People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.
For those in the world of leadership, you can't escape the industry focus on having a 3-5 year plan all the time. Actually, having a plan figured out seems to be a trademark in all areas of life. People won't get married until they have all financial details worked out. Retirement planning commercials are everywhere on tv. Health plans and weight loss plans are available by the thousands on the internet. It's important to know what you want to do and what direction you want to go! The thing that matters is figuring out what you want to accomplish! And if you don't know where you're going, you'll never get anywhere, right?
There's plenty of good stuff in all that. We all try to know where we're heading and make good plans. Every time I get serious about a race, I follow a specific training plan. Bethany and I talk constantly about the best approaches to raise our kids. We think (hope?) we are doing things correctly (at least some of the time!). Knowing where we're headed and what needs to take place can be very helpful.
But the (often) shameful truth is that we don't always know where we're headed. We don't always have things figured out. We definitely don't always know how to get there. That's called being human, and it's healthy to admit. We are lying if we act like we have the answers for everything or a foolproof plan for the future. Just look at the past two years. Even when we think we know what's ahead, we don't actually know. A job fluctuates, depression hits hard, retirement doesn't bring as much fulfillment as hoped, children require so much of our time that we can't even begin to think about where God is leading us....
Maybe we can have confidence about what to make for tonight's dinner. But beyond that, we have no idea what tomorrow's plan is! Ever feel that way? Whether it's because you're in survival mode or because the last year and a half have left you feeling apathetic about nearly everything, we have seasons of life where direction and inspiration are nonexistent.
Within Christian culture, someone is often seen as spiritually immature if they don't have constant clarity of direction. Yet according to Jesus, what is most prized is not direction, but desire. God is constantly looking to see what is within the human heart. Is it selfishness? Is it arrogance? Or is it love? Is it mercy? Is it a desire to be faithful and to do what's right?
That's what God is concerned with. If our desire is to be faithful, then even when we get things wrong or don't know what to do, our hearts will be humble and true. And because of that, there will always be plenty of grace. We will not have everything figured out... our theology, our life plans, or our approaches to each unique situation. But if our hearts are postured toward Jesus, we can rest, knowing that even without clarity for what's ahead, God sees us and understands.
Here's what we see from Jesus:
Come and follow me.
I have come for those who know they need a doctor.
I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners.
The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
Seek first the kingdom of God...
Jesus wants us to move toward him and his kingdom, even though we'll do so imperfectly. The pressure is off.
Mature discipleship has honest, humble desire at the center point. Jesus wants to walk with you, not simply leave you alone after you've correctly answered all the questions. So I'm inviting you this morning to sit with this profound prayer from the late Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton. Take your time with it. May it inspire you to align your heart with God, even when the eyes cannot discern what's ahead, and the mind can't figure out every answer.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Jesus, I do desire.