I know a man—let’s call him John—who is desperately seeking God for direction.

John is about 55 years old. He manages a division that until a few years ago had 20 people; it now has less than half that number. But—of course—his division is expected to produce as much as the original group. You know, “work smarter not harder.” Right!

In addition, John is actively involved in his local community, running a Boy Scout troop, coaching his kid’s soccer teams, leading the High School Sunday School program, and running a couple youth retreats each year. He has been trying to offload some of this work, but finding people to step up to the plate in the organizations has been disappointing.

John feels at the end of his emotional reserves. He is exhausted; his gas tank is on empty; and he is running on fumes. His attempts to reduce his stress have failed because he can’t find anyone else with his commitment.

John needs to make changes but he doesn’t know what to do. He longs to hear God say, “do this” or “do that.” He recently read a passage in Acts where God tells Paul not to go to Asia and instead to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10), and John said to me, “That’s what I’m talking about! I want that kind of clear direction.” I suspect he’d also appreciate handwriting on the wall.

So far, however, God seems to be silent. So what is John to do? Haven’t we all longed for a specific direction from God at one time or another? Doesn’t God seem silent at times?

John recently met with friends to discuss his situation. It turns out this situation is not new. He is chronically over committed. He frequently takes the project no one else can fix, and he succeeds time and again. Others ask more (and more) of him because he simply gets things done.

Why does John so often become enmeshed in the multitude of management tasks?

  • He claimed—and his friends agreed—that it wasn’t for money; much of his busyness he did for free, and he lived fairly simply and was reasonably generous.
  • He also claimed—and his friends agreed—it wasn’t really for the prestige of title; John is content to work in the background, getting things done without the title.
  • He also claimed—and his friends agreed—it wasn’t mainly for the affirmation; in getting things done, John often made unpopular decisions when he knew what was needed.

I don’t know John’s heart and I don’t know what he should do (though I have some ideas!). But his story reminds me of someone else’s story.

Mine.

Throughout my life, I’ve been the victim of a “Go-To Guy” syndrome. When a situation at work or church needed someone to get something done, I was their man. I can volunteer faster than a crisis can be created. Before the plea leaves their lips, I’m offering my Go-To Guy services.

There was—and to some extent still is—an inability to see a situation objectively. Despite being overwhelmed with work and family, someone could trump my decision making process by appealing to my Go-To Guy syndrome. A personal bias can color choices. I don’t always weigh all the factors equally; one factor—my Go-To Guy illness—disproportionally outweighs the others.

God has been showing me another way that he gives direction. God sometimes gives specific direction (“Go to Macedonia not Asia”) but when he doesn’t do so, it might be he is doing something more incredible. Most of the time I probably need more than a simple “yes or no,” or “turn right or turn left.” I really need a change in my heart’s motivation.

God’s directional voice is teaching me to become the kind of man who makes good decisions.

If my five year old son asked me if he could go outside and play Frisbee, I’d say, “Dinner will be served in half an hour, so don’t go far.” If my twenty-five year old son asked me if he can go outside and play Frisbee, I’d say, “I’ve trained you to be the kind of man who makes good decisions, so make one.” I want my twenty-five year old son to come to me for wisdom, but I also want him to grow in a personal maturity to make good decisions.

When God seems silent in our prayer for a decision, it is not because God is absent. Very often he is arranging circumstances to bring us to a place where the very motivations of our hearts are changed. He is freeing us from some weight that holds us down.

A Christian thinker once wrote:

Whatever controls you is your lord. If you live for power you are controlled by power. If you live for acceptance you are controlled by the people you are trying to please. No one controls him or herself. You are controlled by the lord of your life. (Becky Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker)

And the lord of my life was being the Go-To Guy.

If God simply answered any one decision question—should I take this job offer or not?—without dealing with a root idol in my life, then I would be stuck again (in a week or a month or a year) with this endless cycle of trying to please the practical lord of his life.

But if instead God roots out a practical lord of my life—an idol of self satisfaction by being the Go-To Guy—then I can become the kind of man who makes good decisions.

God is speaking to me and directing me, but in ways I didn’t expect or imagine.

When we are stuck in a rut, longing to hear direction from God in a decision, might the seeming silence of God be His way of moving us to more deeply examine the practical lords of our lives? Maybe God is going after the “trump cards” in our lives, the things that give us personal validation apart from him: money, prestige, being a Go-To Guy, popularity, being a great parent, comfort, having a great ministry, and the like.

Maybe He is giving us more than we even ask or think.

