on standby

Have you ever felt tied, fettered, trapped even?  Your efforts hemmed in, opportunities cut short, by circumstances beyond your control?

It was the last 15 minutes of a long afternoon of good teaching at a Bible conference.  My brain and heart were on overload and I was ready for the dinner break.  But those words caught my attention and I sat up to listen!

I was only in my late teens/early 20s at the time.  But I had already experienced a level of frustration – of feeling like I held legitimate hopes and goals, but no real ability, on my own, to see them realized.  I wondered what that last speaker, who was brave enough to take the platform with only a few minutes remaining, would say to encourage our hearts.

He opened his Bible to Luke 19:30-31 and read the brief account of a colt that was tied, at the entrance of a small village outside Jerusalem.  The Lord Jesus told His disciples exactly where to find it and instructed them to untie it and bring it to Him.  If anyone questioned their actions, they were simply to reply, “The Lord needs it.”

Unknown to most, tied in that place for who knows how long, that colt was exactly where the Lord knew it would be.  At just the right time to fulfill just the right purpose, the colt was untied – to serve the Lord’s needs and plans on that specific day.  His need was practical.  He needed to ride the colt into the city.  But His purpose was also prophetic – to fulfill the words of Scripture, spoken in Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9, that Israel’s King would come to them, victorious yet humble, riding upon a colt.

Our speaker’s message that afternoon was so simple, yet it has stayed with me for 30 years.  Are we willing to trust the Lord’s plans and purposes for us?  Might we be more willing to look beyond the circumstances that seem to hem us in, tie us down, hinder our progress (by our own estimation)… if we were able to see that being tied in that place would make us ready and available to meet the Savior’s needs, to fulfill His plans, to see His Words of promise realized?

Absolutely.  Yes.  Of course!  That certainly casts a very different perspective, doesn’t it?

Thirty years later, I must confess that this lesson, however simple, is one I am still learning.  I still have longings, hopes and dreams I believe are truly honoring to the Lord.  But in long conversations with Him in prayer, His answer for many of them has been “No.”

His “No” answers are usually gentle and kind, but firm.  The door that closed.  The opportunity that never materialized.  The need right in front of me that was more immediate, so those “more exciting” ideas were pushed aside… again.  And there have been several occasions when His heart seemed to whisper to mine: “I love your passion, and that is a lovely idea, but it is just not what *I* have planned for you.”

When I think of His plans matched up against mine, the struggle softens and the passion cools.  I really do NOT want any plan but His!  I don’t.  But some of those “No” answers are harder than others to receive, even from a loving Father’s hand.

In looking back through journals that chronicle my walk with the Lord (over decades now!), I recently came across this note.  I saved it because it captures the raw moments of tough-love between an eager-beaver (me) and a sovereign Savior (my Lord Jesus) – where I begin to grasp His kindness in those hard “No” answers.  The note was written to dear friends whom I am grateful to call my “inner circle.”  They faithfully prayed me through a long, hard season of wrestling one of those potential avenues to serve the Lord that ended up in a heart-breaking, but firm, “No.”

“Thank you for praying!!!  I didn’t realize how much I would need it this week… fighting a growing sense of disappointment and bewilderment, deep soul wrestling as I ask the Lord to grant me the grace to accept from His hand the reality check that what I thought might really unfold this year is NOT His plan.

Why do I hold on so tightly?  Why is it so hard to let go?  How did I end up here again?  Have I taken wild independent ownership of something He never asked me to hold?  How could I have been so sure of where He might be leading me only to see the path hit a dead end?

I became so deeply invested because I trusted Him to take me where I didn’t really believe I could go.  I wanted to experience what it’s like to live the impossible when His power is at work.  I was thrilled to hold this amazing story and tell it with joy!

But here’s the thing that rolled through my heart and down my cheeks in hot tears at 4 am as I prayed for Him just to hold me until His best and perfect plan becomes more clear to me…

Even when I’m still broken and confused and I don’t get it, He’s still got me!  His perfect plans are still moving forward and He still takes my hand and helps me join His path.

No matter where He places me, the story will *always* be amazing!  He will always inspire me to tell it with joy!

And maybe His version of living the impossible just looks different than I expected.  Maybe the impossible isn’t always stepping boldly forward in obedience when I feel equally thrilled and terrified.

Maybe, sometimes, the impossible is to dive in with all of my heart, soul and being into something I truly believe He has brought me to… only to hand it back to Him with equal obedience if it isn’t His best plan right now.

Maybe the impossible is to walk through the most intense soul wrestling I have ever known for months, aching for an open door that never comes, but still have the same level of commitment and joy to show up where He has already placed me and serve Him with diligence and excellence… with no one other than my Lord and my inner circle ever knowing this wasn’t where I thought I’d be.

My Savior knows where He needs me.  He knows where I need to be.  He knows what will thrill my heart more than any idea I might hold for a season.  He is trustworthy!  I know every step is to bring me into deeper surrender and although it may be hard (for a feisty one like me!), it is never risky.  His best IS best, and in the end, it is never disappointing!!!”

The Lord answered those prayers.  He held me close until His plans began to make more sense.  He seemed to ask me, “are you willing to be on standby?”  Simply ready and available to go or do whatever He would ask of me?  Not framed by my own ideas or goals, just open and ready to respond when He welcomes me into His.  And just like my heart 30 years ago, my reply was, “Absolutely.  Yes.  Of course!”

How sweet to be reminded that I can be just like the colt… tied, fettered, hemmed in… but exactly where the Lord needs me, when He chooses to use me.  And in each of those moments, I will be set free to serve Him, with a job that is uniquely my own.  He doesn’t ask me to stop longing.  He only asks me to leave my longings in His hands and wait for Him.  His best, His plan – it’s the only thing worth longing for!

He will be a special instrument, set apart, ready for the Master’s use, prepared for every good work.  2 Timothy 2:21

on standby

Read more here! – Matthew 21:1-11 – Mark 1-10 – Luke 19:28-38 – Isaiah 62:10-12 – Zechariah 9-12



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