Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Big Black Arrows and Breathless Anticipation


My husband David and I regularly pray for Big Black Arrows, do you? Maybe I should explain myself. You may think we’re praying for God to paint Big Black Arrows on the ground or on the wall or even hang one in the sky so we know unequivocally where we should to go and what we should do. Ha, right?

Actually, that is exactly what we want.

Our theory is that we are ready, willing and able to go or do anything God wants us to do. This is said with all sincerity – we want to stay on the path God wants us to be on morning, noon, and night. The problem is that we are rather dense and easily distractible so unfortunately there are many times we miss our God given cues. “Make our path clear, Lord. Paint a Big Black Arrow on the ground and we’ll follow it.”

I started doing this request for BBA early on in my marriage when the potential for job change seemed to be a constant friend in my terrified mind during the sleepless-filled wee hours of the morning. My husband David is a British citizen. Born in Scotland, raised primarily in England he is a certified traveling fool. By twenty-five he had already worked in the oil fields of Abu Dhabi (I know, where the heck is that???) for a year, been export manager to Hong Kong, Denmark, Germany and Spain and was currently living in the wild frontiers of central suburban New Jersey with his new young wife (picture me smiling and waving my hand at you). Even as a teen he’d been to Spain and Greece on school trips. Annoying capable with foreign languages he was comfortable with German and French for conversations and could be polite in Chinese, Arabic, Hindu, Farsi, and probably a few others I can’t even spell.

On the flip side I was born and raised in New Jersey. I suffered through high school Spanish and despite being an excellent student struggled with it so profoundly that I decided it would be easier to eliminate any colleges that would require more than two years of foreign language for acceptance than take a third year. Now, don’t get me wrong. I had widened my view of the world horizons substantially by the time David and I wed at thirty. I’d done student teaching in England for four months, had traveled to Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Portugal, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Denmark and Holland. But home was, well, New Jersey, you know?

(If you’re wondering how a traveling fool and a 4th grade New Jersey teacher met it wasn’t when I was student teaching. I was happily in Hillsborough, New Jersey teaching immigration. I had a rather eclectic cultural class that year and invited the kids to invite a family member or friend to come in and talk about their immigration experience. One girl, Tara, came in and said an immigrant worked for her dad and he said he’d come in and talk. Then she leaned over and whispered sotto voice to me in the coat closet, “He’s twenty-nine and he’s single.” The rest is history!)

But I digress. David would regularly come home and say, “How about moving to California?” “… Texas?” “… Mexico?” “…China?” “…Ohio?” It was in those early years I learned to pray (rather than laying in bed at 4 a.m. panicking, I decided to be productive with my time and at least pray!). And it was in my prayers that BBA were born.

I’m sure I initially prayed selfishly that we stayed in New Jersey – close to home and friends and church and mom and dad. But at some point I had a thought. Have you ever heard that saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it”? What if God, in His infinite love and tolerance answered my prayers and let me stay in New Jersey? Would David miss out on career opportunities that he might really enjoy? Should I really interfere with the path that the Lord wanted us to travel? Did I really believe that the Lord had my best interests at heart? Whom did I think had a better life picture – God or me? Hmmm, I had to come to terms with the fact that praying for specifics wasn’t always the correct way to pray.


Isn’t it the greatest possible disaster, when you are wrestling with God not to be beaten?
Simone Weil


So I made tentative progressive faith steps and began to pray for “The Lord’s Will.” Having heard my mother and father and Sunday School teachers, etc. use this phrase forever I really had to finally make myself face what it implied. God needed to be in charge, not me. Jesus prayed those words, “not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42b) in the Garden of Gethsemane regarding his impending crucifixion. My mind couldn’t even wrap itself around a viable comparison between Jesus’ agony and my concerns! My reality was that I wanted to be God’s own, wanted to make Him smile, and absolutely wanted the life that He had planned out for me.

So I better sit down, stop whining, and get with the program.

I started to hear myself tell friends and family, “If the Lord wants us to move, I have to believe that He’s got great plans for us. Look how wonderful he’s been to us so far? He’s not going to give us any less, is He?” And I believed it with all my heart. Yeah, I was still nervous. Yeah, I was still occasionally sleepless. But suddenly I seemed to have a little tiny spark of excitement inside me. I couldn’t begin to imagine what the Lord had in store for us but I knew one thing for sure: it would be perfect for us.

David and I came up with a good phrase for this spark of excitement: we called it Breathless Anticipation. Suddenly, instead of dreading what was on the horizon, I was standing on my tiptoes to see if I could get a glimpse. What was He sending our way next? Can you see?!