It feels like night vision is required when looking into our own life or the life of another. We can make out the shape of some things that seem to be significant in the discovery of who we are, but they remain fairly dim and undefined or can disappear altogether.

I remember several late evenings (actually early mornings) getting up and walking into the kitchen to get a pain reliever for a headache. I would leave the lights off hoping not to wake my wife and avoiding any other reasons for my head to hurt.

As I would walk through the dark living room, I would sometimes catch a glimpse of a pair of shoes or the vacuum cleaner with my peripheral vision. As I tried to focus directly on it, it would often disappear. As soon as I looked straight ahead, I would see it once again. Why?

In the same way, have you ever noticed an airplane or a satellite moving across the dark evening sky and as you attempt to follow it, it disappears? Why?

I found the answer in a firearms training course I recently took, as the instructor talked about dim light shooting and eye sight. I discovered a transcendent truth in a most unlikely place.

The iris is like the shutter of a camera, opening and closing to regulate the amount of light entering the eye though the pupil. When we talk about eye color, we are talking about the iris.

The retina is similar to the film in a camera. The retina is struck by light coming in through the pupil, forming an image, and then causing an impression to be transmitted to the brain through the optic nerve.

The retina is composed of two different types of cells -­‐ cone cells and rod cells. The cone cells are your “day eyes” because they require a great deal of light to activate them and they are blind during periods of low-­‐illumination. These cells enable you to see color, shape, and contrast.

Your “night eyes” are your rod cells. They produce a chemical substance called visual purple, which makes them active in darkness or periods of low-­‐illumination. They enable you to distinguish black, white, and shades of gray, and to distinguish general outlines.

Alright, here is where I’m going with all of this – the principles of night vision.

First, we must give our eyes time to adapt to low levels of illumination. It takes approximately 20-­‐30 minutes for the rod cells to produce enough visual purple to activate and enable you to distinguish objects in dim light.

Too often we want instant clarity and when it doesn’t come, we stop looking – we walk away from our search. Clarity always come in degrees and over time. It takes time for the eyes of our heart (Eph. 1:18-­‐ 19) to adjust to the often dim light over our story. “People’s thoughts can be like a deep well, but someone with understanding can find the wisdom there.” (Prov. 20:5 NCV) Deep wells are always dark.

Secondly; in dim light, we must keep our attention on an object without looking directly at it. Looking directly at an object focuses the image on the cone region which isn’t sensitive at night. To form the image on the rod cells we need to look slightly to the right, left, below or above an object. The visual purple in the rod cells blacks out in four to ten seconds and you lose sight of the object, so we must move our eyes swiftly so fresh rod cells are used. We must pause for a moment at each point because our eyes can’t see while in motion.

The human heart and the work of God is vast, complex and mysterious. When we focus on one aspect of our heart or life for a long period of time to the exclusion of others, it often becomes imperceptible. Looking around an issue, question or desire often allows it to come into focus. We must continue to scan the landscape of our life and God’s heart.

Thirdly, confidence plays a very important role in our use of night vision. Normally we use our eyes when there is plenty of light and we see sharp outlines and bright colors. When we are in darkness, objects are faint, have no sharp outlines and have little or no color. We must believe what our eyes tell us. We gain confidence by practicing these principles of night vision.

As we are willing to delve into the dimly lit recesses of a person’s story and glory, offering what we see, we will become more comfortable and skilled with our night vision.

“Now we see a dim reflection… All that I know now is partial and incomplete…” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Learning to see better,
Gary

I’m guessing that you know that Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, died yesterday – October 6, 2011.  Here is a man who much of the world was aware of…for good reasons.

It’s often fascinating and beneficial to see how a person like this thinks. Here is a quote that stand out to me.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.” Wired, February 1996

You and I are more creative than we believe.  Why?  Because God has created us in His image – a creator, an artist.

“For we are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared long ago to be our way of life.” Eph. 2:10 (ISV)

You and I have been created to offer to the world “good works” which are essentially our “art”.  You are an artist!

André Gide said, “Art is a collaboration between God and the artist…”  Is this the Christian life – a collaboration between us and God?

God has invested significant experiences in us which has equipped us to “see things”, as Jobs alludes to.  But we must find clarity, understanding and revelation about these people and circumstances that God has brought into our lives.  Then the creativity comes as we “connect things.”

“I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake”.  (Philemon 1:6)

I want to encourage you to discover more of “every good thing which is in your for Christ’s sake”‘ to find more clarity, understanding and revelation about your story, desires and journey by attending the Exploration Calling Intensive Experience this December.

Gary