When the next slide illuminates the screen, you see a map of the Promised Land. Not the land per se, but its borders, its boundaries. Your heart slams against your rib cage as you consider this is the land your parents refused to enter, and the land you and all those around you get to possess! It is so massive. So exhilarating. You tear your eyes away from the screen just long enough to peek over the horizon…
When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, “You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on. Go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all the neighboring regions—the Jordan Valley, the hill country, the western foothills, the Negev, and the coastal plain. Go to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, and all the way to the great Euphrates River. Look, I am giving all this land to you! Go in and occupy it, for it is the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to all their descendants.”
Deuteronomy 1:6-8 NLT
About a year and a half ago I was approached by a few of our church staff members to apply for the amazing job opportunity to serve as the admin for our youth ministry. What a blessing and honor to be asked to apply! I thought, this couldn’t be been more perfect: a part-time job working with a ministry close to my heart while serving the church I love. And earning extra cash for our family. Win-Win!
But the more I prayed about it, the more I realized that though this was a fantastic opportunity—it wasn’t a fantastic opportunity for me. But in my Irish-stubbornness, I ignored this, forged forward, and applied for the job. After my first interview those feeling were stronger and I felt a sense of foreboding and dread settle in my heart. I passed it off as nerves, but really it was God telling me to stop this pursuit—it was not His will for me. He revealed that if I took the job, I wouldn’t be able to be His hands and feet in mentoring my small group of girls who had become my daughters and to whom I was committed. He also exposed the limiting factor of time. Between the time this job would require, along with being a wife and a mother of 4 boys, I wouldn’t have time (or energy) to be obedient in His call on my life—writing.
However, I was determined to make it work. I was determined to do it all. I was determined. But after my second interview, I was in despair. Our family could use the extra cash this position would provide—but I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my purpose. So I said, “God, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
I didn’t get the job. And even though I knew that was God’s will for me I felt rejected, passed over, and unwanted. Not to mention embarrassed and angry. There was no reason to feel this way, but I confess I did. And in the midst of my pity party, God showed up and showed me the map of my Promised Land. Not everything in it, but its boundaries. And this job was far outside of those boundaries. Could I have done the job well? Yes! Would I have found joy and fulfillment in this job? No. Even though I love our students, I would have been outside God’s will for my life—and there’s little joy there. Just stress, anxiety, and exhaustion.
What I learned from this experience still resonates with me. I learned God’s boundaries in our Promised Lands are a blessing. They actually enhance our life! They enable us to focus our responsibilities in the area He has gifted us. They free us to conquer the land He has given us and to claim it. Boundaries unfetter us to concentrate our strengths, abilities, gifts, talents, and energy on what God has called us to do. And when we stay with-in our boundaries, we are released from the feeling of needing to do it all and over commitment.
I also learned, when we try to do our thing in someone else’s Promised Land, we rob them of their territory, joy, and opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose for them. See, the amazing woman who got the job is much better gifted and qualified for it than I am. Actually, she’s a ROCK STAR! In chaos, she keeps things calm and organized. She is a voice of reason when things get jumbled. Not me, I would be wigging-out with the best of them. Not good in any ministry. But if I would have been offered the job and taken it, I would have been taking so much more from her, the ministry—and myself. And that, my friends, would have been a colossal tragedy.
We may not get our boundaries laid out in black and white like the Israelites did. But I do believe, those of us who follow Jesus Christ have something better, we have the Holy Spirit. The key is, you have to listen and obey—unlike me.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 NLT
Journal exercise: How are you doing with the boundaries of your Promised Land?