Over a bulletin board in my Christian school counselor-classroom, I posted: You Can’t Know the Future, But You Can Know God, Who Knows the Future.
My point to the high school students trying to figure out college planning, extra-curricular activity choices, scholarship opportunities or even how to handle traumatic home scenarios was that all the human effort to know what was coming amounted to futility. The best way to keep stepping forward into the unknown was to place our trembling hands into the metaphoric big hands of our heavenly Father who wrote each of our stories before we were born (Psalm 139:16).
For the past four decades, I have stumbled and walked with God in a vibrant, if uneven, relationship. Before that, I was a good-girl, church participant and thought I understood the Christian life. I came to see I held a head versus a heart connection with God. Through significant mentoring, teaching and studying over the years, I came to embrace the fullness and mystery of a devoted believer’s life on earth.
With three grown children successfully launched, I am entering a new season of life in a new city, and I hold on to this same truth, God knows my future. Still, I want to be ready for whatever is coming.I want to be ready for whatever is coming. But what to do while waiting ... that's the question.Click To Tweet
We lived overseas in Kabul, Afghanistan for seven years, returning to our home in the US in 2012. We faced a reboot on many levels when coming back. I had worked full-time in education for decades, but hesitated to jump back in immediately. Seasoned missionaries recommended decompression and healing time for as many months as possible, especially considering we had a difficult departure from a difficult place.
I entered into counseling therapy and debriefing retreats for overseas workers. For several weeks I followed up these efforts with long-time friends and spiritual mentors, meeting to talk and pray through reflective questions. These exercises helped me assimilate the pain and growth of the Kabul years. As a new grandma, I also relished extended visits with my daughter and her family. That proved to be quality medicine in itself – hugging and playing with sweet babies.
Some days I thought God had forgotten about me or that I was doing something wrong, not listening well, not being brave or not being diligent. During those times, I pressed myself to reflect on my sweet history following Jesus. He has never dumped me, or left me to the side of life, so I lifted my chin and kept going. I was not depressed, actually I relished late mornings in my slippers and fuzzy robe in my own kitchen, looking out the window at my familiar yard and neighborhood. The quiet, the order, the comfort and the reduced demands felt wonderful for a time.
Once with a seminary friend of my husband’s, I pondered the phrase I heard Christians use, a spiritually dry time. “What exactly does this mean?” I asked him. He smiled and said, “You don’t process that way. To you everything is spiritual so there is no absence of God’s spirit, just a different pace.” My pace after Afghanistan was slow, seemingly sluggish, for several months.
I didn’t desire to hurry through the recovery, and my husband had work to meet our financial needs. Still, my identity seemed on hold. I wasn’t a full-time mother or a full-time worker. What was I? Not missing the value in being a child of God, how should I answer the popular cultural question, “What do you do?”
As a counselor and life coach for many years, I recognize the challenge of transitions. Waiting is hard. Not knowing is hard. What do I tell my clients?
- Prepare wisely in a general but beneficial manner.
- Exercise your mind and body, to keep healthy and make right choices, and practice being in God’s presence.
- Avoid total self-focus, reach out to serve in reasonable, balanced measure with much prayer and consideration about each opportunity.
- Read and write and sit in solitude daily, allowing God to interject words of direction and encouragement, or maybe just sense His care and companionship.
- Share with trusted friends. Build resiliency. Believe in His faithfulness.
I follow my own advice. For the most part, I am content, while waiting for more answers. My preparation is part of the journey itself, so I am not just trying to get to a destination as the grand prize. I am living my future as well as looking for it, so I try to make the most of each day.
As John Ortberg describes in his book, Soul Keeping, our souls, our God connector, are made to seek a future. God set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) as a blessing and a curse, because though we are driven beyond today, we cannot know the beginning to the end. So my hunger to de-mystify my future is natural and God-given, but humanly impossible.
I won’t fight it. I will continue my daily living and my ongoing preparation. Maybe another job, another ministry invitation, or another writing project may come along. Jesus will walk beside me and help me see through the haziness. And finally, one day, all my preparation will be done for this earthly future and my real eternal future will come to me. My soul will have no more questions; the mystery will be solved.
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Gail Goolsby holds Master’s degrees in Professional Counseling and Educational Leadership. She has over 25 years of educational experience as teacher, school counselor and principal, including the K-12 American school in Afghanistan. Gail places international students with Christian host families. As a counselor and life coach, Gail believes there is support and encouragement in God’s Word to help us all learn to live well.
Gail and her pastor husband have been married 37 years and have three grown children, two sons-in-law, and three spunky granddaughters. They live where the wind blows over the prairie in south central Kansas, and there really is no place like home.
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