Embracing Your Personal Journey

Esther McIlveenEsther McIlveen writes for The Richmond Review, Richmond BC, and is co-author of Time Echoes Softly and Would You Know My Name?

In a world that is changing and inconstant, knowing that we have been given a divine destiny for our special journey, is both crucial and deeply reassuring.

Whenever we talk or think about vocation or calling, we are asking the questions, Who am I?, What am I called to do?, Do I have the courage to do the thing I am called to do? Whenever we struggle with what we are to do in life, we are struggling to uncover our talent. The uncovering of them is one of the most important tasks confronting any one of us.

The code we are to decipher is written into our genes and sent out to us, as it were, from the core of our beings. We ask to know the will of God and it is written into our nature.

Leanne Payne says in her book Listening Prayer, "The divine order and blueprint lies like a mantle over the lives of those who learn to pray effectively."

Paying attention to the desires of our heart is important. Some religions teach that desire is wrong and that it needs to be subdued and subjugated. Not so in Christianity. Desire is a mighty force; one of our most divine attributes. Scripture implies the importance of desire.

  • Psalm 37:4 – "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."
  • Proverbs 10:24 – "The desire of the righteous will be granted."
  • Psalm 1:17 – "O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek."
  • l Corinthians 12:31 – "Earnestly desire spiritual gifts."

Leanne Payne says, "See the Godlike quality of desire. The Kingdom of Heaven within you is operated through desire. Do not quench it or crush it or suppress it. Rather offer it to the Lord. Offer him your most elementary desires, your craving for happiness, for love, for self expression, for well-being, for success, for joy on any level of your being-offer these freely and without shame to God."

Our heart's desire is often a clue, because chances are those things you deeply desire is where your vocation lies.

Many years ago I had a desire to write, but I had just barely acknowledged it to myself, but not to anyone else. We were serving in the Presbyterian Church in Edmonton. On one occasion some ministers from Vancouver came to our city to teach on worship. I asked them to pray for us as a family. One man, who I did not know at the time, came over and laid his hands on me and prayed and said, "I see a pen and you will write as the Holy Spirit gives you utterance." I was completely overcome with joy! I realized that my deep heart's desire had been placed there by God. I went to work and put legs under that prophecy and enrolled at the University of Alberta. There I told God, "If you ever give me a voice I will be true to you." I started to write, but twenty years later I was approached by the editor of Easy Living and since that time I have been writing for secular newspapers for about eight years.

I left a job recently, in order to place my energy and time more completely on my journey of writing. As I reflected on some relationships, there were a few I had to let go, because they weren't healthy, nor were they reciprocal. As I prayed to be fully aligned with my path, friends, books, ideas and opportunities appeared. Soon after this I was cut from the paper, because the editor told me it was due to cutbacks. The new editor, I felt, wasn't favourably impressed because I wrote from a Christian perspective. Being cut from a particular newspaper seems to happen to me every three years. This time I decided not to take it quite so seriously for I've learned a lesson to keep trusting God when the unexpected comes, because I know that writing is part of my journey. It think it is a matter of time when an opening will appear again.

When we know what God has called us to, we can experience peace in the midst of change, as well as loss because we know we are guided by the hand of God. I am convinced that our life is like a tapestry with distinct designs woven by a master architect.

A book I have been working on is called Threads in Transition. As I have reflected on my life, I have been amazed to find certain threads. Perhaps as you grow older these threads tend to show up more. The movie, A Man Called Peter, deeply affected both my husband and I, even though we had never met and lived about 300 miles from each other.

I remember going to see the movie with a girlfriend and afterwards commenting, "I'm going to marry a Presbyterian minister." The truth was I didn't know any Presbyterian young men at the time. However, in looking back that was the first inkling I had of a prophetic gift that God has given me.

My husband Howard was attending Queen's in Kingston at this time. He went to see this movie twice because he was so attracted to Peter Marshall, a Presbyterian minister who married Catherine Woods, a writer. At the time Howard knew he was called to the ministry, but didn't know how to have a relationship with God. He was in honours math at Queen's University and once when he sat a math test he went blank. He had a lot of time to figure out a possible mark and he was sure he had failed. He returned to his room and dedicated his life to God. Later he discovered that he had passed the test. That summer he took Hebrew and Greek to prepare for Knox College where he took theology. A few months later I was invited to Kingston where I met Howard. The movie was a definite thread in my life.

Getting on our path means cultivation of self-knowledge and developing the inner life. St. Teresa of Avila, writing in the sixteenth century called it the interior life. For many, beginning to look inside, can be a scary thing. We're not sure of what we will find. That's why some people just keep running. But to know our path, we have to come to know ourselves.

Jesus is the most wonderful friend we could ever find to welcome into our inner sanctuary. Scripture teaches us that he has known us even before we were born.

God speaks to Jeremiah and says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set your apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

Isaiah says, "Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name, he who formed me in the womb to be his servant."

David, the musician who wrote Psalm 139, also discovered that God had written his blueprint into his being while he was being formed in his mother's womb. -My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. It is an amazing reality to know that God has written a book about each one of us, that contains all the days of our life. He treasures and loves us that much. We all have a special destiny to fulfill that no one else can accomplish.

Ephesians has many references to the fact that you and I have been chosen-we have been chosen before the creation of the world. Before the majestic mountains were designed, or the meadows of flowers were painted, or the great waterfalls were shaped, God thought about you! You are a piece of sculpture to perform good things, that God ordained for you to accomplish. We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Fear can stand in the way of our uncovering and owning our gifts. Leanne Payne says, "Cast aside the last vestige of unbelief and embrace that destiny which you feared to accept on account of your limitations. These handicaps can be transcended by God's indwelling spirit." Not too many of us can operate in our gifts if we only concentrate on what we can do. Faith works in the same way. Sometimes we only have faith for what we can do, but not for what God can do. Let us choose to operate not in our limitations, but in God's power.

Elizabeth O'Connor in her book, Eighth Day of Creation, says, "Whenever I think that there is a design written into each life-a blueprint that can be known-I am reminded of those rubbings that artists make of stone carvings on buildings and tombstones. I imagine what it would be like if we could have a rubbing of our lives, a map that would show us where we are headed and how to get there. Sometimes I think I would like that. We would have no blind alleys. Every road would be a royal road; but there would be no mystery, no work to do, no obstacles to overcome, and we would not need each other. After all, what are blind alleys but God's way of telling us that we missed the reading of a sign and to go back and start again. And what are our hopes and sighing after, but rubbings of something deep and hidden to us."

Gifts are given so that we may serve. About twelve years ago every time I picked up a newspaper there was a call for child-minding centres. I felt God tap me on the shoulder to respond to this need. Howard was the minister at Emmanuel Christian Community at the time, so I called the women of the church together and said, "It's time we stopped pouring tea for each other and do something for our sisters in the community." The feeling was unanimous. About a year later, the Good Shepherd Drop-In Center in Richmond, came into being. It operates five days a week.

Our gifts need to be affirmed in community. However, churches are often too big and too busy for the calling forth of gifts in individuals, therefore we need to find mentors who will do this for us. A caring, listening person can help us overcome our timidity and affirms our gifts and talents.

One of the ways we encourage each other is to operate in our gifts. To use our gifts in freedom helps others. Jealousy and envy exist only when we are not operating in our gifts and talents and we perceive that someone else is richer and more gifted than we and we use precious energy in being jealous, rather than tapping into our rich resources.

If we are operating in our gifts, we have a greater stability to function regardless of the changes around us. Jesus was able to say at the end of his life, "I have finished the work you gave me to do." What a wonderful closure to a life that has operated in the gifts God has given.