April 20, 2013

On (Not) Understanding My Own Way

"A man's steps are directed by the Lord; how then can anyone understand his own way?" - Proverbs 20:24

You want to know something crazy?

Last summer, as a part of an internship I routinely questioned (to myself) my involvement in, I was a jr. high cabin leader at a Foursquare summer camp. Under my care, for better or worse, was an eclectic collection of boys, some of which my heart broke for. Why? Because of where and to whom they were going home to after camp was complete. I remember reminiscing on God's justice and shalom, and how these might flow again to bring life to broken family skeletons, callous and heart-broken communities, and the other crooked people and twisted systems that raised these kids. After the week was done all I could think was, “God, be with them.”

Now for the crazy part.

Throughout the summer I kept telling people my plans for after the internship: teach english abroad. I still remember, late in the summer, using the church's behemoth copy machine to make doubles of important background check info and finger-printing docs for preparation to get hired overseas. This wasn't just some whimsical dream. But, the youth pastor ache lurked in the shadows. Eventually, it was too overwhelming to calm with a pill or chill with an icepack. I gave up my search for a school in a foreign place and looked for youth pastor jobs.

Alas, I couldn't find crap. Clarification: I found some, but none found me. After several months, I came to loathe phone calls to pastors I've never met, disorderly application packets, sending emails with no reply, and, oh ya, getting told, albeit nicely and with blessing, no.

So, once again, I gave up. I even thought about taking up my old search again, to teach my native language to the world, a noble cause I urged myself.

Then, one day while I was lying down on the couch in my parents' living room, home alone, trying to get some quick shut-eye in, my phone vibrated on the coffee table. Urked, I looked to see who. The name of the youth pastor I'd been serving under flashed along my screen. He tells me, in my half-awake state, that a pastor in Auburn is looking for a youth pastor. “Can I give him your name?” I've learned not to get my hopes up, but I told him yes, of coarse.

Come to find out, yes, things work out. I'm going to be a youth pastor. But that's not all. The current youth pastor I already know. He was at the same jr. high camp I was, teaching one of the break-out sessions on city involvement and outreach. Small world. But the world is smaller still. The boys that were in my cabin that week, yes, the ones that raised hell for me (I should clarify that it was only some, not all), are from this guy's youth group. These kids are going to be mine.

Sure, a bit of panic set in remembering how insane that week at camp was, but I realized that youth group is only once a week.

Usually I'm the guy dismissing coincidences other people find in their lives, but I started to do the same and defaulted back to the days when I believed God orchestrated everything in my life. Regardless, I'm stunned at the current circumstances, at how my hand could have never brought this about. And it's a strange thing looking back on a chunk of life you didn't understand in the moment now with, essentially, eyes to see. It turns out understanding isn't a prerequisite for direction.