I have been giving a lot of consideration to the question of what I am supposed to be doing. One of the questions is what am I to build and another is where should it be located. We are all called to work in a certain location. It is the place where we are called to put down foundations and build. Another way of putting it is where have we been planted and where is the right place for us to grow.
Part of the idea behind the way I see things is the instruction Jesus gave His disciples about the where they were to spread their message. They were to start in Jerusalem then go on to Samaria and then out to the whole world.
There have been two times in my life so far when the circumstances were such I could go and live anywhere that I wanted to do I had no job to go to. No home to sell. These were times when change was in the air and I could literally go and do anything that I wanted.
I tackled each of these situations quite differently and learnt different things from them. One of these occasions was when I finished school and it was time to go somewhere to do a degree. The other time was when my marriage ended.
How a teenager chose her new location?
I can remember being in the VIth form common room looking at the reference books left there to help us decide what to do after we left school. I knew what I wanted to do so it was easy to work out which book to look in. That was the easy bit as there were pages and pages of choices. Where do I start? I could literally go anywhere in the UK.
Where I did start was prayer. I was a baby Christian at the time and not in a very good place to grow either. Somehow I managed to work out how to ask for help. The next time I looked through the book one place shone out to me. I cannot quite explain it but one page somehow seemed to be brighter than the rest.
When I looked at that page that institution seemed to offer everything that I needed. That settled it. That was where I was going. Everyone was surprised at my choice. The teachers were surprised that I could go to that city because they thought that I would need to get so much higher results than they predicted that I would get. My results were good enough and I was accepted. Off I went to the other end of the country. Miles away from friends and family to start a new life.
The consequences of that choice
I don’t do things the way everyone else does. Most young people come to the end of their time at university and can up sticks and move anywhere that they like. I spent four years working towards a degree. By the time I had finished I had been married two years, had a permanent home in the area and a baby on the way. I was not going anywhere.
The only way that I could leave the area was on my own. My husband struggled to settle outside the village where he was brought up. He did not even settle a few miles away. The only way I could leave the area was to leave him as he was not going anywhere.
Change has to come whether I want it or not
The time came when in response to my scream to get unstuck so that I could serve Him better that God organised a divorce for me. I had fought the idea for years. Despite this the time came when I was so sick of being held captive and unable to serve God very well that something had to happen. Hence I screamed out for help, literally.
I did not want a divorce but I got one. I did not want to change my job but that disappeared as well due to changes beyond my control. I was not keen on leaving my home but the former marital home became his home and I had to find somewhere else. I could go anywhere I wanted in the world but I decided that I would stay in that area. I restricted my search for a new home to that area. I did not ask God where He wanted me to settle because I thought I knew where I should be.
I was free or was I? Ever heard of the idea that it only took a short time for God to organise it for the Hebrews to leave Egypt but that it took many times longer, forty years eve, to get Egypt out of the Hebrews. The wilderness was a time of learning a new way of life.
Living in captivity is a very different experience to living in freedom. For one thing you get to make the choices. I was free or was I? Years of experience in one area left me feeling that I had to stay there to serve God. I had knowledge and insight that would be wasted if I moved. Then there were the comments of my ex. You won’t be able to survive round here on your own, you will up sticks and go. The one thing that I did not want to do was what he said I would do. I was not free was I?
God sometimes forces us into the right place
One thing I have noticed is that if we are held captive by circumstances God allows the same thing to happen to us as He did with the Hebrews. Remember that they were supposed to make bricks without straw. There are also ways in which He can arrange circumstances until we squeal for help.
This time when I needed to move to a new Jerusalem this is what He had to do. All sorts of things happened. I had a fall at home and ended up struggling to drive for a while. Driving was a lifeline if I could not do that how would I cope on my own. It did not help that every time I tried to walk into my calling a barrier went up. It was a case of walk this way and discover a barrier so change direction and find another barrier.
I was getting increasingly unhappy. I was surviving and not thriving. At the same time I was being pulled in another direction. Going that direction meant ignoring the reasons I had for staying where I was. The only way out of that situation was to chose to move out of it.
The thing is that we have free will choice. Yes God does do things that discourage us from staying in place. He also does things that encourage us to go somewhere else. However, the choice to move is ours. We can stay where we are if we want to. We can work with God to move where He wants us if we want to. The choice is ours.
It represents the place where we are closest to God. It is the place where what we do for Him is at its most effective. It is the place where God comes to visit us and share with us. The place where He wants us to be. It is the place where we are at peace because we are in the right place for us. It is the place where our strength is built up so that when the time comes to move on we will be better able to do so.
Jerusalem is also the place where you wish you had moved to long before. The place where if you had moved to you would have saved yourself a lot of heartache and tribulation. There were a number of occasions when I could have left captivity and gone to my Jerusalem.
I look back now with regret at these lost opportunities and wonder what would have happened if I had taken them. I can see the hand of God’s adversary holding me in captivity for decade after decade. I accepted the situation and did not try to escape. I even thought it was wrong to escape.
How does this experience change the way I see things?
When I see people who are told that they need to be content with difficult circumstances my blood boils. They say with God’s help we will come through this. That is true but I have another question. Is there something that you could or should be doing that will make it possible to leave that situation behind and move to the situation that God wants you to experience? That leads to other questions including what does God want you to experience and what do you need to do to change things so that you have that experience.
I have been around the block long enough to know that there are times when those you would expect to be able to give you good advice don’t know enough or have enough experience to give you good advice. No one person can stand in God’s place and tell you what God wants you to have and how you are going to get there. If they could they would be God and not human.
It is up to us to chase after God for ourselves. There were times when I took advice that only made my situation worse. I thought that these were people who knew enough to help me but it was duff advice. Yes there were situations where that would have been good advice but I was not in those situations. The advice we are given has to match our situation if it is going to work for us.
I was told that I had to learn to accept the situation. I was supposed to stay even though life was intolerable. The problem with doing this is that we lose the opportunity to change the situation. It is as if we are told that it is right to be in it and trying to change it is wrong. How do you move forwards if you are told to stand still and let things happen to you? (Now do you see why my blood boils when I see people saying learn to be content rather than learn how to change things?)
I know now that holding onto wrong beliefs prevented me from being where God wanted me to be, i.e. with Him in my Jerusalem. The radical answer – Let go and let God. Yes sometimes we have to let go of the things that you have been taught by people who meant well and were using scripture as a basis of their ideas. These things are often right in other times, places and situations but do not apply to us and where we are right now. When we rub out all our preconceived ideas and start with a blank sheet we can let God teach us what He really wants to understand and use that as the basis of our actions. If we do what God says is right for us rather than what men say is right for us then we will be free to seek out our own Jerusalem.
P.S. Why do you think that the bible says that teachers have such a responsible position in the church? They are the ones who help people find their Jerusalem and if they get it wrong they take the consequences. Ouch!