“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)
Those words, “The Lord will guide you always…” have been going through my mind the last month as I have struggled with the hardest decision I have faced in my adult life. Over and over again I have read those words on the orange note card on my desk; struggling with the decision I didn’t know I needed to make.
You see, after thirteen years of teaching at my school district, I was looking for a new job. I had been praying since October about leaving and finding a new job. I sent out prospecting letters, updated my resume, and checked the teacher job website at least twice a week for months. I wanted a fresh start closer to home and hopefully a raise too. I thought there would be an opening at my dream district (where I student taught) that was only fifteen minutes away from home; much closer than my hour and twenty minute round trip commute I had made all these years.
The dream job in the great district would most probably mean a nicer car for my husband, a newer home in a great neighborhood, and good neighbors. Our current neighborhood isn’t the greatest and even though our cars are paid for and work, they are older and starting to have some issues. A new job had the potential to move our family into a comfortable, very middle class life.
The dream job didn’t come. Honestly, no job closer to home even opened. It became pretty clear that the doors for other jobs were not just closed, they were non-existent. I had resigned myself God’s plan was for me to stay in my current job another year.
During this whole month long process, a pesky orange note card kept getting stuck to my school keys. Years ago, I had gone through all of my journals from college and wrote down all of the scriptures that spoke to me at that time. I wrote them out and color coded them based on what kind of promise it was from scripture. I was hoping one day to write something and use these verses.
After three days of the same orange note card getting stuck to my keys, I knew it was something I needed to pull out and read. It is then, that I see this promise of scripture, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11
The promise of scripture, “The Lord will guide you always…” kept going through my mind and resonating in my disquieted soul. I couldn’t shake the phrase. What does this mean? The doors are closed, so I need to stay, but why don’t I have peace? You don’t leave a good job: that is just common sense.
“The Lord will guide you always…”
When I was in college, I felt what I thought was a call to be a speaker or writer. I had it in the back of my mind that this call, if it was from God, would be something I could pursue after my teaching career. I would still be young and could start a second career while I had a retirement check. “You see God, then I will be young, have a stable income, and the boys will be in college. That’s the best plan”.
Still here I was: no job prospects, a really difficult school year, six months of prayer, and a soul that was in so much turmoil that it was starting to show on my face.
“The Lord will guide you always…”
I am not sure if you have ever had a job that becomes your identity, but teaching was that for me. After fourteen years in education, I am considered a master teacher. Since thirteen of them were in the same school district, I had become part of the fabric of East Newton High School. My identity was being one of the best Social Studies and Language Arts teachers in the building. I was a smart no-nonsense teacher appreciated by both the high achievers and those students who struggled. My identity was that of Mrs. Wagoner
“The Lord will guide you always…”
Aside from my salvation, I can say I had never felt the pressing of the Holy Spirit as strong as I did the last week before Easter. My mind, my heart, and my spirit were at war with each other. A war over obedience. My mind knows when God’s word says, “The Lord will guide you always”, that He will keep His word. God is the only person who can use an absolute and mean it.
My heart was hurting. I knew that God was pressing my heart toward obedience, but there were many dear friends I would be leaving if I left my job. The best friend I had made since I was in high school was at work. Others that I cared for deeply and I respected were at work.
My soul was pressed by the Holy Spirit. He was pushing me to move beyond a head knowledge about obedience, faith, and surrender to actually be obedient and surrender to Him; to take a blind step of faith into an unknown with my family.
The day finally came when my heart, head, and soul were in firm agreement. It was the day of my oldest son’s last soccer game of the season. I needed to talk with my husband, but I knew we needed to wait until after the game and we had finished dinner.
Over the nearly twelve years of marriage, I have watched my husband grow into a mature, confident man of faith. He had been supportive of me over the past six months as I struggled with what I should be doing next school year. I know I had his support and his prayers in whatever decision I was going to make. At this point, I had mainly talked with him about teaching jobs. We had discussed the possibility of me doing something else, but education was the primary focus of my attention.
We finally finished our evening chores and sat together in the dwindling evening light that was coming through the windows of our spare bedroom. We closed the door to keep from being interrupted by our two curious boys who knew we were talking about something important. It was then, that it all came out of me – all at once. The words of true surrender to a call to ministry. It was me owning up to the pride of losing my identity as a teacher and giving it over fully to God. Expressing my fears of losing my few dear friends that I had traveled through life together with these last thirteen years. Exposing the growing fact that this wasn’t just a step of faith, it was a leap into the unknown with God.
Yet in the midst of the tears and prayers, there was peace. The quiet peace in my heart of these words now whispered to my quieted soul, “The Lord will guide you always…”.
So, what does all of this mean for me and my family? I have no idea. I just know that if I don’t take this first step of obedience now that God may never ask me to trust like this again. Whatever comes next we are walking forward, in faith, one step at a time. We know God keeps his promises. He will guide us and He will satisfy our needs. Right now that is all I need to know.
May what feels like the worst decision I ever made, be the turning point in my walk of faith. The point where God became real and my life changed.