"Perhaps God isn't giving me the plan because He wants to be the plan."
This was the aha moment for Mike Donehey after years of wrestling with his obsession to know God's specific plans for his life. He came to the realization that waiting for absolute certainty from God before making decisions may seem uberspiritual, but it can lead to a life of intense stress, paralyzing fear, and crushing regretjust the opposite of the freedom granted to those living a Christ-filled life.
"This is my story...how I gave up begging to know God's will and began to ask His life to come and change my will."
With his signature humor and relentless hunger for God, Mike will show you that discovering the Father's purpose and plan for our lives is not the shell game that we all too often make it out to be. If you're unsure what to do next, take heart and accept the ultimate invitation: learn to see God as the plan, not simply the formula to the plan.
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|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)|
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Chapter 1: Jordan River or Red Sea?
It took me way too long to figure out that I should marry my wife, Kelly. To some, we were still married quite young. I was twenty-seven and she was twenty-six when we finally said “I do.” We dated for three and a half years, though. And looking back, I think we dated precisely three years and three months too long. She was beautiful and funny; she loved God, her friends, puppies, mountains, and the elderly. She was perfect. Yet I just couldn’t bring myself to pop the question. On paper, she was flawless, but what if she was tricking me? I was a theater major in college, so I knew a thing or two about pretending. What if we got a few days into the honeymoon and she removed the mask? What if underneath all that kindness and warmth, she was actually a tyrannical mutant? I mean, love knows no boundaries, but there were some things I couldn’t live with. Wasn’t marriage about finding a perfect person for you? I needed to be absolutely certain. I didn’t want an ounce of guesswork when it came to who I would be with for the rest of my life.
At the two-and-a-half-year mark, I sat on my bed and struggled with the song I was writing. It wasn’t really a song, I admit. It was more an argument than a composition. But that’s always been the way I write songs. I bring my questions, and my guitar brings her six strings, and I let the two of them wrestle it out. That’s exactly what I was doing one not-so-ordinary South Florida day.
I brooded on, as a typical afternoon thunderstorm raged outside my window. I was storming on the inside. I scribbled away in my journal, desperately trying to convince my heart to quit freaking out and hoping that God would give me the answer I was looking for. A simple yes or no would have sufficed, but try as I might, my heart was still in upheaval, and the Almighty wasn’t talking. “Just tell me what to do!” I screamed between verses. “I don’t need to know anything else—just give me this one answer!” It didn’t help that I had recently graduated from a private Christian college. It seemed that my friends were all receiving words from the Lord left and right, while all I got was His cold shoulder. “Thanks, Jesus,” I said, pouting. “I thought I was Your boy.” Even though I knew I loved my girlfriend, I didn’t think my love was enough of a reason to jump in. I needed a divine green light from the Maker Himself. Why couldn’t He do that? He parted the Red Sea, after all. He certainly could part my worry and grant me a little bit of peace. What was He waiting for? My conundrum continued.
I knew I had to make a choice. A few months earlier, we had actually broken up for the fifth and what felt like the final time. Yes, my wife and I broke up five times while we were dating. I’m telling you, it’s a miracle we made it. There was a myriad of reasons for our other breakups, but this time the reason was simple. I couldn’t commit. The day before I was supposed to get on a plane and ask her father for her hand in marriage, I backed out. Ouch. In my weak defense, I didn’t technically back out. I simply told my soon-to-be fiancée that I was scared to death. Shockingly, she didn’t like that. I guess a woman doesn’t like to hear that her man is unsure the day before he’s asking for her hand in marriage. Imagine that. The next day she justifiably got on the plane to Michigan without me, and I, also justifiably, stayed home in my fog of indecision.
Somehow I talked her into dating me again but soon found myself right back where I had started. I was still scrounging for peace to make the move into matrimony. Why couldn’t I get it together? I beat my head against the top of my guitar. Was this some sort of artist’s unconscious self-sabotage? Was I in love with my doubt more than my faith? Was I making things harder than they needed to be for creativity’s sake? Some old David Wilcox lyrics played in my head: “I was mourning the loss of the choices I’d lose.” Exactly. Choosing her meant not choosing anyone else. I was terrified. Saying yes to this girl meant saying no to every other girl down the road. What if my future soul mate was about to descend on a white horse from heaven, but I jumped the gun?
I threw my guitar down and put my running shoes on. Disgusted, I heaved myself out the front door and ran headlong into the storm. The thunder and lightning outside perfectly reflected the tempest raging inside me. I started running in spite of the pouring rain. I’ve found that sometimes when you’re stuck in a spiritual standoff, the best thing to do is to stop waiting for permission and start moving.
So I did.
I didn’t even care that I was getting soaked. I didn’t think twice about the mixture of tears, rain, and snot streaming down my face. I just kept going. I was still living in West Palm Beach at the time—which, by the way, is one of the greatest places to go for a run—and before I knew it I had covered a couple of miles. Three miles passed, then four. Apparently, panic is a fantastic performance enhancer. I traversed back alleys and a few neighborhoods until I began my ascent of the intercoastal bridge. I was charging up and over the precipice like an angry, bellowing rhinoceros when the rain suddenly stopped. The clouds parted. Sunrays streamed through holes in the clouds and danced down across the water. I slowed my gait to a jog, then a walk. Soon I came to a dead stop at the top of the bridge. My friend Caleb used to say of this oceanic occurrence, “The fish are getting out their sparklers.” And they seemed to be. Standing there, soaked from head to toe, I caught my breath and stared out at nature’s party unfolding before me.
