For almost two months now, I have been working with new colleagues and endeavouring to understand their abilities and hopefully, they have been learning about my strengths. It has proven difficult at times as we have each struggled to adapt to our role within the software development project. How much faith and trust do we put in another's abilities or do we keep checking to see whether they are doing what we asked and in the way that we wanted?
I used to have a boss, who I said I trusted not to do what was right for the department. That was a negative trust. If someone worked for me and I had that kind of trust then I would be suggesting that he looks at working somewhere else.
This process of learning to fit into an organisation and to trust my colleagues in a positive way has made me rethink what it means to trust God. Our colleagues don't necessarily do things the way that we expect. Sometimes what they do seems to be totally wrong but unless we want to do everything ourselves, we have to learn to trust them and focus on the things that we need to get done. Likewise God isn't going to operate in the way that we expect but if we don't trust Him, we will never understand what He has planned for us.
In Jeremiah 29:11, God said through Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” It certainly didn't look that way. Israel was going into exile in Babylon. The promised land seemed to being taken away from Israel. The question becomes are the plans that we have for ourselves the same plan that God has for us?
Through this adapting to a new work environment and new work colleagues, I have tended to reflect on how I might respond to those with who I am having difficulty. I form big elaborate strategies and then find when it comes time to carry them through that they no longer apply. Even this week leading up to this Christmas break, I was thinking that I needed to tell someone something only to discover that when we did meet that none of those things seemed important any more. I planned my responses but never allowed God to lead me in those situations. In effect, I didn't trust Him to lead me through even though we are confident that I am in this job because He put me here (but that is another story).
Last weekend, we listened to an Elvis Gospel CD. One of the tracks on that CD has been reccurring in my thoughts. “Lead me O Lord, won't you lead me. Lead me, guide me along the way. For if you lead me, I can not stray. Lord just open my eyes that I may see. Lead me, O Lord, won't you lead me.” This sounds a great prayer but... !!! The theology doesn't make sense to me any more. Do I really believe that God doesn't seek to lead me? Maybe the words of this song should be “Lead me, O Lord, yes, you lead me, yes, you lead me and guide me along the way. If I opened my eyes then I would not stray.”
Why do I have a problem with the theology? It assumes that we have to plead with God for Him to lead us. It assumes that this isn't something that He already wants to do and is trying to do. Remember, He knows the plans that He has for us. I have begun to see that when I pray for what God already is doing or wants to do in a way that asks Him to do it then I am breaking His heart, I am not trusting Him to live up to His promises. We have to learn to trust Him and act on that trust.
There is another song that we used to sing with youth groups. Its words went something like this: “Change my heart, O God, make it ever new.” “Make me more like you.” I can now see God responding “I'm trying, but you resist” or “Yes, I will but I don't think that you may like it.” The problem isn't that God isn't working to change us or lead us. The problem is that we have already decided where God should be leading us and what he should be changing us to. When it doesn't happen as we expect, we plead with God to lead us, guide us, and change us. Where is our trust that God is doing what he has promised and that he will make us what he wants us to be if we will let him.
As I write this, we are celebrating Christmas Day in New Zealand. A day on which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. As I have reflected on this issue of trust and God leading as he has promised, I have also thought about the number of times when I have been asked why God doesn't reveal himself to us. The thing is that He did and those who should have recognised Him rejected Him. Barclay in his commentary on the shepherds coming to see the infant Jesus (Luke 2:8-20) relates an interesting story. He describes a “European monarch who worried his court by often disappearing and walking incognito amongst his people. When he was asked not to do so for security's sake, he answered, “I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live.” (Barclay 1975). The monarch knew the importance of identifying with his people in their daily struggles. Being locked away in a palace didn't help him understand the struggles that they go through each day.
God in Jesus walked humbly amongst us. He shared in our struggles and understood our temptations. Each day he continues to walk with people who have learnt to hear his voice and acknowledge his leadership in their lives. He seeks a relationship with us. Instead of praying for God to make himself known to us or to walk with us, we need to learn to thank him for making himself known and walking with us each and every day. The transformation of theology makes a big difference.
As you read this my challenge to you is to look at your day and consider where you allowed God to lead and where you shut him out. Thank Him for doing as He has promised and apologise for when you have closed the door and locked him out.
Barclay, W. (1975). The gospel of Luke (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrews Press.