Over the past month, I have had conversations with loved ones regarding their God-given assignment as they understood it to be. Many were confident in what God told them to do and were eager to follow through with uncompromising obedience. But along the way, they backtrack. The assignment they accepted joyfully has now proven to be too much and as confidently as they accepted the call, they are also confident that it is God's will for them to now step aside.
So what happened? Did God change His mind? Did they hear Him wrong? How could God call them to an assignment and now tell them to abandon it?
The questions usually come from outsiders because those in the journey have made their own peace with the process before they announce their plans. It can be tough to retrace one's steps and leave a path that we were so sure was ordained by God. God is not schizophrenic so why does it seem like His plans for our lives never follow a straight, predictable line?
I still do not have those answers but I have a few suppositions. God who knows the end from the beginning surely knew that Plan A would not pan out when He told us "yes, go this way." I suspect that our Heavenly Father who already knows us so well wants to open our eyes to the true state of our heart, our abilities, our motives and even our commitment to Him. We always think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, even when scripture admonishes us otherwise. God sees the desires of my heart before even I know that they are in there. There are times that God allows me to have what I believe is best just so He could show me that His way is better. There are other times when the journey I undertake is infinitely more valuable than the destination I had in mind. The journey to the promise land taught the children of Israel of old the depth of God's hatred for idolatry. The forty day turned forty year journey showed them that the God of Heaven was and is Jehovah Jireh, their provider. God's people learned that God was and is serious about obedience and He is no respecter of person when it comes to His commandments - Moses, whom many would have deemed "God's favorite" could not even enter the Promise Land because of his disobedience in one fleeting moment of anger.
Many who heard that the Lord was liberating His people from their bondage in Egypt would have reason to wonder if God really said YES, given their experiences and hardships in the wilderness. But one of the best ways to turn a YES on its head is to obey God in the beginning and then begin to follow our own way in the journey. When God gives us a YES at the beginning of a journey, His desire and expectation is that we continue to listen for His voice that says "go this way" or "go that way." But many of us get the first portion of our marching orders and then tell God "okay, I got it from here." We lose that moment to moment dependence that marked our journey while we were still waiting on Him to say "yes, no, or wait." We get confident in our ability to "hear God" and take His presence for granted. Sometimes even when we are on the right path, we begin to employ tools that God never commissioned as part of our process. And then when it all falls to pieces, we conclude that God has changed His mind and now wants us to go in a different direction.
Suppose God gave me His green light to enter into a courtship and that relationship fails and does not end in marriage. Should I conclude that God set me up for failure or that I heard wrong? I know that God is good and only does good so I know He would not willingly bring me to heartbreak just for the fun of it. So what was the point? One of the best quotes I ever heard about courtship says that "a successful courtship is not one that necessarily leads to marriage but one that leads me deeper into Christ." So, if the courtship was a desire of my heart but God knew that I have blinders on regarding what I actually need and should desire in marriage and from a partner, a failed courtship is a painfully clear way to bring that lesson home. If I refuse to learn from godly counselors or even from the word of God, then heartbreak becomes my necessary teacher. In that scenario, the journey was much more valuable than the destination.
Sometimes God says YES to the journey even when He has a different destination in mind than the one we suppose. Other times God says YES to the assignment before us and we mismanage the process by taking it out of His hands. Whatever the reason, whether our own failings, a lack of continued obedience or even an innocent presupposition of what we THINK the journey is suppose to look like, there are times when God gives us a YES and redirects us anyway after the journey has already began.
The best thing we can do is listen for God's voice without assumption about what He should do next. When God says YES to the journey, listen for His YES concerning every aspect of that journey as well. Don't assume to know the path ahead because God pointed you in the direction in which you should begin. Continue to listen for His voice. Continue to depend on Him for every aspect of the way forward and you will not miss your way.
The journey is part and parcel of your identity, perhaps even more than the destination.