By Karen Swank
Almost exactly a year ago, an aunt that I rarely see or talk to suddenly started leaving me phone messages and emails, saying she needed to talk to me about something important – a job opening that was tailor-made for me. What you have to know here is that I was not looking for a job. There were plenty of reasons to be quite content with my job with the City: it’s a two minute drive from home, the pay is decent and it’s the first job-with-benefits I’ve ever had. I didn’t need a new job. I heard her message on my voice mail and my immediate disinterest was deep.
I intended to call her back, because she is my aunt. But I was busy and, well, reluctant to talk with her about some harebrained idea she was having. So I never quite got around to returning her call.
After a couple of weeks, she finally rang my phone at just the right time and caught me home. She was excited and passionate. She told me about a strange conversation she’d been having with God about me, which involved seeing a want ad for a youth pastor at a church about an hour from where I live. He had gotten hold of her about it and was leaving her no peace until she talked to me. I listened and my disinterest deepened. I took down the information she gave me simply out of respect for her, promising to pray about it and planning to get on with life as usual.
Of course, one must not lie about praying. So I offered the most casual and indifferent of prayers…no dramatic seeking but simply a toss-off comment amidst many other things, asking Holy Spirit to show me what He had to say on the subject.
It turned out, He had plenty to say.
Some days later, after some resistance and then finally buying into the idea, I followed where He led and sent my resume. I told myself it must just be a test of my obedience. The position was with a denomination more mainstream than my usual bent. I was perfectly comfortable here with no desire to leave. And while I do work with youth every Tuesday night (it’s my favorite night of the week), it’s definitely a different climate than the one I was applying for. Just a test, I told myself, and now that I have been obedient in submitting the application, I can get on with my life and forget about it.
About a month later, they called me for an interview. Let me tell you, that was unexpected!
The interview went well…really well. I met with a room full of really lovely people whose vision seemed to match mine. I loved them. They loved me! I came home from that interview slightly dizzy, wondering how this could be happening. And dared to finally be excited that I might be headed off on a God-adventure.
A few weeks later, I got a letter in the mail from them. They loved me, but they hired someone else.
Here’s the part where a person could be tempted to think the whole conversation with God had been imaginary or misunderstood. Happily for me, He has brought me through enough interesting segments of the journey that I didn’t waste my time in that sort of speculation. There was no uncertainty in me about what He had said to my aunt, nor about the fact that He’d led me to apply. Why would He do that and then not take me there? It was not for me to know. I decided to trust that He had His reasons. I supposed that one of those reasons might be opening my heart to the possibility that change was ahead.
I followed that supposition and the conversation grew deep and intense. Everywhere, all the time, I could smell change on the wind. I was hungry for it because it was Not My Idea at All. It was deep and sweet and I reveled in it, spending many delicious hours talking with Him about the possibilities and feeling His enjoyment matching mine. Followers of my blogs and readers on my email lists have heard whispers of it and commented to me. Friends and strangers have spoken astonishing truths to me about it, often unknowing of their part in the conversation. God’s ways are not our ways, and I am so glad for that.
The conversation took me to Chicago several times to work with Jesus People USA. It took me to connections with missionaries and my now-favorite website on the internet, www.wreckedfortheordinary.com ….heck, I even got to become a regular contributor!
Later in the year an opportunity for promotion came up at work. Though I knew for sure the promotion was not the destination we were discussing, I also had peace that it was part of the journey. I applied and told the truth when asked: that my long term plans were some sort of full time missions or ministry. At that point I was not in a hurry, and since God’s time almost always seems “slow” by ours, I figured moving on was more like part of the 5-year plan. I got the promotion (and raise) last fall. This gift has made our lives a little easier financially…a good thing amidst my son’s senior year in high school, and the presence of our most recently acquired family member (our foreign exchange student Lino).
February brought a new chapter to the conversation. I happened across an ad for a homeless shelter worker, and it captured my imagination instantly. I shot my resume off to an anonymous post office box, and heard nothing at all for so long that I thought it must not be the answer.
But the conversation was not over.
After a flurry of God-events both big and small but certainly too long to detail here, I find myself at a new place in the journey. I start in just over a week at a shelter for battered women and their children. God has put His mark all over this move, and I am so excited I can hardly stand myself.
It’s not two minutes from home…more like forty. It’s not amazing pay and no benefits could ever match what I’ve had in my time at the City. It’s not traditional hours – nights and weekends are part of the package. It will surely break my heart many times over. From many perspectives, one could wonder if I’ve lost my mind.
I tell you this morning that I have lost my mind. I have given it over to Christ, some time ago, and He does much better things with it than I ever would have. He has my mind, my heart, my spirit, my body, my life. All of it is His. This is no sacrifice – I simply acknowledge the truth that Is, Was, and Always Will Be…and choose to live joyously within it. In this place I find passion and purpose, and the wildest places in my heart are stirred to dance even as hard things are happening in every area of my life.
Today, a full year into a conversation begun in an unlikely way and continued with depth and certainty carries me forward into the next place for me inside His will. God is good, and He proves it daily. Walking the path of I will go where You send me is worth everything it costs, and produces gifts beyond anything I could manufacture under my own speed.
Karen is from Aledo, IL. She went to Monmouth College and studied Latin and English. She is a biological mom of two children and surrogate mom/friend/advocate for a whole host of children. She would like to meet every w
ounded soul that I’ve she’s ever known… as a child, before the “damage was done” so she could tell them how much they are loved.