Rigging Candy Land

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
   don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all
(Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG).

When my kids were younger, I used to rig the Candy Land cards.

Not so they could win, you understand, because I don’t believe in just letting a child win at games.

I simply hated the cruelty of the setback.  The thing about Candy Land is that you could be two rainbow-colored squares away from the magic candy castle and then draw the card for the Gingerbread Man.

At first, this seems harmless enough.  Who doesn’t want the Gingerbread Man?  Then you realize that it’s just evil fate and lessons in the futility of life sugar-coated and handed to your three-year-old child.

That’s because the Gingerbread Man is all the way back at the beginning of the game.

So, you have to watch this sweetly innocent toddler who was an inch away from cheering in victory move her red Candy Land piece all the way back to a position of certain defeat.

Sometimes life seems just as sadly confusing with unexpected twists and turns and a few disappointments and setbacks.

Yet, surely these are lessons best learned when you’re a little older and wiser?

My solution was simple.  As I shuffled the cards before setting up the game, I made sure the dreaded Gingerbread Man and the peppermint stick guy and sometimes even the gumdrop were in the front of the stack.

Thus, anyone who drew one of those cards would never have to fall back more than a few squares.

Sometimes I wish God would rig the cards every once in a while so life never involved steps backwards or feeling stuck in place (on something less soothingly delicious as a licorice stick).

While He’s at it, wouldn’t it be nice if He gave the game board a big yank and straightened the path?  No more zigzags across the board.  Geometry tells us the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  How about a straight line, God?

Yes, it’s true, sometimes the directions God takes us and the interruptions, setbacks, and seemingly pointless diversions we experience just don’t make sense.

In her book Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break, Kelly Minter shared: “…I have a friend who regularly says to me, ‘Lean not Gal!’  As in, ‘Lean not on your own understanding, but all your ways acknowledge Him, ‘Gal!'” (p. 97).

I love this.  I certainly have the tendency to lean on my own understanding and raise a ruckus of discontentment when God leads me in unexpected directions.

Jonah also needed someone to tell him, “Lean not, Guy!” when he, a highly successful, well-respected prophet of encouragement to God’s holy people got God’s disturbing message: Go preach repentance to an enemy nation that has persecuted and killed your neighbors and family friends.

The disciples similarly needed a “lean not” reminder when Jesus told them they were going up to Jerusalem where He would be persecuted, imprisoned and crucified.

In the same way, Paul challenged his friends and followers to “lean not” when he traveled to Jerusalem, despite being warned that he would be placed in chains and taken captive there (Acts 21).

Jonah, the famous runaway, tried to avoid the path that didn’t make sense.

What if he had succeeded? Nineveh would have missed out on experiencing what “many historians cite …as the greatest revival in human history” (Priscilla Shirer, Jonah, p. 114).

In fact:

When Jonah chose to walk in obedience to the word of the Lord, the result was a harvest of amazing fruit he’d probably never seen coming.  Not just one community in the city or even a handful of the city’s important people believed in God.  Every citizen of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least, immediately believed.  Conviction was so complete that even the animals were made to participate in the government-mandated fast.  ‘Even the great Apostle Paul never experienced anything comparable to what Jonah saw.  Paul never saw an entire city turn to God'” (Shirer, p. 118-119).

Yes, and without Jesus’ journey to the cross, we would not have the resurrection or a plan for salvation.

And if Paul chose the easier road away from Jerusalem, he would never have preached about Christ in Rome—even to Caesar himself (Acts 28).

It’s frightening not to know exactly where we’re going.  It’s terrifying not to know what will happen when we get there.

It’s disappointing when God asks you:
to step aside
to stop
to walk away
to turn around
to go back
to take a break
to cease activity
and to put aside our own plans and visions and understanding of how this crazy life should work out and make sense.

