I recently applied for a position that I believed had my name on it.
I did my homework, secured my references, tightened my resume and proceeded to a preliminary phone interview. I thought I felt the quiet support of God building under my efforts.
Then on a weekend morning when I had two funerals later in the day, I received an email response, essentially a "we are still looking" letter with a changed set of qualification criteria -- a heck of a way to start the day. Nonetheless, I had important appointments and the people I would serve needed my full attention.
I pulled myself together and enjoyed the experience of helping two different gatherings of people honor their beloved.
Early that evening when the events were over, I sort of let down emotionally. I had the opportunity to reflect on the disappointment and to carry on no small dialogue with God in my heart.
I have always found "God's will" to be the sticky wicket in my life of faith. I'm betting that most of you reading this would say the same.
One of my favorite writers, Julia Cameron, really nails it when she claims, "God's delay is not God's denial. "When our prayers are answered with 'not now,' " she continues, "we fear that they are being answered with 'not ever'."
Her words comprised my Saturday evening reflection. I was back and forth. Was it delay or denial? Was it not now or not ever? "C'mon God," I thought, "give it to me straight!"
Sunday afternoon I emailed a letter to my references, attaching the official response and thanking them for supporting me as I continue to risk living my vision. What came back from them was enough to bring tears to my eyes.
These professional friends proceeded to affirm not only my skills and vision but also my personhood. Their appraisals of the situation were realistic and forward-looking. Their responses to my status update actually gave me the impression that the potential employer had missed an opportunity in passing over my resume.
Once again, I had the occasion to learn something about faith.
Being willing to accept God's timing is no easy task. Cameron says, "faith is the key to accepting God's timing." True enough. Growing in faith is an ongoing experience for us all.
Given my work with so many suffering people, it often seems saccharin sweet for me to "believe that I am being cared for, very carefully." On the other hand, when I step back from the intensity of such moments, I have to acknowledge the truth of my experience: when I push God's will for my life I only exhaust myself and those closest to me. Stepping back also helps me see that I am not alone in my spiritual quest.
"Sometimes slowly, sometimes with insulting speed," said Cameron, "we can be ironically, gratefully aware of ourselves as partners in God's higher wisdom ... we find ourselves enrolled in a divine curriculum."
Ah yes, September. You can almost hear the school bell ring!
-- Kirk Ruehl is a clinical chaplain, an end-of-life educator and the founder of Conversation Academy, a consultant service aiding vital decision-making for families. He lives in Kennewick and attends Lord of Life Lutheran Church. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill at firstname.lastname@example.org.