May 1, 2000
 Beating the Expectations Trap
The Familiarity Problem
In Major Life Change
    
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My greatest moment of victory occurred at a seventh-grade talent assembly. A band I had formed, the Galaxies, performed the only two songs we knew--Rock Around the Clock and Raunchy. By any critical standards our music was terrible. But Raunchy was an instrumental hit that year, and when I picked the first notes on my guitar it was like a call to arms. The students began clapping along thunderously and at the end of the song rose to their feet chanting for an encore. (Of course, we didn't know any other songs, so we played Raunchy again.)

The experience was so affirming that it set the stage for my life for years to come. My friends saw me as a musician, and I gladly accepted the role. My goal in life was to become an accomplished guitarist with a popular band.

In time I came to realize that my strongest interests and gifts lay not in music but in teaching and pastoring. While I enjoyed music greatly, the recognition I received was more important to me than the creative satisfaction. The logical move was to leave music and pursue a teaching ministry.

Some who knew me well, while not wanting to discourage me, found my new desire hard to reconcile with the way they saw me. I found it painfully difficult to think of leaving an affirming situation and going against my friends' expectations.

New Horizons

We all come to points where we realize Christ is prompting us to make a major change. It may mean changing career direction or college major, developing a new relationship or taking a step of spiritual or moral growth. Yet sometimes those who know us best can find the change hardest to understand. We don't receive the encouragement we expect and feel let down. We must be very forgiving at such times. After all, others have only the picture of us that they've gained from the past. It was too much to expect those who had known me mainly as a musician to perceive me so quickly in a very different role.

But at the same time we must realize how easily we can become immobilized by the fear of disappointing others or losing their affirmation. Christ can be nudging us to move on, but the course of least resistance is to keep playing Raunchy again. A woman told me how for years she had been frustrated immersing herself in local political activity when in her heart she wanted to be an interior decorator. "I have spent most of my life doing what I thought other people wanted me to do," she confessed.

At transition times we should remember the inspiring example of David facing Goliath. David's brothers chided him for leaving his sheep and thinking he could take on such a mammoth foe (1 Sam 17:28-30). Even worse, Saul, the most respected warrior in Israel, insisted, "You are not able to go against this Philistine . . . for you are but a youth" (1 Sam 17:33). David, however, knew that he could take on Goliath because of his victories over lions and bears, and because he was sure God would give victory to a cause so clearly upholding his glory. David's decision was based upon both a wise self-understanding and a keen perception of what would most clearly honor God. His mature perspective gave him the fortitude to forge beyond all the objections and disappointing looks.

The Multitude of Counselors

Here is a paradox: Scripture declares that we are not likely to understand God's will for our big decisions apart from the advice of others. "Without counsel, plans fail," the Proverbs frequently remind us. At the same time David's experience shows us that God's direction can fly in the face of advice. How can we resolve this?

Part of the answer is that we should seek counsel not only from those who know us well, but also from mature individuals who may be more objective. It is interesting that Saul (who was undoubtedly more objective than David's brothers) agreed to let the boy fight after he had presented his case (1 Sam 17:37). An older businessman whom I greatly respected and several pastors counseled me to make the transition from music to teaching. I'm not certain I would have gone ahead without their encouragement.

In any case, knowing God's will is more art than science. We must check our motivations, abilities and circumstances, and weigh them in light of the counsel others give us. As we do this prayerfully, a confident course of direction should emerge.

Any time Christ calls us to make a major change, we will probably be blessed with those who encourage us. But others may not want to let us shed the old snakeskins. We must somehow affirm them for their concern but still find the courage to go ahead, seeking the praise of God rather than people. Apart from such an outlook, we can miss golden opportunities for developing our gifts and investing them for Christ's sake.
  

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