My husband would rather go to India or Africa than Portland.
No offense, Portlanders. The city is just not his thing.
I don’t mind Portland but it’s not my first choice of residence, either. I value Portland for its uniqueness and its restaurants, for its posh Goodwills and Ikea. It’s a fine place to visit, and I’m sure there’s more to it than I know.
I just really enjoy our small town.
All of us have something that’s not our thing, right? And in a morbid, God-surely-is-going-to-make-us-do-what-we-don’t-want kind of way, we always are afraid that He might call us to Portland.
Or India, or jail ministry, or Sunday school, or whatever your not my thing is.
Because we think God is out to make our lives miserable?
Because the god we’ve made and the box we’ve put him in functions like that?
Most of the things that are not my thing come around in my life, and in yours, too.
Paying bills is not my thing. Introducing myself to new people at church is not my thing. Making small talk with people I just met is not my thing. Planning parties and decorating cakes? Not my thing.
There are other things on my not my thing list, and the longer my list the more it seems like God is calling me to places of testing.
The problem isn’t that God calls us to do the thing we despise or hate. The problem is that the list of things we despise or hate, or fear, is so long that we can’t really avoid some of them.
The thing really is, though, that I’m more afraid of failing than anything else. I’m afraid of failing and I’m also afraid of being uncomfortable – because I could mess everything up, and then what?
Same with all of us who come around to things that challenge and press and squeeze the comfort out of us.
It’s not that God wants us to be miserable, but it’s also not the bed of roses we often hope for or the leisure and pleasure and ease that we desire – it’s often the struggle and the distress that produce fruit in us.
Failure doesn’t mean it wasn’t His thing, either. Sometimes when we fail at something we conclude that it must not have been God’s will.
Peter’s failure to measure up to all his own aspirations, as he sat around the fire with his identifiers and denied Christ three painful times, was not a closed door for the purposes of Christ.
It took time for Peter to see that beauty came from the ashes of that campfire, for Christ to restore him and reignite him and erase the blackness of his denial. And I would bet that nothing taught Peter humility like that triple failure.
There are sins of distress that reveal a weakness we never knew we had, and sometimes our uncomfortable places show us those sins most clearly. Nothing hidden can ever be dealt with, so Christ reveals the real us, the I-will-never-leave-you, unless-my-safety-is-threatened places in us, and then He deals gently and works with what’s left of us.
What about those things you want to do but are afraid of, simply because you fear it’s your desire and not His? Because surely God wouldn’t give you something you enjoyed.
God is not out to break us down and humble us painfully. We are His children and He treats us as such, which means that we have to eat our vegetables and doing chores won’t kill us and we can’t always have what we want, when we want it.
And sometimes we have to go to Portland or talk to new people.
Sometimes, though, what He desires for our life is already burned in our hearts. In all our reaching out and reaching in and reaching for what we hope is His plan, all of our good works have been prepared beforehand. His Word and His Spirit give direction.
It’s time to shorten my list, to forget about all the things that are not my thing and just walk in His plans for today.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10 NKJV