Ten years ago today my life changed. At the time it was the most difficult thing I had ever experienced, it was the death of a dream, the end of a season and a rejection that I took much too personally. Generally I am pretty confident in God’s calling on my life, in His will for me and in the path that I believe He has led me on, but there are a couple of days each year in which I find myself with some questions, with some doubts, battling fear and hoping that the fruit of my life will be fruit that lasts. Today is one of those days. I am writing today in part for my own indulgence, for my own reflection but also that others of us that struggle with the past, with the outcome and with the paths that we have been put on, might know that we don’t struggle alone and that God does, indeed, work all things for good.

This past Sunday I heard myself declaring that no man and no circumstance could change God’s plans for our lives, that His plans were perfect and that only our disobedience could thwart His purposes for us. It is funny how God works, when I was speaking those words on Sunday today’s “anniversary” was not on my radar. Ten years ago I was in a place and a position that I was sure was going to last for many, many years. God had given me a love for and a vision for the community I was in, I was sure that I had figured out how He was going to fulfill that vision and use that love. I had mapped out His plan for my life and I was happy and content with the plan I had chosen for God. As you read this, and as I write it, I can see all of the things wrong with the picture being painted. Suddenly, without warning and I believed without provocation it was all turned upside down. Someone else made a decision for me that I was not willing to make for myself. The position I was comfortable in was no longer available to me, the place that I was sure would be my home for life was now telling me that I was no longer needed, that it was time to move on.  I was sure that this scenario had to be wrong, surely if I were to leave I should have been the one to make the decision, right?

During that time in my life I thought a lot about David. I read a lot about the season in his life in which he was sent away from Israel, had to hide, align with Philistines, lead a band of “mighty men” that were mostly of ill repute as far as the rest of the world was concerned. I thought about how hard it must have been for David, not simply being away from his home, from his family, from his friends but also being away from his calling. David had already been anointed the next king of Israel, he had been a great warrior for the nation and even a soothing musician for Saul, but then it was Saul himself that despised him, that was jealous of him and consumed with killing him. Now before I go on, my situation was not that of David and Saul, it was not of a wrong and a right, an anointed and an expiring, not at all. My experience and what I hope to share is not about people but providence; not how we respond to each other but how much we are willing to trust God. Where it did relate was in mind and in God’s kindness. I was sure of God’s calling for my life, I just had no idea of His timing, His way of fulfilling His purpose or even how much preparation was needed in my life before I could truly walk in what God was speaking to me and about me. The parallel is not in the characters of the story but rather in the comfort of the experience that God leads, even into seasons and places of preparation that are produced by what feels like rejection.

At different times over the past ten years I have tried to make sense of it all. There have been moments that I have blamed others, but quickly and obviously there has never been truth in those places. Is the will of God really dependent upon men? Is God’s purpose for my life really so fragile that the people around me have the power to make it come to pass or keep it from happening? No, that belief only creates bitterness and robs of faith. I know for sure that I am not in any place or out of any place because of anyone other than God’s plan and my level of obedience. David had to come to the place of faith where he understood and believed that he was not out of God’s will, meaning that God had set Saul up as king and had anointed David as the next king. It was not going to be David’s job to establish his kingdom or to remove Saul’s; it was all about God’s will, His purpose and His desire. David’s position in the wilderness was in God’s hands and of God’s doing, not Saul’s.

