One lesson I have learned over the course of time is to always pray about why I hear certain conversations; when I speak with people, I don’t always understand the purpose behind our conversation, but I want to stay keen to the voice of God. Sometimes the “why” reveals itself later, much later when I have almost forgotten what was said, but then there are those times when you take in each word of the other person’s dialogue, knowing that you are breathing in a Ramah Word that will change your life.
Several months ago, I found myself at the end of a class speaking with one of my adult students. She was so excited about returning to school, and she took the time to share her testimony with me. As an aside, I find it intriguing, for lack of a better word, that I am actually paid to teach adult students how to acquaint themselves to the academic environment. In truth, I often feel as if I am learning as much from them.
So as I said, I was listening to my student go on and on about her new-found enthusiasm for college. Like most of my students, a choice was made–either she made it or life made it for her–to not attend college at a traditional age, and now she is having to balance a number of life roles in trying to return. Like most of my students, she has had hits and misses with this school, that certification, etc. But, like most of my students, she is here and thrilled to be at this juncture of her journey. She began to describe the various stops and starts in her journey as moving through neighborhoods versus moving through the freeways. Rather than repeat her conversation, I’d love to share what I heard.
When God gives a vision, one of the hardest places to be is at the point of not seeing it materialize immediately. An even harder place to be is when you are seemingly moving away from the vision rather than toward it, regardless of your efforts. You are in the neighborhood, if I might use my student’s analogy, and it can be a slow and frustrating place to exist. The neighborhood is the same day-to-day, without much change at all. Whether you are in business, ministry, or a new job role or new personal role, when the Lord gives vision, the neighborhood almost seems like a test from the enemy.
Yet, there is much value in the neighborhood, and the neighborhood is necessary for us to grow. We meet people in the neighborhood; we build relationships in the neighborhood. Moreover, as we wait for elevation, we hone our craft in the neighborhood, getting better, gaining wisdom, and growing keener to the Holy Spirit. Realize also that people come and go in the neighborhood, and not everyone that you meet will be a lifelong friend, but that person’s purpose is vital in your life in that season. I remember when I started my business, I was nowhere near as technologically savvy as I needed to be (indeed, I still could use improvement in that area). I had little money (I could still use improvement in that area, too–lol), and was trying to figure out how I might scrimp and save for the hundreds and thousands that a website designer might cost. I still stand astonished at the young lady who came into my life via a Yahoo loop in which we were both members. She was an accomplished publisher and had no reason to take interest in me, but she saw value in my products, and chatted with me offline about websites and designs and strategies. Weeks later, I had my website. Funny, I tried to contact her later, thinking that I might form a long-lasting relationship. She rarely, if ever, returned my “how have you been”-type e-mails. That’s the thing about the neighborhood; people move on. Yet, for that brief moment, she was close enough to help me propel the business to the next step.
The neighborhood, however, has a season. There are also occasions when the Lord wants you to drive the freeway. The freeway moves fast–so fast that, at times, your head spins. I have had those seasons as well professionally. 2012 was an entire year spent on the freeway (after several years in the neighborhood). I met people whose books I had bought, whose names were well known in the field, and before I knew it, the family was packed up in the car traveling for interviews, speaking engagements, and a host of other opportunities. In fact, I am still having freeway moments based upon the work that was begun on last year. Had I found my way on the freeway earlier in the journey, I would not have been prepared, nor would I have appreciated those opportunities as they presented themselves. Psalm 1 tells us that ‘That person[who does not stand in the path of sinners…and meditates on the Lord day and night] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season (vs. 1-3)’ Our mistake sometimes is that we want to pick fruit too soon.
The freeway, in all its splendor, can be exhausting! Do you know what else? The freeway is seductive; it is so easy to do as David did and stop to take a census, i.e., to rest on your laurels, such that you lose focus and drive. I believe that once we fall into the enemy’s trap of thinking that we have arrived, it becomes easy to stop looking for God, to stop asking Him what to do next, and just enjoy the ride. Our energy fades, and our senses get dull.
What is critical, dear friends, whether we are in the neighborhood or on the freeway, is to stay where you are planted. God has so much for us when we are where He wants us to be. Outside of His will, we can do nothing. His Word says this more eloquently than I ever could:
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15: 4-8