A few weeks ago I went for a walk in the Arkansas River. The water was low and the sun was bright. I was hoping to catch some new or unique birds hunting for a snack. Maybe a Bald Eagle soaring overhead. At the very least a Heron or Egret.
But there was nothing. I spent a couple of hours walking down the middle of the river with nothing to show but a bit of sand in my shoes. It was a lovely but fruitless walk.
All too often, that’s how God seems. We set out looking for Him, trudging through shifting sand and squinting into the sun. Looking for a path. Looking for a sign. Unlike my feathered friends, we know that God wants to be found. He wants us to be with Him. So why can He be so elusive? Why do we return to the safety of our shelter with nothing but a few bits of sand and a slight sunburn?
On Sunday mornings we’ve been learning about the potential, purpose, and plan that God has put into each of our lives. A lot of us are really wrestling with the idea. Realizing that God has set aside a specific work for you to do, that He has orchestrated a plan for you to accomplish it, and He actually created you with the abilities to do it can be overwhelming. Many of us feel a sense of pressure…a weight. What if we fail? What if we miss it?
My trusty Canon SX50-HS and I spend a lot of time wandering around outside, hoping to run into something unique and cool. Preferably something that won’t eat us. Birds are pretty safe. So are sunsets. I’ve only been doing this for about a year but I’ve already captured thousands of different birds. Some of the pictures are even pretty good.
I recently wandered down to the lake to see what was fishing. With no idea what would be there, I was hoping for a unique duck or maybe a Great Blue Heron. It was a nice walk with my lovely wife, my oldest son, and my dog. Right as we were about to head back, a new visitor arrived. An Osprey flew over, making multiple passes while soaring beautifully. After putting on quite a show, it dove into the water, emerging with a yummy snack. It isn’t the most graceful fisher I’ve ever seen, but it shook off the excess water and then flew away to enjoy the treat.
It would seem that I was in the right place at the right time. I also had the right equipment to capture the moment. Is that they key to unlocking that elusive potential, purpose and plan? Is that the key to hearing from God? I can’t control God any more than I can control that silly Osprey. God will show up when He wants to.
In our spiritual lives, what can we do to be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment so that when God shows up, we’re ready? I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent walking by that lake without seeing anything spectacular. But I kept coming back. And I stayed prepared. I keep exploring that camera…learning how to better use the equipment that I’ve been given.
My potential is like that camera. God gave it to me, but I’ve got to exercise it. I’ve got to learn to use it and develop it in order to be ready for what God has planned.
My purpose is like these shots. I use my potential to make a difference. Maybe the metaphor gets less clear here. But I’m simply using what I’ve been given to perform an action. The results can be amazing. Just like when we use what God has given us.
The plan is from God. That’s the providential experience that brings it all together to make something truly special. The Osprey flying straight at me in the perfect light. Me instinctively twisting the settings button over a couple of clicks to catch the majestic bird in flight. That’s how God shows up. Suddenly, spectacularly, and majestically. It’s not something you miss, but it’s something you’ve got to be prepared for.
Understanding that we have potential, purpose, and plan in our lives that are from God shouldn’t increase our burden. It should ease it. That’s what God promised us. It isn’t up to us to make it happen. It’s up to us to trust Him. It’s up to us to lean into Him. If we continue to position ourselves in the right place, He will make everything clear at the right time.