For the past eight months or so, I've been in a season of "No."
For all of 2012, I have been praying for wisdom and for guidance from God when it comes to my career and to the ways I serve Him. My husband and I both started praying this way last fall, when our church worked through the book of James in both our sermons and our small group bible studies.
Our primary focus was James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him."
God has been so faithful to answer in this. He gave my husband the go-ahead to quit his teaching job (where he was absolutely miserable every day) and to start looking for other work. He provided a jot b with an amazing boss and helped my husband pass his state licensing exam on the first try (something only about 40% of first-time test takers do on this particular test). And just to show off a little, God ensured that my husband's previous employer chose to waive the $2500 "damages" - it's basically a fine they slap on teachers who try to quit. Since we don't have $2500 to our name, this is huge for us.
God has been faithful to provide for us. But He's also been faithfully telling me "No" on most every one of the ideas I have or directions I think I might be able to go. It's no secret to my family that I haven't been especially happy in my job. It's not that anything unpleasant or bad is happening; it's just that what I love most about my job I can't do. I love teaching because I love forming relationships with my students and encouraging them even if they never come to enjoy studying my subject. But teaching online, from so far away, means that I don't get any real interaction with my students. I feel more like a lecturing, grading, tech support employee than a teacher who is invested in their students. I'm been praying for months that I'd be able to do something else that doesn't leave me working at home, alone all week, with no interactions with other people until my husband is home at night.
I can't even count all the things I've considered over the past year. I've applied to probably 100 jobs - of all of them, I had two phone interviews, one in-person interview, and had the potential for one job until the employer found out that the position (a contract position) was not at all what he had been told and I had to decline. I've thought seriously about returning to school to train in a new field - to the point that I spent a month getting all sorts of ridiculous things (like my high school vaccination records!) and applying to the major university here. I've applied to serve as a volunteer in various ministries in town.
And every single time, God's answer was, "No." Every door was shut. The timing was bad. The leaders had no interest in me being scheduled to help. The circumstances radically changed. Oh, there were a few things, like returning to school, that I could have pushed. Obviously, they accepted me without any problems. But God clearly said, "Okay, I let you pursue this to this point, but now my answer is no. You are not supposed to go this way." So I pulled back and stopped.
I freely admit that it has been extremely frustrating for me. I am not a patient woman, unfortunately. I have never been good at waiting - for other people, for myself, or for my God. But I keep remembering this:
"For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses." ~Psalm 135:5-7
And: "In his heart, a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." ~Proverbs 16:9
Ultimately, my life is not about what *I* want or think or plan. It's about what my Lord Jesus Christ wants and plans for me. In this long season of "No," I am learning little by little what it means to try to set aside what I think is good or right or useful. I am learning to really trust that He is in control, and that if He is closing a door, then He has something else planned. I'm praying that He helps me to be still enough to hear what He says next. I don't want to miss his "Yes," but even more do I want to ensure I don't rush ahead when he's saying no.
I know that the God I serve is faithful. He is the one who guides my steps, even if, for now, He's mainly trying to get me to live out my least favorite verse:
"Be still, and know that I AM God." ~Psalm 46:10