For the first time in a long season of living in “the between land” we feel like we have more answers than questions. In reality, that is probably not the case… we still don’t know how we will make a living this fall, or even necessarily where we might be living. We don’t know what my ministry role at Living Hope Church will look like exactly. We don’t know how my schedule will work balancing work and ministry and family and study.
But we know this: God is saying GO.
I LOVE THESE DAYS! When God speaks and His will seems so clear… I love knowing that I’m heading toward a pillar in our family history. We all have pinnacle moments in our life story. They are the moments that set direction and bookmark the seasons in our life. The game-changing decisions and circumstances that reset trajectory. Things like: where should I attend college? What is my major? Should I take this job? Is she the ONE? We’re having a baby! Am I going to make this marriage work? Should we buy this house? It’s time to home-school. Are we going to adopt? Is it time to go back to school? Game changers.
In the last few weeks we have heard God’s voice. Not literally, but it could just as well be. There is a clarity to this call that is remarkable, and it has had me thinking… the truth is, for almost every new chapter in my life – the ones marked by those game-changing pillar decisions – Amy and I have had a sense that there really was almost no decision to be made. God said GO THIS WAY. And we have. Our course has been charted for us.
But how do we KNOW? Honestly. Before these key, life-changing decisions are made there is often a season of uncertainty, concern, and painful ambiguity. Gridlock. Sometimes even fear. Are you there right now? Some of you must be. No one gets a free pass in this life. No one gets to coast, continually carefree, with the future road map laid out clearly before us. We all hit intersections and turns in the road. Sometimes a T. Sometimes a dead end. So how do we know where to go? Even with many significant questions unanswered, how can we be so sure that Seminary is the next chapter for us?
Here are some of my principal indicators. When it comes to the game-changers, here is a peek at the grid I filter decisions through:
(1) What does the Bible say? The Bible is my gold standard. I believe it is not only God’s perfect Word to us, but that it is living and active. The Holy Spirit breathes and whispers (and sometimes shouts) through the Word of God, and it is my authority and my guidebook for life. So my first question in making a life-changing decision is always, “How does this square with Scripture?” Paul writes that anyone that desires to be an “ejpiskoph'” desires an honorable position (1 Tim. 3:1). As used in the New Testament, “ejpiskoph” refers to those who bear the responsibility of spiritual oversight, shepherding, and watchfulness over the believers in a local church. In other words, a Pastor in a local congregation. Does that passage mean that God is specifically calling ME to be a Pastor? No. But it does affirm the fact that it is honorable – worth pursuing – if we sense a desire to follow that calling.
(2) What do you really want to do? And this is not at all as flippant as it sounds. When I was fresh out of high school, trying to decide what career path to take, I consulted a pastor whom I trusted. He led me to Psalm 37:4… “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” As I’ve written about before, this passage doesn’t mean God will magically grant you whatever your heart desires. Rather, it means if you live in such a way as to DELIGHT in God, and stay in close relationship with Him, eager to please Him and follow His lead, then God will actually place into your heart the DESIRES THEMSELVES which will guide you according to His will. IS that not the most AWESOME news ever?! We get to enjoy a deeply satisfying pursuit of God’s favor, and then we do what we want to do, so to speak… I’ve been asking Him, “Lord, make me want what you want, because I want to live this one life YOUR way.” And you know what? I want to go to Seminary. Deeply. Madly. Passionately. Prayer has been answered.
(3) Listen to your wife. Maybe this should be number one. Well, OK, to be fair, The Bible and God’s guiding will are hard to top. But the point is this: Amy and I are ONE. We move together. She is bound to me, and I to her. Without a clear, unambiguous affirmation from her, I don’t make game-changing decisions. Ever. And in this case, I think Amy may actually be more excited about Seminary this Fall than I am. And that’s hard to imagine. But she has said yes, yes, a thousand times yes, in a hundred different ways. What my wife thinks matters. A lot.
(4) Listen to wise counsel. In this case, what my parents had to say carried a lot of weight. And my father-in-law, who is a pastor and professor at the Seminary I’ll be attending this Fall, gave me a good deal of encouragement, as well. My Pastor now at Living Hope said, “Do it. You’d make a great Pastor.” I had breakfast with a close friend and fellow kingdom artist whom I love like a brother. Again, affirmation and wise counsel. These are men (with the exception of my mom, of course) whom I trust, because I have seen the Holy Spirit’s authority in their lives. I trust their discernment. And with a unified voice, I heard them say “GO.” In my book, that is a LOUD voice.
(5) Pay attention to the doors. No, I’m not calling upon the sage wisdom of Jim Morrison or his drug-addled cohort for guidance here. But there is truth in the metaphor… Sometimes doors close. Sometimes doors open. In my case, there were some closed doors in my path telling me that the status quo is no longer an option. The path IS changing course. So I looked for the open door with the flashing light and the “this way” sign. Seminary. I’ve always wanted to study like this. I’ve always believed that seminary was a likely possibility, but I’ve been fully engaged in deeply satisfying full-time ministry for more than 15 years. I didn’t feel a clear call to STOP doing ministry in order to pursue Seminary. But doors close, and others open. I pay attention to those moments.
(6) Do other people in your life affirm this decision? We have floated the idea of Seminary to our friends through face to face conversations, Twitter and Facebook, blog pages, and phone calls. In every case so far, we have heard confirmation that this seems right. No one is pulling me aside with grave concerns. No one is asking me to reconsider – to step back and look at it another way. Our friends have said YES. GO. God often confirms His will through the unified voice of His people. In this case, what our friends and family have to say matters much. And there are times to listen to God’s voice and chart a course even when many skeptics think you’re crazy. But in this, we have enjoyed MUCH affirmation. Unified agreement. GO.
(7) The inner call and the outer call. This will apply most specifically to ministry decisions, but the idea is this… In order to move forward into a new ministry role, we listen for both an inner call (do I feel led to this ministry?) and an outer call (are there leaders in authority over me inviting me into this ministry role as well?). I have a clear inner call to become a Pastor through Seminary training. But I can’t just walk into class on day one without the invitation of the School Board of Trustees and the Dean of the Seminary. Yesterday, Amy and I met with the Board of Trustees and some of the Seminary Faculty. We discussed our spiritual life, our family, our spiritual goals and disciplines, our “inner call” to Seminary, and a handful of other bullet points. Last night at 7:05, Pastor Monseth, Dean of the Seminary called us up and extended the “outer call.” Further confirmation. The next chapter.
(8) Are you at peace? At some point you have to make a move. Turn and go. After taking a step in that game-changing direction, are you sleeping well at night? When I think about Seminary this Fall, I breathe deeply and smile. The Holy Spirit isn’t nudging me to discomfort. I’m not tangled up in my head. This feels right. The Spirit is confirming His will for me through unexplainable peace, even though there are huge question marks along the way. Sometimes, when you don’t know everything, you must choose to be obedient in what you DO know. The rest is details. And God is both HUGE and my advocate. What do I have to fear?
So there’s a look into the psyche and future of the Skogerboe family. The next chapter.
For my dear friends at Living Hope, I want you to know that we plan to be around for the next few years. On June 6 at our congregational meeting, we’ll fill you in on more of the details. I’ll be meeting and talking more with the Elders between then and now. And on the 6th we can talk all about it. In the mean time, if you are a Living Hoper, please click here for a brief note written specifically to you.
So we’re taking a leap. And we’re wildly excited. Please keep us in your prayers in this next season of life. May God be glorified in us!
This work by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License