Then God spoke.
And He completely avoided my question.
I’ll never leave you nor forsake you, He whispered to my heart.
“What?” I stammered, sweaty and out of breath.
I’ll never leave you nor forsake you, He repeated.
“Cool,” I shot back to the heavens. “But that’s not what I asked!”
I work all things together for good for those who love Me and have been called according to My purpose. He was insistent.
“Thanks God,” I responded with a snort. “Now You’re just messing with me, aren’t You?”
It went on like this for some time. Me standing exhausted on a bridge, annoyingly arguing with the sky, and God flooding my mind with promise after promise. It’s honestly a bit embarrassing to admit. I still don’t know why it took me so long to see what God was doing, but slowly, steadily, surely, as He refused to give me the answer I was looking for, something I hadn’t ever considered became quite clear. Perhaps, I thought, God isn’t giving me the plan because He wants to be the plan.
Jumping into the Jordan
I married the girl in the end. Ten years in and four daughters later, I couldn’t be happier about it. If you’ve met my wife, then you know I outkicked the coverage. And no, God never told me to marry her. At least, not in the way I thought He would. He never told me no, so I started walking toward yes. I stopped asking for an answer and moved based on what I knew was true. I guess you could say I stopped waiting for Him to part the Red Sea and decided to jump into the Jordan River. My friend Bob calls it “going Grand Canyon.” It’s his way of approaching life as if he’s skydiving. Some big decisions look terrifying until you realize God’s grace is strapped to your back like a parachute. I call it jumping into the Jordan because I had to let the currents of God’s faithfulness wash away my fear that He wouldn’t come through.
In case you’re not familiar with the story, in the book of Exodus, we’re told that God parted the Red Sea before the fleeing Israelites made it to the water’s edge. Pharaoh’s army thundered ominously behind, but God’s chosen people walked across the sea’s expanse on dry land. There wasn’t even a drop on them. In the book of Joshua, God also miraculously parted the Jordan River for the people, but that time it was different. In this story, God didn’t make it quite so easy for His people. This time, some of them were going to have to get their feet wet. The priests carrying the ark of the covenant had to march straight into the unknown waters like Indiana Jones had to leap from the lion’s head. Once they felt the cold reality of the river’s current hit their sandaled feet, that’s when God moved the waters. Marrying Kelly was my jumping-into-the-Jordan moment. I never heard a no from God, so I just kept taking the next step. Before I knew it, the river had receded and I was dancing in the Promised Land. It was scary, uncomfortable, and euphoric. But it’s what God had to demand of me to expose my fears.
Why does God do this? Why does He let me stand and watch some decisions part before me like the Red Sea but then other times force me to follow Him into the Jordan’s unknowns? I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that once I stopped asking God what I was supposed to do with my life and simply started asking how and why I was supposed to live my life, the seas of doubt began to part. In other words, I went with what I knew instead of letting what I didn’t know paralyze me. This is essential. It’s what marks our lives with faith. Instead of sitting stagnant at the water’s edge, waiting for the miracle, we get up. We start working with what we do know.
The next time you’re standing terrified on the shores of indecision, ask yourself what you know you should be doing. It could be as simple as giving thanks. It could be as demanding as selling off some possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor. It could be as impossible as forgiving someone before they even apologize. I don’t know where you need to start, but I suggest starting with what you know. It’s amazing the domino effect small acts of love can put into motion.
When it came to marrying my wife, I realized I needed to stop worrying if Kelly was the one and start worrying about how I would treat her if she were. I quickly surmised that dragging her along while I weighed all my other options was hardly the most loving thing I could do. Running across the bridge that day, I came to the hard realization that I would have to take the first steps of faithfulness toward her if I wanted to find out if she’d be faithful to me. Choosing her was not only something I had to do that day; it’s something I’ve had to commit to doing every day since. I desperately wish more couples understood this. Love is action. It’s a perpetual yes. After all, I know a lot of guys who begged God for an answer about who they should marry, and then it seems they stopped asking Him how they should love that girl every day since they received the answer they were looking for.
So what kind of moment are you in? If you’re reading this book, there’s a good chance you’re currently swimming in some kind of indecision. Should you wait for the Red Sea to part or jump into the Jordan? Which is it gonna be? Sadly, I won’t play God for you. I’m quite sure only the Holy Spirit can tell you what to do in the end. But consider this: God loves it when we move in faith. He loves when we don’t have all the answers but we act as though we trust that He does. So whether you’re waiting or wading forward, take heart. He has more plans for you than you have for yourself. And even better, He’s the only one who tells the waters which way to run.
Table of Contents
If This Book Were to Have an Introduction, This Would Be It 1
1 Jordan River or Red Sea? 5
2 42 Trips to the Principal's Office 13
3 When Dreams Die 21
4 Dreams Change (and That's Okay) 31
5 Capitalistic Christianity 49
6 The Ministry of Interruption 65
7 The Leader Label Lie 77
8 The Naked Marine 95
9 God Doesn't Need You 113
10 I Stopped Asking God to Use Me 123
11 Wasting Time on God 133
12 Always Available Joy 149
13 Living the Perpetual Yes 163
14 Drink the Cup 179
15 Embrace the Cracks 187
16 Bad Golf Is Good for Your Heart 203
17 I Still Don't Know What I'm Doing (Maybe I'm Not Supposed To) 215