I grew up surrounded by Jesus stuff and church people. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about God. I went to church every Sunday and went to Bible classes and chapel services during the week at the Christian school I attended; it even seemed like all my extra-curricular activities were somehow connected to church.
For the most part, I loved it. At church, I felt most myself and most at home— so anytime they opened their doors, I was there. But eventually my feelings changed. I became uncomfortable with the fact that my life was firmly entrenched in what we were calling the “Christian Bubble.” I wondered if my life direction had been up to me to decide—or if I was merely the product of my environment. Would I still be following Jesus if I had been born in a different place or had been raised differently? Had any part of my life, surrounded by Jesus stuff and church people, ever been my choice? Or had I ended up where I was because that religious life just happened to me?
At a crucial moment, I read Jesus’ words to his disciples: “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). In that moment, I realized that it didn’t matter how I ended up where I was. It really didn’t matter if it was my choice or not. God had already chosen me—regardless of anything else that had happened. I was already chosen, and it was my privilege to choose God back. So that’s what I was going to do, spend the rest of my life choosing God back.
As I’ve kept choosing God back, I’ve been able to see other ways that God keeps on choosing me too. That’s the good news about having a relationship with God—we’re both choosing each other. But, as in any relationship, choosing each other sometimes means your old life gets turned upside down…
A few years ago I thought I knew exactly where my life was going—I knew what I wanted and I was busy making it happen. Grad school, career, checking it all off the checklist. As my “Life Plan” was falling into place, it felt like God pulled on the one loose thread that unraveled the whole thing.
But in that season, devastated and feeling I had lost everything I had worked for, I also felt God saying to me: “You’ve been chasing after all these things that you have chosen—but did you ever stop to think about what I have chosen for you? What I chose you for?” (silent, blank stare) Uhhh… Nope. Honestly, I couldn’t remember the last time I had prayed asking about what God wanted for me. I’d been spending all my breath asking God to give me what I had already decided was best for me. Could it be that the God who created me—and the entire universe besides—knew better about the best thing for me than I did? Yes, I think so. How did I miss that?
It turns out, the most gracious thing God could have done for me was to let me fail at what I was chasing. Once God had my attention, he could start showing me all the ways he had built me for a purpose, all the ways he had put hopes and dreams and talents and passions in me, all the ways he had been molding and shaping me for exactly this thing at this time. And I almost missed it because I was chasing other things. Thanks be to God for failure. That’s unnoticed grace.
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