Yet, even when we spend some time standing still or making the disheartening trip apparently backwards, we can trust that God has a plan—a better plan (yes, even better than the magical candy castle!) and maybe a surprising plan (to us, not to Him)—as long as we obey.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Making U-Turns

The problem of getting lost is knowing when to turn around.

I know this because I am an expert at getting lost. I generally don’t drive anywhere new without making a U-turn or two or three.

When I first suspect that I’m lost (again), my heart races.  I’m stressed and emotional.  I snap off the radio and beg my kids to stop hitting each other over the head with books and whining about the fact that the two-year-old always takes their stuff.  And no, we can’t listen to Mickey Mouse just this moment because Mommy is in fact having a breakdown and needs silence.

When I finally realize that yes, I absolutely am lost (again), I perch forward in my seat, chest practically to the steering wheel and squint at the road signs.  I’ve scrolled down to my husband’s contact info on my phone, ready to call him the very second I finally give up and humbly confess that once again I have missed the turn or misunderstood the directions or misidentified the landmark.

It’s just so hard to know when to admit defeat and turn around.  I keep hoping that my destination is over the next hill, around the next bend in the road, at the next intersection, just one . . more . .. mile.  What if I turn around and I miss out because I just didn’t go far enough and gave up too soon?

But then, what if I keep driving, persistent and stubborn, and it’s wrong?  Maybe I missed the turn long ago and this is a perpetual waste of time and gas money.

Life with it’s uncertainty fills me sometimes with the same confusion and anxiety.

Is this God’s will or is that?  Now or later?

And then there’s when you pursue what seems to be God’s will, but eventually He stops you and turns you around.

I’ve been on my knees about this lately, praying for clarity and reassurance.  It was just over one year ago that my husband and I handed in our completed packet of papers to become foster parents.

Background checks, fingerprinting, proof of car insurance, the deed to our home, proof of rabies vaccinations for our cats, references, copies of our driving record: We had collected every document that described our lives down to the minutest detail.

We did this because we had confirmation after confirmation that this was what God wanted us to do.  It wasn’t part of our own plan for our family—not yet, anyway.  We thought we were at least a few more years away from fostering or adoption, but God had moved our hearts and we wanted to obey.

Just as we were on the very last step of this process, everything stopped.  Overwhelming workloads at the Department of Social Services, confusion, people quitting and others not being hired to replace them halted the entire process for us.

I called about once every week or two and left increasingly pushy messages. Whenever I spoke to an actual person, I was assured that the very next month they would call.

But they didn’t.

My husband and I agreed that continuing to call and call and call was likely to push ourselves right on out of God’s will. So, I prayed, “Dear Lord, if this is your plan, please let them call us.”

Nothing.

So, what does that mean?
Did we miss God’s will from the very beginning?
Was this all a mistake?
Did I somehow mess it up and ruin God’s plan for us?
Was it time for a U-Turn?

I can’t say that I’ve sorted through all of this completely.  I’m still confused about why God seemed to direct us this way and then stopped us in the end.

Yet, I’m wondering if He’s always more concerned about the journey than rushing to a destination.  Maybe His goal was to stir our hearts for future things, to interrupt my own family agenda, or to see how far obedience would take us.

Like Abraham, maybe laying down our Isaac was the plan all along, and as long as we were willing to obey, that was enough.

In Scripture, we are promised continually that God will direct and guide us:

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
(Psalm 37:23-24 NLT)

And when I worry about messing it all up, Scripture reminds me that God’s plan will prevail, over all our insufficiencies, over every obstacle and inconvenience: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV).

So, I return to prayer: “Lord, let your will be done in our lives.  I may whine about it.  It may be difficult.  But I do desire to walk in your way.”

Then I trust Him to lead.

Maybe the U-Turns are because we misheard Him or zoomed off in our own direction without seeking His opinion.

Maybe the U-Turns are actually part of His plans for us.

I’m reminded, though, that as long as we are wholeheartedly seeking after Him and truly willing to obey Him, we are never really lost.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take”
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King