Confined or Directed?

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One of the hardest years of my life was when I taught Junior High School music. It was a job I took while starting a network of house churches (I was bi-vocational). It was an answer to prayer, in that, it provided for our family. I was already a credentialed music teacher, having taught High School music for seven years. So I received a full salary based on my education and experience, with benefits.

But the job was hard. Teaching Junior High kids was difficult for me. I got a lot of attitude. I had to focus a lot on discipline, which I hate. In addition, being in the JHS environment reminded me of my own Junior High years – the most painful period of my life. It was like I was reliving it all over again. I hated this job.

I felt so confined. Though I was freed up to spend some time to focus on church planting (I was basically done by 3pm every day and I had my weekends), I desired to spend more time with my house churches. And because of my frustration during the day with the JHS kids, I was drained of much of my energy. I was miserable. Surely this was not God’s will for my life!

I remember crossing off the weeks on my school calendar (only 35 more weeks to go), when the Holy Spirit confronted me. The conversation in my soul went something like this:

HS: Doug, why are you so miserable?

D: I hate this job. I’m not good at it. I’d rather be doing church planting stuff. That’s what you called me to do, right? I feel like I’m in a straight jacket. Why am I here?

HS: Because I directed you here.

D: But this can’t be your will.

HS: It is my will. God’s will is wherever you are. It is not someplace in the future. It is now. What you do with the present moment determines whether you are doing my will … or not.

That was a profound turning point; not just in my job, but in my life. From that moment on, I sought to do God’s will in the JHS. He had me there for a reason. I started praying in the music rooms before class. I took on a learning posture as I taught my classes. I built relationships with students and other teachers. And I began to see this job as a gift, not as a “death sentence.”

I thought of the Apostle Paul, the greatest of church planters. At the prime of his calling, he got thrown into prison. He was confined. He could no longer start new churches in new parts of the world. He could no longer mentor side by side with the Timothy’s, Silas’s, and Titus’s that needed training. The only people he could proclaim the Gospel with personally were his prison guards (who did come to Christ).

All he could really do in prison was write letters. Funny how God used that, huh? Half of the New Testament consists of those letters Paul wrote – most from the prison cell.

From a human standpoint, Paul was confined. But from God’s perspective, Paul was being unleashed.

Perhaps you feel like you’re in a place or position that is far from God’s will. You might feel confined or not used to your potential or in a “less than” role or title. Maybe you hate your work or despise your situation or you long for something better.

If you are not in this situation because of sin or disobedience, perhaps it’s time to ask God to show you His larger perspective. Maybe you are there for a reason. Maybe He’s trying to teach you something. Maybe there’s someone He’s calling you to reach or something that He wants you to do.

Just to give a finishing touch to my story: it was still a struggle but eventually I found joy in teaching at JHS. The principal gave me a special award at the end of the year because I helped turned the music program around. I was able to go more full-time church planting after that school year. So that was my one shot teaching JHS music.

Ten years later, I discovered that one of my former JHS students became a Tech director at a local church. Another became a worship leader for a church plant in San Diego. Recently, I serendipitously ran into parents of another student who told me that I taught profoundly impacted the life of their son.

It’s amazing what God can do when He has us right where He wants us – despite what we think or feel.

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