Big Plans, Small Hoops, & Simple Surrender

One thing I wish I could figure out is how to stop dreaming about “big plans” for my life. I know the trend is to think big and ask God for great things, but when it comes to career choices, my experience has been the opposite: the thing God has consistently asked me to do is to walk humbly and accept the positions that He opens for me.

Last week, I had two annual reviews, one for my teaching job at Duke and the other for the work I do for the Navigators. There was a lot of emotional build up! All my life, I have looked ahead to dramatic changes and big shifts, some new adventure to dive into. But this year, like so many others, God quietly nudged me to more or less keep doing what I’ve been doing (a blend of teaching writing to grad students and traveling for the Navs).

Part of His guidance was the usual kind: as I was reading Ephesians (I’m in a small group and we are studying it), and verse 1:1 jumped out at me: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” I’ve read that verse before, but this time, as I was thinking about my annual reviews, the phrase “by the will of God” just jumped out. In my heart, I knew it was for me. In my mind, I knew Paul’s story and could see how God’s pattern with him applied to me.

Another part of His guidance was a basketball hoop. I often take a walk as part of my quiet times, and I noticed several basketball hoops in people’s driveways. It was an expensive neighborhood I was visiting, and some of the setups were incredible: huge plexiglass backboards, spring-loaded and adjustable rims—in fact, they were too big. They overwhelmed the driveways they were in, and, as I thought about it, they just looked ugly.

But in one yard, there was an older, smaller setup: a simple pole planted in the grass, an old, faded, arched backboard with a slightly bent rim.

But in that small driveway, it looked right. It was the right size for a friendly, family game of basketball. As I was looking, an elderly man came out of the garage, ready to do some yard work. I took a chance and said hello and told him I liked his basketball hoop. He smiled and said, “Oh yea, we’ve about worn that thing out.” In my mind, I imaged just how much love, how many hours he and his now grown family must have spent out there together.

Duke and the Navigators both offered me the opportunity to keep doing what I’ve been doing with a modest amount of added responsibility. There are things that will definitely stretch me, and the jobs are needed. But nobody asked me to be president, nobody appointed me to lead an exciting new taskforce (jobs I would be terrible at!) And I am content with that.

Where does asking God for greatness come in? I think it comes in the impact, not the position. Jesus said it this way:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

If you are offered a great big job, and it fits you and God is leading, awesome! But if the way looks less prestigious and the offer a bit smaller than you had dreamed, but you know that God is leading, you can trust that the door He has picked out for you is just right. In the end, we all must all surrender the results to God.

Resources

If you’ve gotten off the track of spending regular time along with God, here is a tool that can help you find your way back: Getting Started (or Re-Started) with God.

If “job fit” is a mystery, you might want to use one of the tools here: Exploring Your Life Purpose.

If you are looking for something to meditate on here-and-now, take a look at Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV)