I memorized this verse when I was a seven year old, snaggle tooth, VBS kid ... and to this day it is still one of my favorites. I love it because it promises guidance in return for trust. Sometimes the trust is simple, and other times it isn't, but trust is always something that is within my power to either give or withhold. Recently I faced a not so simple time of trusting in the Lord...waiting (rather impatiently, I confess) for him to open a door of oportunity for me to begin teaching. Although I have always considered myself to be someone who trusts in the Lord, being faced with a situation in which it is vital has forced me to re-evaluate the authenticity of my trust. God has been so patient with me in my doubt this Summer, continuing to speak words of peace and patience to my heart through all sorts of different people, and I can look back now and say that I am thankful for the opportunity to have grown in trust and increased in faith.
My relentless prayer from the time I began student teaching has been that God would open a door for me to begin my career without having to spend a year substituting, which admittedly, has been a source of great anxiety. Sporadically I prayed to be hired by a particular school in a particular school district, but ultimately my prayer has just been for a chance to work with students again, because it truly is my passion. I want nothing more than to spend my days knee deep in middle school messes: in paper grading, and courtyard time...in cafeteria duty, and talent shows...in loud chatter, and running in the hallways...in stolen, quiet morning moments at my desk, and precious notes from students...in punctuation rules, and sentence structure, and after school homework help. In ministering. This is my heart's desire.
I thought I had my version of trust down pat. It involved a lot of anxiety and much crying. In reality it looked a lot more like distrust disguised as the real thing. Although I tried desperately, I never truly let my heart rest in believing that God would direct my paths...until about two weeks ago while I was traveling in Europe. It went something like this:
I was standing in the blazing 102 degree sun (yes, it was really that hot) waiting for a tour bus to drive my family and I from Sorrento, Italy to the Amalfi Coast. I was terrified for two reasons -- In case you're not terribly familiar with the Amalfi Coastline, it is essentially hundreds upon thousands of buildings built into the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Although gorgeous, the roads are extremely narrow, the turns are hair-pin, and there is only one very tiny guardrail separating the bus from the edge of said cliff. The bus was built for fifty passengers, but I assure you there were more than fifty people in line for the trip... this made me nervous. Second, I suffer from motion sickness when riding in vehicles that I am not operating. I knew that I couldn't handle an hour and a half of claustrophobia combined with teetering on the edge of doom. So, I sat on the curb crying as I waited with the other passengers to leave. It was so embarassing and yet I couldn't stop myself because I felt such terror at the idea of getting on the bus (which in my mind, was certainly destined to plummet into the ocean before it rounded the first corner...) Worse yet was knowing that there was no other way to get to the coast. Either you went via death bus, or you didn't go at all. I felt trapped and panicked ...and so I cried harder.
Sitting there in sheer terror, I did the only thing I knew to do -- I prayed for the peace that passes understanding to calm my fears and relieve my anxiety. As I did, I very clearly heard the spirit of God whisper: "There is a lesson in this....get on the bus. Trust Me." And so, weighed down with the knowledge that there was no other way, I got on the bus. In my mind I literally handed my life to the driver as I stepped aboard -- I felt absolutely powerless -- I had zero control of the outcome. I cried the whole way, still terrified, white-knuckling the armrest beside me, eyes tightly closed while my sweet mom held my hand and prayed peace over me the whole way. It will live in infamy as the most awful trip I've ever taken. But, after what felt like an eternity, I stepped out of the bus to witness one of the most impressive views I have ever seen:
As I looked out over the railing to the coastline I heard another whisper: "See? It's the same with your life... I have good plans, and a good view at the end of this thing. But you cannot be in control. Trust Me. Relinquish your doubt and surrender your whole heart. There is no other way."
For the rest of my life I will remember the peace that washed over me in that moment. Then and there, overlooking the inlaid coastline, I fully surrendered any plan I had for my life. Anything Emily wanted was out the window (or, over the railing in this case...) and I promised God that when he called I would answer, giving up what I wanted for what he wanted, trading my plans for his ... even if his plans meant not teaching at the school where I thought I so desperately wanted to teach...even if it meant working as a substitute for a year...or longer....even if it meant working at McDonald's. Afterall, we can be salt and light anywhere, right? So, I let go. I cannot explain the peace the comes with relinquishing control, I can only say that you should try it.
To make a long story short, later that day I received a call from the principal of the school where I completed my student teaching -- he wanted to hire me. How cool is God? Working all things together for my good, even a 7,000 mile disposition. Without talking to me face to face, and without a formal interview (which, let's be honest, we all know I probably would have bombed anyway...) and from a country away, he hired me. Just like that. And, I should mention that this is the school that I sporadically prayed to be hired at, but eventually gave up on when my faith got weak and my doubts grew, resorting instead to simply begging God for any position in any school. But, God's plans aren't an afterthought -- he didn't just give me any position at any school...he gave me the position I prayed for -- the position that still elicits strange looks from my new colleagues: "How in the world did you manage to get a job straight out of college?" they ask. I just smile. Seriously, how cool is God?
I'm not saying that I would'nt have been offered the position if the scenario had played out differently. What I am saying is that God rewards a heart that is fully surrendered to him. Before the bus, I hadn't truly surrendered. I was still clutching what I wanted with one hand while I raised the other in "surrender"...pawning it off as trust. But, it doesn't work that way. When we let go of trying to figure out our own footing...that is when He makes the path straight. Again, I am so thankful that God doesn't give up on me in my doubt...in my anxiety, when I sit down on the proverbial curb and throw a tantrum because I want to be in control. His love for me is relentless. And for you. And, his plans are kind of amazing. If you can, dig down deep in your heart and really trust him. I'm not saying it's easy, I'm just saying that it's so worth it.
So, there you have it. I am now officially a 7th grade Language Arts teacher. I am so excited I haven't had a good night of sleep since I accepted the offer, my mind too busy with a million little details, and the thought of meeting my sweet 7th grade babies in less than 24 hours from now! Thanks to all of my readers for the sweet comments and messages of encouragement. Your next order of business will be to help me vote on a new blog name because I'm not "almost" anymore :-)
Happy Tuesday, friends.
As a side note, I'd like to say that when I began writing this blog I didn't know about the bus crash that killed almost 40 tourists close to Naples when I was in Italy. When I read the story my heart sank because I can imagine how awful it was and I couldn't get over how close the accident was in proximity to me! (I stayed less than an hour from Naples during my first few days in Italy.) My heart breaks for the families affected by this tragedy. They need our prayers.
P.S.: I am so sorry for not having the chance to share some photos of Italy with the blogosphere -- if you want to see some of my adventure, follow me on Instagram @NCBrowneyyes