Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Directionally Challenged

He leadeth me beside the still waters (Psalm 23:2).

I love Microsoft Outlook. Maybe it’s because it fosters the illusion that I really can manage my own life. Maybe it’s because of the rectangular boxes that neatly contain each hour of the day. Perhaps it’s the fact that I can click on a button near the top of my screen and Outlook will show me my entire work week at a glance.

Take today for example: an 8:30 a.m. meeting followed by an open morning that will (hopefully) allow me to write Tuesday’s devotional reflection. Then a lunch appointment and an afternoon meeting to review and proof-read an early draft of the Sunday worship bulletin. Assuming I made some decent progress on the devotional earlier in the day, I’d like to get to the gym late in the afternoon.

Yes, I do love Microsoft Outlook. It’s all right there: God’s will for my life arranged vertically.

There is one thing, however, that Outlook does not do for me and never has been able to do. It does not stop me from praying for guidance. The crisp neat boxes for every hour and the easy access to a week of plans and appointments do not relieve me of the sense that I need some kind of direction from beyond myself. I pray for guidance all the time. Maybe you do too.

We carefully schedule the meetings that we must attend in order to do our jobs well. But perhaps deep down we’re sensing the need for some guidance when it comes to the direction of our vocation. “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?”

We make plans to go out on the weekend, but we crave guidance when it comes to the relationships we’re forming. Maybe one particular relationship requires so much energy. “Is this what it takes to be close to someone? Am I investing too much energy in something that isn’t right?”

Whether you use Outlook or a plain old-fashioned monthly calendar that hangs on your kitchen wall, you can have plenty of plans but still feel the need for guidance. Sometimes guidance has to do with the daily decisions we make. Just as often, guidance has to do with the direction of our life.

Guidance is what we pray for when we’re trying to see the connections between what we do with our days and what our days are doing with us. We may be good with plans, but directionally challenged. The good news: God is patient and merciful to the directionally challenged.

The Psalms remind us repeatedly that God loves to give guidance. God leads us beside still waters (Psalm 23). God guides us with his counsel (Psalm 73:24). God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). God will be our guide to the end (Psalm 48:14).

This week we’ll spend a few days thinking and praying about God’s guidance. Even if you’re at a place in life where you’ve got your bearings and you know where you’re headed, God’s guidance is something we need constantly. Maybe you need to be reminded to seek it. Maybe you’ve been seeking it desperately for some time. Either way, these prayers can be prayed with confidence. God is a faithful guide.

Where do you need guidance today?

“He leadeth me: O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught! What e’re I do, where e’re I be, still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me. He leadeth me, he leadeth, by his own hand he leadeth me. His faithful follower I would be, for by his hand he leadeth me” (He Leadeth Me, The Hymnal, 338).

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