David’s changed jobs many times over the twenty years we’ve been together. And, stunningly, we’re still in New Jersey, too. He’s still a traveling fool (Brazil, Texas, Maryland, Washington DC, Nevada, California … the Mauritania Islands). When faced with new job opportunities or other big life changes we have a ritual now. We sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and make three columns: "Have To Have," "Would Like To Have," and "Wish List." The “Have to Have” column has things like salary levels, and travel amount limits. I find that things migrate across the lists as the years progress. “Job Security” is now on the “Would Like To Have” list instead of the “Have To Have.” That happened after I argued rather strenuously that being an independent contractor was far too “tentative” and I wanted a solid job that had “health care, a steady paycheck once a month, and a 401K plan.” To which David pointed out that the last time he’d had one of those jobs was the only time he’d ended up on the unemployment line and I’d had to go back to work. That shut me up fast. When he added, “I’m excited about this opportunity. I think I’ll make a difference in the world through this job. I feel strongly that the Lord is guiding me to do this.” I knew I needed to take another faith step forward. So I sat down, stopped whining, and got with the program. (Again.)

We always put the list in the family Bible. Then David and I commit to pray for what we’ve written. Kind of like a double-barrel prayer! I can still remember like yesterday the very first time we did this. David went off to the business meeting cum dinner cum negotiation session. He called me from the payphone (it was before everyone had cell phones) outside of the men’s room. “Everything in the 'have-to-have column'!” he whispered excitedly into the phone. (I’ll point out we’ve never gotten anything in the “Wish List” column, but that’s okay!)


Tell me clearly what to do, and show me which way to turn.
The BBA Bible Verse

Psalm 5:8b (NLT)


BBA are really hard to miss. When David became unemployed that was a BBA that he shouldn’t continue in that company. When a job offer didn’t happen that was a BBA that the position wasn’t going to be the best opportunity. When he was offered everything that we’d prayerfully listed in the “Must Have” column, that’s a BBA to say yes. Being rejected by an agent I’m hoping would represent me is a BBA that I need to look elsewhere. Any coincidence is a BBA for me as I don’t believe in coincidences or luck. Missing a plane is a BBA that you need to take another flight. So is missing a meeting, a phone call, a visitor … You get the drift?

I completely with the BBA program now. But stepping out on faith does that to you. Slowly, gradually, the more you step out the firmer you discover your foundation is and suddenly you'r e dancing! I feel amazingly powerful with my prayers and as a result try to be very careful with them. I pray for the Lord’s Will regarding everything and anything because I never want my will to misplace His. I trust implicitly that both the good and the bad that happen over the course of my day all belongs in the Lord’s Plan For My Life. As a result my attitude is brighter and I feel more in tune with God’s agenda. Flat tire? (Hmmm, look around and think – what are you telling me God? What do I need to do or notice?)

I had a friend accuse me one time of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. It was not a compliment. I struggled with a response because in some ways I understood where he was coming from. I decided that my glasses aren’t rose colored – they’re God colored. I try to listen with God’s ears and feel with God’s heart and think with God’s mind, too, while I’m at it.

I want to make God smile. I want to be a woman after His own heart. I want to follow all of His Big Black Arrows. I want always to be able to look at my future with breathless anticipation.


“… for the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart.”
I Samuel 13:14


I would pray for that for you, too. “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT)

3 comments:

lynnrush said...

"The problem is that we are rather dense and easily distractible so unfortunately there are many times we miss our God given cues. "

Oh, that's sooo true, for me.

And then when you talked about "rose colored glasses." That hit home too, Susan. Many of those outside the Christian faith often say that of me because I'm so optimistic all the time. Some say I'm not in touch with reality. Well, they may be a little close to home on that one, but seriously, you're right to call them "God Colored Glasses."

When you have such a strong faith, troubles come and they don't rattle us as easily because we know that God will never give us more than we can handle. And HE knows what we can handle.

Thanks for this post! BBA.....That's good!

Terry said...

"I want to make God smile."

That is such an enormous statement of faith.

Imagine making God smile... I know we do, but it's one of those things that you just don't think about very often. And then when you do... He blesses you even more with that full satisfied feeling; the one that only He can give.

GratefulinGA said...

i absolutely love this post!
BBA - mine are Big Red Arrows

Isn't it awesome to see how intimately God can be involved in every detail of our lives if we get out of the way and let Him show His love for us?

So glad i stumbled by tonight...another BRA for me!
blessings,
tammy