As we consider life’s journey in our recent series, I can’t help but identify with the Big Daddy Weave lyrics in his song “My Story”. He says “to tell you my story is to tell of Him”. As I look back on my journey I’m grateful to say that I grew up knowing Christ. My life long story is not just mine, but a story of us, me and Jesus. Oh, and yes, that means I’m perfect and I always have been. I’m kidding of course. My journey is one of highs and lows and learning through failure and experience. The biggest thing that comes to mind to me regarding “The Journey”, or at least my journey, is the process I went through attempting to find God’s will for my life.
Right out of High School I started attending Tulsa Community College with a Major in music. During my teenage years I had wanted to be a singer. It was the late 80’s and early 90”s during Christian music’s biggest years. I just knew God wanted me to grow my hair out and sing in a band. The problem was I wasn’t a very good singer. I could hold a tune, I was good at harmonies and I could sing back-up, but I really believed lead singing was the stuff. I remember driving and singing along with the radio. I pulled off the road and asked God to give me the abilities I would need to accomplish my dream. To my amazement I began immediately singing with a fuller voice. Miraculously I understood how vibrato worked and how to control it! I could do runs and trills that I had never been able to do and my vocal range was amenable at last! God had answered my prayer and I would be unstoppable!
Other people began to give me cues that they had noticed. I did a local concert and many people approached me to tell me that God had an amazing plan for my life in music. God was downloading me with constant confirmations that He wanted me to do music as much or more than I wanted it. Well, with my new ability and so much confirmation, I figured I had best get started on my career. I began cold calling churches and meeting with pastors. Only a few churches would have me. I quickly realized that many more doors were closing than opening. I began to become angry at God. Did He answer my prayers and bring so much confirmation to mock me? Why was His hand no longer guiding me? Did He change His mind? I spent countless hours asking God to reveal His will to me. He remained silent.
I looked around at many friends in music and I knew people much older than myself who were still playing in their garages and working odd jobs for little pay. I became even more upset with God mostly out of fear, when I should have known to trust Him even in the silence. I decided I wasn’t going to be like that years down the road. I recalled a childhood desire to be a police officer. I went to TCC and changed my major from Music to Criminal Justice. I decided if God had left me on my own with music then I would just pick another field of interest where I could make money. If He wasn’t going to guide me I would have to make my own path. Although I never turned my back on Him I still had hidden fear and anger. I had just decided to do whatever I wanted to until He told me otherwise.
Looking back after being in law enforcement now for almost 18 years, I feel a little stupid and yet again, grateful. God never left me. He wasn’t mocking me and I never stepped out of His will. As a police officer I am able to tell people about Jesus almost every single day. I get to talk to people at their lowest point in life. I get to tell people about Jesus as they are taking their last breaths. Then, I take those amazing experiences from work where I watch God rock someone’s world and share it on a stage during a concert or when preaching. I’m still doing music and ministering at churches. It took years, but God began to open the doors I couldn’t open once I was ready. God took a mixture of my desires and allowed them to all be used to His glory!
I had believed that whatever God’s will was, it would just happen because it was His will. I had no part in it and there was no need to work so hard. I was foolish to think God did not want me to invest where He had invested. God lead the Israelites into the wilderness on a journey from Egypt to Canaan. Scripture points out it should have been an 11 day journey. Instead it took the Israelites 40 years! Sometimes we refer to the wilderness as a bad place to be. Remember where Jesus went before He started His ministry? Look at Matthew 4:1.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.” What!? If the wilderness is such a bad place, then why does God tend to lead people there, even His only begotten Son?
Sometimes God needs us in a place to listen and God needs us to spend whatever time it takes to prepare for His will to be done.
Sometimes God leads us in obvious ways as He did the Israelites using a cloud by day or a fire by night. Sometimes as we learn through Psalms 23 He lights our path. God will not always tell you every detail of His will. He usually doesn’t. He may only give you a few things to know and the rest to figure out while in the wilderness. I absolutely believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit and He will guide you along the way. But often, God lets you walk down a path you choose and He runs ahead to make the way straight for you (Proverbs 3:6 in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight).
What I learned in the wilderness is that every answer to every question is Jesus. He is to be the first thing that goes through our minds when we are making decision or plans. What would He want me to do? What would He think about that? Eventually, it becomes second nature to think like Him and to have the mind of Christ. I heard Pastor Bill Johnson talk once about George Quam. Quam was a handball player who won five championships. The interesting thing is that he played handball with only one arm. For those who may not be caught up yet that also means he only had one hand as well. He was asked why he could be so successful at handball with only one hand. He answered that when the ball returned, his opponent had to think about which hand to use whereas he had no choice. This is how we need to be throughout our journey. The answer is always about Jesus. The answer must always line up with His word, before our own desires. There are no other options.
Whether you’re beginning your journey, you’re in the wilderness, or on the other side, if you pay attention, you will see God in it even when He is silent. When I thought I had left God’s will behind I was actually spending some time in the wilderness being prepared. At times I wish my time in the wilderness had been shortened. Anyway, I know He was with me all along. I came out stronger than I was when I went in. Even when He wasn’t telling me each step to take, He was working to straighten the path ahead of me and letting me learn as I went. I didn’t realize He had gone ahead of me to work all things to my good. That’s what He does. He loves us. Enjoy the journey!
Darin is a long time member of Word of Life. He is one of our worship leaders and guitar players on the worship team. He also travels to different churches to minister through music and preaching. Take a look at his website at www.darinshipley.com