Pointing You Forward
Enjoy this guest post by Rich Galbreath of www.ourgodspeaks.org.
You’ve heard it said that we are who we are today because of the choices we’ve made. Our circumstances today are also, to a large degree, a direct result of many, many personal decisions. And so we may find ourselves today, or in the near future, at a crossroads in life and searching for guidance… divine guidance on the right direction to turn.
We do all the right things. We pray. We seek Godly counsel. We ask God to speak and we wait patiently for a clear word. And we overlook the answer He gave us long ago. The clear word we crave has already been spoken — and either long forgotten or never even heard.
Allow me today to share with you an exercise I learned about several years ago designed to identify the echoes of God’s voice in your past. They are called spiritual markers — and they can help point you forward.
I talked about spiritual markers in a previous post called 3 Things Every Believer Should Know. God’s Word tells us that the nation of Israel would often erect monuments of stone to mark occasions where God had clearly worked in their lives. They did this, primarily, for the benefit of generations to come… so they would better know God as a result and be able to see and remember His “big picture” direction for them. Spiritual markers brought focus to God’s plan for their lives.
Specifically, spiritual markers are the events, relationships and circumstances of your past that God has used to significantly impact who you are today and what direction you are headed. They are people and experiences in your life when, looking back, you see God at work — shaping you for something to come.
Once you’ve identified your markers, you may see them lining up to point you forward. You will see your developing values and convictions from the past. You’ll have a new perspective – God’s. That’s divine guidance! That’s God’s voice and the clear word you need to move forward.
I learned this exercise in a study called Focused Living by Terry B. Walling. This was part of a seminary course I took through Rockbridge Seminary called The Focused Life. In it, the author quotes J. Oswald Sanders regarding this process…
“The healthiest exercise of the mind of a Christian is to learn to apprehend the truth granted to it in vision. By prayer and determination we have to form the habit of keeping ourselves soaked in the vision God has given. The difficulty with the majority of us is that we will not seek to apprehend the vision, we get a glimpse of it and leave it alone… It is not a question of intellectual discernment or of knowing how to present the vision to others, but seeking to apprehend the vision so that it may apprehend us.”
So here they are… the steps to gain this new perspective. You will need four different colors of Post-It notes and a posterboard.
1. Think about your life. Record a single important person, event or circumstance from your past on your first Post-It note color… one incident per note. Continue writing these significant persons, events or circumstances, one per note, and randomly place them on your posterboard.
2. Negative or painful incidents comprise the second color Post-It notes. If any of your initial notes are negative or painful, replace them with the second color Post-It note. Add any additional that may come to mind. Remember, one per note and placed randomly on your posterboard.
3. Now organize the notes chronologically beginning at the top left of your posterboard and working down in a column until you reach the bottom. Then, start a new column. Your notes should move chronologically from top left (earliest memory) to bottom right (most recent memory). Leave a few inches space at the top and at the bottom of your board.
4. Now that you have a time-line of your life, divide it into 3-5 phases or chapters. You may move the notes a little if needed. Then, use the third color of Post-It notes and give each chapter a creative title that sums up what you feel was occurring in your life during that chapter. Your chapter titles should have meaning to you. Apply the chapter Post-It notes at the top of the board.
5. The value of the time-line comes from seeing the big picture. Under each chapter, think through what you think God was trying to teach you during this time. Record your answer on the fourth Post-It note color and place it underneath each chapter at the bottom of your board.
Finally, reflect. Think about the lessons learned and the character traits developed. What are your core convictions about people and church and ministry? What passions have been developed as a result?
Think about where you are now. Are you laying an early foundation and learning the basics? Or, are you in a ministry or life-maturing phase? Maybe, these have all converged and you are in a deep walk with Christ and a unique ministry. Is there a repeating pattern of crisis or faith challenge or revelation or isolation or a check on your obedience or integrity?
The people in the Bible experienced all of these and more. The key for them, and us, is to take our new perspective, identify our core values and God at work in our past to, along with our spiritual gifts and passions, bring focus to our personal calling. You should now be able to write out a personal calling statement that will guide you going forward.
As with all things, ask God to guide you through this exercise. Be open, honest and thorough. My hope is that you arrive, as I did, at a personal calling statement that leaves no doubt as to the path God wants you on… and you can walk with confidence and God at your right hand.