Recently I have started listening to The Next Right Thing podcast by Emily P. Freeman. If you are not familiar with it, and are in need of a bit of margin, I would encourage you to make time for this short but very intentional and retreat-full podcast. Emily, the author of books on how to create margin and break hustle (I truly do hate that word), encourages us to take time to stop, breathe and look to the next right thing.
She has one episode that focuses on looking for arrows not answers. In it, she tells the story of how her husband went from a full time job in ministry to his current role at a nonprofit. It could be a straight line story – but it was not. Instead it was filled with a time of not searching, but listening. I’ll let Emily tell you more, but I walked away from that podcast realizing the need to stay in the present.
Emily speaks of how God gives us a faint vision of next steps long before we get to them. For me, the hope of the possibility fills me with anticipation, while the murkiness of the vision, the lack of timeline or a clear path, leads to frustration. When I look at the idea of something – going back to grad school, starting a coffee shop, being a paid writer, etc. I am overwhelmed with the questions around finances, timing, ability, etc. The limits I see can get in the way of what God is pointing me towards.
I was reading the story of Abraham last night. God told him to pack up his family and go to a land he did not know, for a promise that would be forthcoming Abraham went. He did not ask God about timing, distance, provision, how he would know when to stop, how long they would be nomads, etc. He just packed up everything he owned and went. For over thirty years Abraham trusted in the promise of God (to make his descendants as numerous as the stars) even though he and Sarah were childless.
Maybe I know too much. I love knowledge and am so curious about how things work and why. Maybe I am too linear, too systematic – which could be copouts for needing to know more than I really do. I rely on logic, timetables, complete plans. And yet, serve a God who often does not give us any of those things. When the gaps feel like canyons, I try to fill them in a bit – just enough to get to the other side. But what do I miss when I am busy making my own plans?
|image via Burst|
In another episode, Emily talks about letting her mind/imagination travel so far into the future that the next decision she needs to make now is lost in her imaginary past. I have a hard time putting together how something I want in the future fits into where I am now.
I have been hiking a lot recently to get ready for the Grand Canyon. There are often multiple ways to go in the woods. It would be easy to get lost or take a different trail when they intersect. But I’ve started to learn to look for trail markers. Bands of pink tied to a limb, or sometimes literal arrows nailed to the tree. So it is with life. So it is with next steps.
When you catch a glimpse of the future, be sure not to smother it with your own agenda. Let it breathe. Let it grow at a healthy pace. Admit it’s both delightful and terrifying. As you take your next right step today, trust that God won’t let you miss your own future.(Emily P. Freeman)
Amen and amen.