My husband and I are in an ongoing process of discerning our future life and ministry. This Spring, after feeling God calling us away from a church that we loved, its been four months of regrouping, grieving, discerning, and looking ahead to what God might have for us. It’s an extraordinarily difficult process. The difficulty for me lies in seeking God not only as a family but for me. Within two years all of my children will be in school and then what? This degree that vocationally I’ve put on the back burner will be dusted off and I’ll look out into the ministry or secular world and say “Now What?”. It’s very very intimidating.
And as I seek God I’m striving to find balance between how he’s called me in my own right to serve him, and how he’s called my husband, and not to mention our kids! It feels like there’s so much weight in this decision that at times it’s overwhelming. What if I’m wrong about this course of action? What if I choose X and not Y? And all the wise and loving opinions of the people around me. They help and hinder in equal measure sometimes. Because when you’re seeking clarity, more options can seem to muddy the waters.
As I am wrestling these difficult decisions, help has come from an unexpected source. Devotionally, I’m reading through the part of Exodus where it discusses the instructions for the Israelites in building the Tabernacle and the ceremonial aspects of priesthood and sacrifice. A verse jumped out at me that I hadn’t focused on before. I love how God does that. When we pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit as we read Scripture, he offers us new eyes and new understanding.
“Fashion a breastpiece [for Aaron] for making decisions – the work of a skilled craftsman.” Exodus 28:15
This breastpiece of Aaron’s was to be used in discerning God’s will on behalf of the people of Israel. He was to enter the presence of the Lord and seek God’s wisdom on what the Israelites should do and how they should proceed. This breastpiece was probably pretty gorgeous, gold, blue, purple, and scarlet. And covered with four rows of three stones each. One stone for each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Whenever he entered the Holy Place, Aaron would carry this representation and reminder of all the people whom he was responsible for. And these were not quick either/or decisions. These would determine the course of action for the entire nation on matters of justice, future direction, weighty decisions that you really wouldn’t want to misinterpret God’s word about.
Just like when we make life altering decisions, we carry the weight of others with us. I carry the weight of my husband’s, children’s, mother’s needs. Maybe you carry the weight of aging family you are caring for, friends, people you minister to and serve, employers, employees, people who depend on you and for whom you’re responsible. And that breastplate can get heavier and heavier, especially when you include the weight of people’s opinions and ideas.
And no one is really immune from bearing others in their decisions. We don’t live in a vacuum and the web of our interactions and connections plays a role in our discernment.
And it can be overwhelming. It can be overwhelming because as we seek God these other voices can cloud out his voice and weigh our decision. Too many times I’ve let the responsibility of the breastplate make my decisions for me and didn’t even really enter the presence of God. And though those decisions weren’t always disastrous, they weren’t always in the pocket of God’s will and best plan for me.
So what did Aaron do when bearing the weight of the Israelites and their decisions? God provided simplicity in the process. Aaron bore the Urim and Thummim (possibly these mean curses and perfections in Hebrew). These were sacred lots, Urim meant no, Thummim meant yes. Yes or no. Simple answers to the big questions.
What if we approached our decision making before the Lord differently? What if was less “What should I do!?!” and more “What do you think about this?” and sat with God in that small piece of the very large decision. Then maybe we can start to whittle away at these very large decisions, start to refine them and narrow down more closely to what God has in store for us.
Because I’ve found through this process that yes, God does point his finger and say “Do This!” but he also gives his answers in a way that takes us on a different journey. A journey where we seek for longer, our trust is tested and strengthened, where we ourselves are refined by the process. Where the hum from all the voices represented by our breastplate dim as we seek God’s will.