Three lessons I learned this month about following God

So I’m up at 7 AM because I need to write. Not want to write or have something I’d like to think about writing. I neeeeeed to write. Like, if I don’t write it, it’ll cause me great pain.

It’s about the concept of following God.

As you know, I’ve volunteered for a project recently. Without going into a lot of details, I was ready to work. Ready, willing, and able to do this and this and that, because I’m very experienced at this and this and that, and I’m very good at this and this and that, and the project needed this and this and that.

Perfect match, right? So I volunteered. And talked at length about doing this and this and that and thought I was part of the team and all was good.

Except – and if you’ve ever volunteered for something and God was in any way involved – this and this and that just wasn’t happening. That and that and this other thing were going full speed ahead, and a whole lot of other that and that and this other thing were happening and successful. Except me and my this and this and that were over on the sidelines by ourselves saying, “Hey, what about us?”

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

The problem, of course, wasn’t the project. The problem was me. I was focused on what I’d volunteered to do, not on what was being done. Sure, I can do this and this and that, but maybe this and this and that isn’t needed any more. Or maybe someone else stepped up to do this and this and that and they do it just fine.

But I wanted to help. I wanted to be part of the whole thing. I offered and they said yes and then everything moved and I was left behind.

Really. Even I see how glaringly arrogant that sounds.

So lying in bed last night, feeling left out - boo hoo for poor me - it occurred to me that if I focused instead on what did happen instead of what didn’t, maybe I’d learn a lesson.

Or three.

Here goes …

Lesson #1: Just because something needs to be done, and you’re someone who knows how to do it, doesn’t mean you’re the someone to do the job. A long time ago I heard Beth Moore (I think it was her) talking about how we women tend to have the “Well, if no one else is going to do it, I’ll have to do it” mentality. Say you’re at a school meeting and they ask for a volunteer to bake five dozen cookies for the PTA bake sale. You look around and see no one has raised their hand, so you think, “Well, if no one else is going to do it …” and you volunteer again to bake five dozen cookies. Not because you want to. But because you truly believe that if you don’t do it, no one else will.

But what if the person God had in mind to bake those cookies needed a day to think about it? Or she wanted to volunteer privately, after the meeting? What if God had a plan for her life that started with volunteering to bake cookies, or maybe she was supposed to meet someone along the way or develop a new skill or just learn that she can do something she didn’t think she could? Your “I guess I’ll have to do it” mentality just got in the way. So you’re doing the job, bitching the whole time about how you always are the one who has to do everything, when you were never supposed to do the job to begin with.

Think about it. Sometimes a job needs to go undone so the person God has picked to do the job can have time to hear his call. This is a lesson I learned years ago but am always thankful for the reminder.

Lesson #2. Just because you offered and it was accepted and then it felt all wrong, it doesn’t mean it was wrong. When you ask God to tell you what to do, to help you make a decision, and you make the decision feeling that God spoke to you, you can’t question that decision later when the outcome isn’t what you expected. Because you didn’t ask God for the outcome, just the go ahead to move forward.

Saying “yes” to a project means I was supposed to get involved. I thought it was to do this and this and that, but maybe – just maybe – God had entirely different reasons. Reasons I can’t understand or see when I take the first step. Just because I hit a roadblock doesn’t mean I wasn’t supposed to step. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was supposed to say “yes” to this. And while it’s been frustrating for me,  I also have tried to remember that I said “yes” for a reason. Even though I’ve kind of whined a bit along the way about being left out. Which leads to the last lesson, the one that woke me at 5 AM ….

Lesson #3. Sometimes God takes you down one path because you’d never follow him down the one he really wants to take you. Here’s how I’d explain this situation:

It’s like God said, “Here, follow me down this little tiny path, it’s a small path, and it’s easy footing, and at the end we’ll have lunch, and look! There are  squirrels!” So I followed and we walked and I saw some squirrels and thought about lunch. And then we got to a place where the path ended at a fenced area, and inside the fenced area were a lot of people having lunch. And I’m on the outside looking in and wondering why no one is offering me anything. And then God says, “Turn around” (he is polite enough to not add “stupid”) and there behind me I can see that I’m waaaay high up this huge mountain and there is the most glorious view and stretching out as far as my eyes can see are endless possibilities, and God is saying, “I brought you down this little path because I knew you’d never follow me if you knew where we were going. But we’re here  now, about to take a left turn into this blazingly glorious expanse. So let the people on the other side of the fence have lunch, because you didn’t meet them for naught and you’ll see them again on other paths. But for now, this is the path I really wanted you to be on. And yes, I’m going to feed you.”

Practically speaking, if God has said, “Hey, I have this plan for  you to get involved in promotions and music again, and I’m going to give you a job doing that”, I would have run in the other direction, because I don’t know how to do that anymore and I’m not good at that anymore and I’m just not hip or cool enough for that, not that I ever was. But when God said, “Hey, your friend” – who happens to be a musician – “needs you to agree to do some writing for this music project involving poor kids in a developing country” … well, that’s a different story.

And yet here I am, working in music and promotions and loving - loving – talking to bands and planning events.

Well, you see how God works.

Actually, that’s kind of how my entire year has been, which is a topic for another post. But this morning – it’s 7:50 AM now – I needed to get this out. Because I needed to say it and maybe someone needed to hear it and because you know how willing I am to bare my soul and muse aloud.

And now I think I can go back to bed. And sleep.

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8 responses to “Three lessons I learned this month about following God

  1. Love it!! Isn’t that the truth about #1. I thankfully am able to say “No let God bless someone else with that” but it’s taken a long time to comprehend the concept. I think it’s that innate desire of women to be people pleasers . . . you know, “I’d rather hurt than hurt someone else” syndrome? That’s why they find comfort through food addiction by stuffing down unspoken feelings. (

    • Thanks, Ellie! I learned #1 the hard way, but when I learned it, my life got so much easier. When I find myself overwhelmed, I ask, “OK, so who gave me this job? Me or God?” If the answer is me, I give myself permission to quit. :)

  2. Joanne, thank you. This column is exactly what we talked about at Reunion Redux! I love reading what you and Pauline write about, and today is no different. I have been struggling with lesson #3 for a few months, and you have written something that provides encouragement to me to continue on the path I am currently on. Thank you! As I said before, I am grateful that we met, even if it was 30 years after high school.

    • I’m so glad this spoke to you, Rick! I’ve struggled with all of those over the years, and while I’d like to say I have a handle on them now, I’m stll learning that my path is my own path, and that what I want isn’t always what God has planned for me. And I’m sooo learning that what he has planned is way better than what I was willing to settle for. :) And I’m grateful, too! I thought I was planning a party and then would go back under my rock. But I really think God has other plans. ;)

  3. That is it Joanne. All you have to do is follow His lead and expect great things. Although we don’t see it, that is why it is called Faith. I used to question this in my younger years. like i need to know why I am going in this direction. But as I let go, and Faith came in, I just went knowing great blessings are about to occur in God’s perfect timing, even though there doubts and bumps in the road.

  4. Pingback: My first post at Paradise Uganda blog | Notes From The Funny Farm

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    Do you offer guest writers to write content for you personally?
    I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome website!

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