This weekend, Brittany and I went to visit my oldest friend in the world, Brandon, in Ohio. Brandon and I grew up together in Ocala, Fl and are still close to this day. I love seeing an old friend because they know you really well, and know who you’ve been and are becoming. It’s a really rare thing to have a life long friend and I’m thankful to have a few that go back with me over two decades.
We spent a lot of time on his porch this weekend just talking and catching up. Telling stories. Venting about life. All that kind of stuff. We are still the same boys from Ocala in many, many ways, but yet here we are 28 years old and we’re adjusting to lives that have turned out to be different than we ever expected them to be.
We were both pastors’ sons growing up and so we are quite familiar with the church and the messages and lessons that are so common inside of it. We owe much of what we like about ourselves to the church. Still, here we are wrestling through a life that didn’t turn out to be as simple as it once was when we were 12-years-old and all we wanted to do was play basketball, buy video games and watch SNL. We talked about how we’ve come to realize that our parents are flawed people. We talked about our personal views that have changed over time as life pulls and stretches them. Because life isn’t simple. It’s complex. It’s frustrating. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. It’s like a forest fire.
I think life can be so frustrating because we are faced with times where we are forced to be helpless. No amount of effort or even love can change what is unfolding before us. You are forced to sit there and watch it all change. Pain like that makes you really start to question the supposed will of God you’ve always been told about and how He has a plan in it all. You question your decisions and you question His goodness and faithfulness.
I grew up thinking that the will of God was a rigid, straight line that I must tread carefully upon. If I made one mistake then I was toast. One wrong door opened and I would be out of the will of God. I’ve since come to not believe that anymore. That sort of mindset will leave you in so much stress that you will never be capable of making any decisions or taking any chances for fear that you might get it wrong.
Nowadays, I view God’s will not as a line, but as an area. It’s not a straight road; I view it more like a playground. Let’s say you’re standing in a playground and there are swings, slides, a sandbox, and other jungle gym stuff all around you. The entire playground is the will of God. You are free to move around in it. Free to run or walk. If you want to go on the swings for a while, you can. If you want to go over to the sandbox, you can. You’re making decisions on where to go and what to do, but you’re still in the will of God.
That’s not to say God never gives us any direction or ever tells us no, but I think as we seek His will for our lives, He gives us a lot of freedom to make decisions and be just as much in His will as we would be between one decision or another.
Sometimes life changes whether you put all your effort in or not, and you can’t stay on the swings. And you don’t have to. If the will of God were a straight line, any pain would make it seem like you have done something wrong or that God is punishing you. The playground frees you and releases you to make decisions and keep moving.
I find peace in the famous Psalm 23 as I’m running around in my playground.
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”
It’s good to know that we don’t have to chase down goodness and mercy; they are following us. Serve God and make decisions.