At other times I have looked closely at my reactions, my decisions in this episode. There is nothing more debilitating than the internal conversation that starts with, “I wish I would have”, or “I should have” or even “I wonder if it would be different if I had”. The reality is that there are things I wish I would have done differently, there are things that I was wrong about and have repented of to God and also to those that were affected by those wrongs, but do those things void God’s plan, do they remove His blessing and my calling? During his exile David made some decisions that can only make us shake our heads in retrospect. He fled to Gath of the Philistines, can you imagine what David’s reputation was in Gath? He had killed their greatest warrior when he was only a teenager, He had led Israel in victory over them and made the Philistines the subjects of Israel. He must have been their national enemy and here he was seeking refuge? When he requested food and help from a man named Nabal and was refused David gathered his men, drew swords and prepared to destroy Nabal, his family, his servants and everything he owned, all because he rudely refused to give them bread. Most obvious were his two encounters with Saul. Twice David had opportunity to kill Saul and forcibly take the kingdom that God had anointed him to receive. The first time David realized he could not harm Saul but to show Saul that he could have killed him David cut off the corner of his robe. The Bible says that “David’s heart troubled him”, he should have never touched Saul or his robe, he did not need to prove what he could have done, he needed to trust God to fulfill the calling and anointing that He had established. David even chose to partner with the Philistines to go to battle against Israel. Had it not been for the Philistines rejection of David he would have marched into battle against Israel.

None of us are perfect in our decision making, not me, not you and not even David. The beauty of God’s love for us is that He does not require perfection, He provides it. We are not able to stand in front of Him spotless, but He is “able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless”. There are consequences to poor decisions, but there is also redemption, forgiveness, character building and restoration. The Apostle Paul wrote, “He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it”. The path that God set us on is the path that He leads us on; He is faithful and responsible for the destination as well as the preparation and the journey. God is leading us on a path of righteousness that leads to His glory and our fulfillment. The path takes many twists and many turns, it meets many people and is full of the trouble the He has overcome as well as the joy that is complete in Him. We cannot judge each moment by our understanding or by the feelings that the current circumstances may bring. I believe we must evaluate the path according to God’s presence, His character and His promises.

Let’s fast forward to the day in which David finally takes the throne as Israel’s king. He reaches the moment that God had spoken to him and over him years earlier. He receives the crown that the prophet Samuel had anointed him to receive and he has to look back over the path that brought him to the throne. As he looks around he may see mighty men, men of valor and trust that he would have never known if he had not been hiding in the cave of Adullam. He sees his wife Abigail that he would have never known if not for the encounter with Nabal and I am sure he sees himself differently. He is probably more humble having been through the difficulties of hiding and rejection; more confident in God’s providence seeing that in spite of all of the struggles he is found exactly where God said he would be and I would believe more faithful, knowing that everything he has in life is from the hand of God alone because if not for God he would have been destroyed long before.

Ten years have come and gone for me and as I look from here to there I see much more than I could have ever anticipated. There is still some hurt but no open wounds, there are still some questions but there are also a lot of answers. Like David, there are people that are in my life, people I love and trust, that I cannot imagine living without, that I would have never chosen if not for being put on a path I did not choose or understand. I have had experiences that have shaped me, changed me and molded me into the kind of man, husband, father, pastor and friend that I would have never experienced if I had been allowed to set my own course. There has been forgiveness, grace, mercy, growth, struggle, doubt, fear, triumph and most of all God’s love and presence. Ten years later I am grateful for the path that God chose for me, I am even grateful for those that He used to set me on this path. Again, there are still days when it hurts, still days when I wonder why, still days when I question if I am even where I should be, but the overwhelming truth is that God has been with me and that is all any of us will ever need. Today if you are on a path that you did not choose for yourself I want to encourage you to ask God if it is the path that He chose. Sometimes the way He moves us feels like rejection to our flesh but is actually God’s protection for our lives and our callings. Saul rejected David, but God led him and prepared him to become the king from whom the Christ would come. If you feel rejected, know this, God comes close to the humble, trust Him, embrace Him and believe that His providence is in control, He is leading you and guiding you and He will fulfill His great purpose for your life. As for me, I finally feel ready, ten years later I feel that I am finally ready to reap the harvest of due time. I believe that my heart and my mind are finally yielding to God’s love, His Word and His purpose and while there have been many times I have wanted to faint, many times I thought I was simply finished, I look around and see God’s goodness, His love and His purpose. Ten years ago today my life changed, thank you Jesus for changing my life!