07 October 2012

The Distance Between Yes and No

The last time I did this I told myself I wouldn't do it again.

I have three distinct memories of deliberate disobedience: (My mom could list off about a hundred more, including the time I called her "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and bolted down the driveway. But I mean the kind of disobedience with potential to reroute your entire path.) Crying in the college career office, a counselor assuring me that the gloom lodged in my stomach might be the divine sign I'd been searching for. The "great opportunity" I accepted by saying yes when I meant no. The hand I deliberately held despite recurring and obvious premonitions.


After taking a career interest survey my senior year of high school, I sat down with the guidance counselor, who waved her pen above my chart like a magic wand. "Your top two interest areas are the arts and humanitarian services," she said, then added, "I would consider ruling out the arts, since there aren't many jobs available here in those kinds of fields." The pen swooped down to X out that part of the paper, a divining rod for my future.

It wasn't her fault, this intense fear of following my heart. (Her credibility rating as a counselor was low anyway, especially after the rumor that someone made her cry in class by insulting her shoes.) But her words sat atop a stack of excuses ten times as high as the stack of job-finder newspapers collecting in my bedroom. They joined writing isn't practical and you're not good enough and how could your desires possibly count as ministry and teaching is the best way to impact kids and you won't make any money and if society depended upon one profession to stay alive, they wouldn't vote for writers. I can't tag all the words back to their origins, the tangle of magazine articles, books, sermons, discussions I'd overheard. I only know that I believed them.

Now, "following your heart" is a phrase that gets a bad rap (not, thank goodness, "Ice Ice Baby"). It's deceitful and utterly wicked, that heart, and so it gets written off as untrustworthy, as inferior to logic. That flimsy, fluctuating heart, that derail-er of common sense. But I have tried to cut the heart out of decisions--dropped the unpredictable, beating thing to the side while I scratch out lists of pros and cons. I convince myself that God must be testing me, that he couldn't possibly ask me to do something I also want to do. I put my gifts, dreams, desires on one side of the page, X them out. Burn them as a sacrifice. Do whatever you want with these, Lord, except ask me to use them. Make me a better person by making me miserable. Like all those missionaries who don't want to go to China and end up in China. Send me to China if it makes you happy. And he responds with confirmation, from the lips of friends, from the pages of the Word, from the pens of writers: Shar, I did not come to bring you misery. You're adding it to yourself, expecting that I'll send you to China when I'm really just asking you to do what I've called you to do. These things you want to do--I've put them in you. And in refusing to follow your heart in this, you refuse to follow me. 

Perhaps it's why we're given a heart--the one thing we can't ignore. You can snap the Word shut, cover your ears so no wisdom gets in, but you can't ignore your own pulse. Call it your gut, a conscience, call it intuition, but I think they're all tied up together, these parts God uses to amplify his voice when we're committed to silencing it from any other source.

And the last time I disregarded the way my heart was being prompted, I told myself I wouldn't do it again. Those three disobediences are three of my heaviest regrets, my yeses that tasted bitter like nos. Yes to the security of paychecks and a title and wrinkle-free four-year plans; yes to a future that I can control. No to risk, to trust, to the conviction driving me breathless to the floor. In my most crucial decisions, I hate to admit, I trust fear more than I trust God.


Which is why I can't keep delaying this decision. I do not have a specific career plan charted out. I don't know where I'm going to live. I don't have any reasonable answers about my future. Everything about it is fog-colored, and for some reason, that is the only option that gives me any peace. I have eight months left in Spain, and this intent form is staring me in the face, daring me to check an option. There's "Lord willing, I plan to return for service at ECA." Then there's "I believe the Lord is opening other doors for me." To Spain or not to Spain. Yes or no.

How do I put words to it? I have no regrets about coming to Spain. I work with generous people in a magical school community, almost too good to be real. I am in love with my students. I have received even more confirmation that I should be working with teenagers until I drop dead. Still, I know this is not my forever place or even my forever vocation. I have prayed that my desires would be in line with God's, that he would reshape my desires to match his if this Spain life were meant to continue.

Instead, he's cracked open the door of this cage where I sit defeated and tired on the floor. He reaches in; I shudder at the feeling of being held. I back away like a broken little bird, terrified that these giant hands will set me down somewhere new and cold, alone. He whispers, "Would you like to come with me?" I know that sound; I have spent years trying to block it out. And I'm sick of leading myself in circles. It's time to follow instead this still small voice that stirs my heart. But how do I tell the kids I adore I won't be back to teach them? How do I tell their parents? How do I close up this unique chapter of my life?

I have contemplated every possible way to word it, from "my commitment was only for two years" to "I'm not made for the classroom," but in the end, the truest truth is simple:

I have spent my entire life choosing what's safest over what's best. It is time to say no so that I can, finally, tell him yes.


Jamie said...

This is amazing writing Shar, and it voices many battles I've also had with my heart. I'll be praying for you as you step out and walk in faith with our Father! Love you!

Natasha said...

I think the most fitting comment I can give to this is, "Mmmm, mmmm good!" Thank you so much for your honesty, Shar! It is so good to know how you're doing and how God is working in you.

sharbear said...

Thank you, Jamie and Tasha! I am grateful for friends who pray over the things I'm not even sure how to pray for myself. Lots of love to you.