Today I had a monumental, life-event happen to me. It was bound to happen sooner or later. It was inevitable...some would even say necessary.
I, ladies and gentlemen, got my first job rejection.
It was right after I met with my mentor group. We had spent the whole morning talking about God's "call" in our lives and how we came to our understanding of vocation as women in ministry. It seemed like each person had a moment or moments where they were able to distinctly decipher God's calling in terms of vocation. Our mentor too shared many accounts where God had clearly led her throughout her career and provided her in ways that exceeded her expectations. As a girl in the midst of the infamous "job search" I left feeling pretty hopeful.
I began to think to myself, "Yea…ok…God, if you can provide for them in those miraculous ways, surely this job I have applied for is going to be a piece of cake for you." I had an extra spring in my step and had a restored faith in God’s ability to provide.
Then, a mere 5 minutes after our meeting ended I got the email. "We have received applications from a number of qualified applicants. Unfortunately we have only selected a few to interview. Please consider applying again in the future."
Not exactly the response you expect to hear after 45 minutes of “Yay God!” stories.
This response did not fit what I had just heard. This response did not create a great God success story where doors slowly began to open and God's plan began to unfold before my very eyes. I didn't expect a "Yes" in this area, but I also didn't expect a "No Ma’am" either.
Have you ever heard God say "No?" Maybe it’s to a dream you have about your life, or a plan you were positive that God had designed for you. Then as you begin the pursuit and things go awry, you slowly start to wonder what the heck is going on.
This reminds me of a story in Genesis 48.
"Then Israel said, 'Bring my sons to me so I may bless them'. Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. Then Joseph removed them from his father's knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right towards Israel's left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel's right hand, and brought them close to him. But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim's head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn. When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim's hear he was displeased; so he took hold of his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. Joseph said to his, 'No, my Father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.' But his father refused and said, 'I know, my son, I know.'”
Israel's response gets me every time. According to logic, tradition, reason, history, assumption, expectation, etc. there was a certain way that things were supposed to go. There were expectations set, and Israel's actions weren't matching up. And Joseph reacts like any person who just realized their expectations have not been met. “No, THIS is the way you are supposed to do that. You must be confused. The blessing is supposed to go to HIM, not the youngest one. You aren’t doing it right.”
But no matter how many times I read this story, Israel’s response is the same; abounding with grace and patience. “I know, my son, I know”. In his response he identifies with Joseph’s disappointment and his confusion, and any hint of frustration that lingered. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard God say “No Ma’am” or seen doors shut that I really hoped would stay open and I’m sure there will be more “No Ashley” moments in my future. Maybe even tomorrow.
However, my God knows the desires of my heart and welcomes the hott mess of confusion, disappointment, and frustration that follow his responses. He is not ignorant to the things going on in my heart, but remains actively involved, even when I cannot see the bigger picture. If we can claim this truth in the midst of “No Ma’am”, we will find ourselves in a good place, even when we have no idea where we are headed next.
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still”