I arrived late, which for me meant that I was 15 minutes early. In years past I would have gotten to this event about an hour before people started to arrive as I used to be the host. CLC’s annual VBS (Vacation Bible School) workshop is an event that I had inaugurated and implemented for many years when I was in charge of CLC’s retail stores. This year, I was invited to attend and say a few words, but I had no organizational responsibility. It felt very freeing but also a little weird. I had handed off the baton and was now watching others run this particular race.
So often in life, it is easy to get stuck in one gear, in one season and find it very difficult to move on. We spend a lot of time getting a certain job or raising kids or learning a new task and then things change. It is time for us to retire or find a new job, the kids grow up and we have mastered the task that took us so long to learn. Because we all enjoy stability and being good at something, when we are called to do something new, we can become unbalanced and irritable. Some of us actually begin to struggle spiritually and ask God why things have to change at all.
Rather than expect things to stay the same, I have found it very helpful to plan for change, to anticipate a new move of God in my life and to keep my eyes focused on the road ahead. At this time of the year in Pennsylvania, we have a major problem – huge gaping potholes. I find myself doing the same thing over and over again – complaining about the hole I just hit or maybe narrowly missed and not keeping my eyes looking at what is coming down the road. By doing that I seem to hit every pothole on that stretch of road and getting even angrier. If I would simply take the time to pick up my head, stop complaining and prepare for what is coming, I might not hit so many bumps in the road.
One way to prepare for the future is to realize when something needs to stop in your life. Has something worked its course and should really have been finished, but you keep working at it anyway? A few years ago, I was organizing the biggest event of our calendar year. It was an outdoor gospel music festival that attracted thousands of people and was a “keystone” event for our ministry. I had been privileged to be the founder of this event in 1999 and was excited about entering our 10th year. The year before, we had fireworks and this year, the mayor of Philadelphia was scheduled to attend. Despite this, right in the middle of our planning, a series of events took place that made it abundantly clear that this was likely to be our last year to be able to host this event. My first inclination was to fight this possibility tooth and nail and then I realized that this was actually God’s will and not a series of unfortunate circumstances. He had orchestrated things such that He had my attention and I could not ignore the facts or pretend things would just “work themselves out”. Instead, I made it clear to our team that we would celebrate this 10th year in a special way and embrace it as our last.
In holding on to the past or the present, we can actually prevent God’s best from taking place in our lives. He has new adventures for each and every one of us, but we need to be willing to listen what God is saying to us. Many of us need to follow the example of Paul in Philippians 3: 13 & 14 where he says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” It may not be easy, but it will definitely be fulfilling.
As I sat in the audience this past week, I had the distinct joy of watching others walk where I had trod and observing them navigate challenges I had already faced. To my delight, they chose different methods of overcoming obstacles and had added features to the event that I had not thought of. Who could resist attending an event sponsored in part by Chick-fil-A? In my new season of ministry, God is stretching me to pour into the lives of other leaders both inside CLC and among the many churches that we work with. I may not know what is around the corner, but I am “looking to the hills from whence cometh my strength” and expecting great things from God in the years ahead