On this journey of following Jesus, I have come to appreciate and understand more fully the verse- “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). As a planner, I have always mapped out (at least in my mind) the direction my life will take, trying to leave room for God to determine whether my ways are his ways. There have been a few key moments in my life when the Holy Spirit has gently taken control, lovingly but firmly showing He has the ultimate plan.
The first time this clearly happened, was when at 17 years young, a slightly rebellious, red-headed guy blazed into my life (or actually onto MSN) challenging me to authentically love Jesus and follow where Jesus lead me, rather than trying (through my own strength) to keep up appearances and feed my approval addiction. This guy through song and persistence ended up wooing me to firstly go to the Year 12 Formal with him, then date him and then marry him. I remember before saying ‘yes’ to his Formal invitation, I went outside with my Bible and prayed deeply. I couldn’t see the path ahead and so a picture came to my mind- that of a person, jumping blindfolded into the unknown, hanging on for dear life, trusting that God had it. 13 years of marriage later, I am so thankful that God knows more than I do.
Fast-forward 5 years and God once again hijacked my five-year plan. This time, I was sitting in the lounge room of our renovated home, watching a movie and having a cup of tea; when Dave walked in and said, “Em, I’ve been thinking about it and I feel God may be telling us to be open to having children.” I distinctly remember feeling a bit like a deer caught in headlights: “No.” was my clear response.
On my five year plan, I had designed for us to pay off more of our house, head to Europe for a holiday to see the galleries and art that I had studied at uni and simply enjoy being young, married and financially unburdened. Over the course of that weekend, as I wrestled with the Holy Spirit, I recognised that my will needed to be brought into line, obediently submitting to God’s course for my life. 9 months later, in the midst of a literal flood, our daughter Imogen was born.
Part way through 2018, my phone pinged. Onto the screen came a message from a previous Pastor we had, asking if Dave could give him a call about the possibility of moving to pastor a church. While we struggled with the thought of uprooting our lives (particularly when our middle child Gideon was about to start Kindergarten), as well as the practicalities of Dave changing career, we recognised our need to be open to God’s leading in our lives. With some relief, just before Christmas we found out this opportunity had closed due to the position no longer being available.
Yet as God would have it, this had opened our hearts and minds to the possibility of entering ministry. On Christmas Day, Dave preached at Ballina Baptist Church, an elderly church about 18 minutes from where we live. After the service, a lady from the church came up to Dave and asked if he was aware they were currently shortlisting candidates for an Associate Pastor position they had going and asked if he had considered applying. As we prayed and then applied, we once again saw God’s hand at work, gently leading and guiding us. The future was unknown, however we wanted to obediently follow in case this was God calling us to a different way of serving him.
I have now been a Pastor’s wife for 8 Sundays. I am regularly reminded of my need to submit my plans to God and seek his guidance. We are learning lots, however as I stop to reflect, I notice that God has been preparing us for this all along. As I journey with the Saviour, I can rest assured that while I may feel like a person jumping of a rock blindfolded into the unknown, I actually have a solid and firm foundation. That foundation is my Saviour, Jesus Christ.
As Paul wrote in one of my favourite books of the Bible, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). What is this life, if we don’t use it for what we are called- namely Christ? At the end of my life, I want to stand before God and know that I haven’t wasted the life he gave me, that I haven’t held so tightly to my 5 year plans that I was disobedient to his leading. As John Piper once wrote, “God seldom calls us for an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of His sustaining grace.” (Don’t Waste Your Life, 2003). May we each take the opportunity today to drink more deeply of His grace, knowing that while sometimes the bumps or turns seem unexpected to us- He has got this.
Please pray for Dave and I as we minister and love the people of Ballina Baptist Church. May God be glorified as we deepen our satisfaction of him and obedience to him, recognising that He will establish our steps.