Bible.
3. Talk with trusted family and friends who absolutely have your best interest at heart. What do they think about the calling you're describing? Do they see any flaws in the plan? Do they have any valid concerns that you should consider? Or maybe they have a different first step that they think you should take? What does God think about that step? Ask them to pray with you. Remember that Ecclesiastes 4:12 teaches that "a cord of three strands is not easily broken." And Jesus says in Matthew 18:20, "when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there."
4. Keep talking to God as you take the first step. Let him guide your steps. He is going to lead you through what he's leading you to do. Even when you're afraid to do what he's saying, take the steps anyway. God's way is always infinitely better than our own!
Today I pray that we can all take the steps that God is calling us to take. I pray that you are brave and strong. And that you continue to talk to trusted people in your life because God has given us fellowship for a reason!
As we close, think about the following question. What is God calling you to do in your life that you're afraid to do and what is the first step you need to take in order to make it happen?
*No actual horses or monkeys were harmed in the making of either my decision or this post.