Destination: Unknown

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“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3

For years this verse has both fascinated and frightened me. It blows my mind that Abram could accept and act upon this invitation and leave behind family, kinship ties and national identity to go to an unknown destination. In many sermons, I have heard about Abram’s obedience to God’s instructions, and his trust in God’s directing his footsteps along the way.

But all these aspects I have just described are also those which ignite incredible fear in me, and an almost instinctive, “NO!” that resounds loudly in my heart. This visceral reaction comes from deep within me, a railing against all the uncertainty encompassed in these three verses.

When I read these verses through my lenses “need to control,” “need to have clear directions” and “need to know where I am going and when I should expect to get there,” what I first see is what is not there: there is no named destination and no date/time of arrival, there are no directions of how I am supposed to get there. Then, after the initial shock at the lack of information, I also see what Abram is asked to surrender: his systems of support—family and broader kinship ties—and the way of life that is so well known to him–his country, his land with its language and culture.

In other words, Abram is called to surrender all that is within his control, and place himself in God’s hands, allowing God to shape him and his future in unfolding ways.

And this—this life of surrender and uncertainty and trust—instinctively is a big NO-NO for me. I mean, really. I am supposed to trust this “I will be who I will be” God (Exodus 3:14), this slippery God who I cannot pin down or put into a box, to lead me into unknown territory without so much as a “take this road until this point and then turn left … and eventually you will reach [this place’s name].” No timeline. No step by step instruction. No plan of action given up front. No five-year plan.

WHAT!?! Absolutely not!

In my attempt to kick against this invitation and all that it entails, in my attempts to move forward, I have found myself on a journey, which feels very much to me, to nowhere. For the last twenty-odd years, I allowed my needs for security, control, clear instructions and need to be loved and accepted to inform my decisions about career and other life choices. These needs led me from one qualification to another (two degrees, one two-year certificate program, and one postgraduate qualification to be exact), in a desperate search for a career/vocation (which have included banking, crisis pregnancy counselling, assistant fundraiser, junior lecturer) where hopefully I would feel fulfilled, feel like I’m contributing meaningfully to society, earn a salary that would keep me financially secure and feel like I am being obedient to what God intends for me. During this time I have also battled with infertility issues, and eventually became a mom to a beautiful baby girl through adoption.

Now I am in my fortieth year of life, with my fortieth birthday looming ahead of me and still not having a clue where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing. I am still trying to figure out where God wants me to be, where I am to join God in God’s work of restoration and healing in our wounded world, who I am and how that enables me to be effective in every area of life.

And frankly, I am tired of it. I am tired of feeling like I have been moving in circles rather than moving forward. I am tired of questioning who I am. I am tired of trying to figure out where God wants me to be. I am tired of trying to control this journey, tired of trying to find financial security through my own efforts, tired of following what other people say or suggest I should be doing, because clearly it has led me down a very circular path to nowhere.

So this year, I have found myself surrendering to a journey that has no clear destination in sight, but with a clear sense of conviction that this is where I need to be right now. It is a journey of surrendering to an unfolding plan, one that is being gently guided by God’s Spirit, surrounded by a listening community that is on this journey with me.

I have embarked on another academic journey, one quite different from my previous academic endeavours. With my previous academic qualifications, I focused on academic achievements, working towards a clearly defined career/vocation. My previous forays into academia were very goal-oriented, linear in thinking, and intensely focused on getting to that finish line. But now I am exchanging this “set in concrete” thinking and journey for a more organic one. This time I feel like I am embarking on a journey more familiar to Genesis 12:3 than to my modus operandi of the past.

This organic journey is leading me into spaces where I am becoming attentive to promptings without trying to nail these promptings down into a clear definition of career/vocation and a two/five-year plan. I am entering into spaces with more of a listening ear, than with a need to get all the information in order to present an academic paper that would get me top results. This time I am surrendering more to the learning process, than being focused on the goal of academic achievements.

I have no idea where this journey is going to lead me. There is no clear career in mind yet, no clear sense of vocation. But there is a very clear sense of following in the ancient footsteps of Abram. I am embarking on a journey to a destination that God will show me. I am leaving behind my old ways, ways shaped and guided by needs grounded in wounds of my past. I am surrendering myself to God, allowing God to shape my character, to learn more fully who I am in this unfolding process. I am trusting in God to bless me in this process SO THAT I may be a blessing on the journey and in the place where I am being led.

This journey does not come without difficulties. I am fighting old insecurities of not being enough, of not knowing enough. When I am surrounded by my classmates, I find myself fighting imposter syndrome, that insidious voice that tells me I do not belong, that I do not have the right qualifications or skills or knowledge or intellect.

I find myself needing to return to my reflections articulated in my post in March, of who I am in God’s eyes and the eyes of my loved ones, of my goodness and my worth. I have to fight the lethargy brought about by my fears and insecurity that threatens to derail my learning journey, focusing rather on putting one foot in front of the other, of enjoying learning new things and having my intellect challenged and stretched.

One song came to mind as I started writing this post:

“I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead
Here to declare to You my past is over in You
All things are made new, surrendered my life to Christ
I’m moving, moving forward, oh.”
-Israel Houghton, The Power of One

It is a song that I will sing throughout this new journey I am on. I will embrace all the uncertainty that this journey has to offer because I am finding a deep excitement building within me that maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be moving forward.

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Nicole Joshua
Nicole Joshua is a teacher, academic, reflective practitioner and encourager. She loves passionately and deeply and feeding people’s tummies and hearts makes her whole being smile. She is also a reluctant writer and sometimes blogs at Finding And Owning My Voice. Nicole and her husband cannot contain their excitement at having just embarked on their journey to adopt their first baby. And when you're in the same building as her, and you need to find her, all you need to do is follow the sound of her laughter.
Nicole Joshua
Nicole Joshua

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