Up in Flames

WILDFIREMy dear friend and talented author, Beth K. Vogt, has just released her second novelCatch a Falling Star, in which she asks the question: Is life about accomplishing plans … or wishes coming true … or something more?

She invited me to write a post about WHEN LIFE DOESN’T GO ACCORDING TO PLAN. I guess she thought I might have something to say about that. And it so happens I do. This post originally appeared on http://www.bethvogt.com.

Planning has never been my strength.

I’ve spent most of my life drifting, only changing course when pressed with the recurring question, “Now what?”

I’ve always wanted to serve God, but finding His particular will for me seemed like an unsolvable puzzle. Not knowing where God was leading specifically, I followed Him generally through college, marriage, a few kids, and a few jobs.

A decade ago, I began attending seminary while serving as a minister-in-training at a church in the Midwest. Then a crisis arose in the form of a leadership conflict, and the sparks ignited a powder keg. There was an explosion. And my life caught fire.

The place that my wife and I had called home for 20 years was suddenly engulfed in flames. We sold our house, packed up our seven kids, and drove our van out of town over burning bridges.

“Now what?”

I discerned that God was moving us from the Midwest to Colorado Springs. But that’s all I knew.

So, I worked hard at making new plans. I labored at finding, not just the next thing, but the right thing, the thing that I was supposed to do with my life.

But the wildfire kept burning—unemployment, underemployment, business failure, loss after loss, year after year.

Yet through all the pain and loss, the Spirit was quietly doing a work of internal transformation in my heart. I was changing. God also formed wonderful new relationships that I might encounter Him in healthy spiritual community. In January of 2012, God visited me in a powerful healing encounter; for the first time in my life I knew my Heavenly Father loved me.

Life was new and different now. But circumstances were the same.

One morning, as I was driving a borrowed car from a rented house to a low-wage job, I thought about the wildfire. I was grieved that it was still burning. I thought to myself, ”Every dream and every vague hope we brought with us to Colorado has gone up in flames.”

At that moment–as if in response to my private thoughts–the flickering flames in my imagination became a vision of a blazing wall of fire. My mourning was overwhelmed by a glowing warmth in my spirit. Somehow I understood the vision to be the fire of God’s holy, jealous love for me. It was as if God was saying to me, “I burned it all. In my holy love, I have consumed all of your dreams, all of your hopes, and all of your plans, so that I might give You my dream and fulfill My plans for you.”

Months later, on the first of January, God spoke to me through a passage in Isaiah. He declared that He is doing a new thing in my life. “Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?”

“Watch what I will do.”

So, I’m watching. Smoke continues to rise from the wildfire, but I’m watching, and waiting, for God’s new thing to unfold.