Most of us have spent a lifetime politely accepting catch phrases that seem to have God’s character and plan tied up in a tidy bow. “God has a plan for you.” “His way is the right way.” “He’s good all the time, and all the time He’s good.”
Although I believe every one of these statements from the top of my highlighted hair to the bottom of my chipped-pedicured toes—I feel the need to sit for a while and ask the question that many are afraid to ask.
“What happens when God’s way seems sideways?”
Typically, the path from one point to the next is straight and uncomplicated. For the life of me I can’t figure out why our “life path” can’t be that way too. The truth is, many obstacles spring up on our paths that simply must be dealt with. Some are based in emotion (fear, insecurity, pride, unbelief) and others are real things that camp on our path and refuse to let us pass, no matter how hard and long we beg them to move.
I don’t know a single person who’d chose a sideways path rather than a straight path to get somewhere important. But God seems to like sideways—so I’m learning to like it too.
The first problem with sideways is it makes our feet turn in a direction we didn’t intend to turn. Sideways isn’t straight—so our feet have to learn to lean in a way they aren’t trained to lean. If you’ve been working towards a goal or praying for an outcome that seems to be going sideways, know that God hasn’t left you in a confused heap. More times than not, God allows us to curve along a winding road rather than sail like an arrow straight to our target. The twists and turns along the way burn out the ugly in us.
I’ve recently been praying for clear direction in my love for writing. Most of my adult life has been spent either dreaming of writing books, actually writing books, or writing proposals hoping for new publishing houses to ask me to continue to write books. Books, books, books…everything else has been second. With the writing industry changing, and some less than stellar sales numbers on my last book, getting a new deal has been hard. Several publishing house have been full of enthusiasm—promising the moon, but when it came right down to it, couldn’t pull the trigger on a deal. Last week was a symbolic last straw. I was at a gathering of wonderful authors, along with my agent, when in the span of two days I heard back from one publishing house we were waiting to hear from (the answer was no), and another house made an offer on a book I proposed a year ago, but the offer was so low I didn’t see how I could afford the time to write it. I was praying fervently for answers about this upcoming year. What do I do? Why haven’t I got a new book deal? What makes sense as this new year unfolds?
My job title encompasses more than just writing. I’m also the president of a ministry in Uganda called The Vine, and have been writing a faith-based TV show with a co-writer for several months. The question I posed to God was, “Am I on the right path?”
You know what he said? “Go sideways.”
I know I will write books again, but for now the path to my heart’s desire is taking a turn. More grant writing for the ministry in Africa, and a fervor for the TV industry as it’s the wild west of possibility when it comes to God-honoring content at this point in history. My feet must lean in to what God thinks is best, because if I miss that and push through my own way…I end up exhausted and disappointed. Sometimes what we see as failure God sees as trust.
Leaning towards sideways rather than fighting it keeps us upright.
The second problem with sideways is it’s hard to see what’s ahead as your direction isn’t clearly mapped out. If only we could foresee the hard times maybe we could avoid them. It seems God is less concerned with our avoiding hard times, and more concerned we learn from them. The Bible is filled with hard times. I sometimes wonder how Peter and the other fishermen reflected on their lives after meeting Jesus. They were simple fishermen…boats, bait, and fish—that was it. Then Jesus made them rethink everything. Did they ever want to go back to simply catching fish? Not on your life.
Although sideways is unpredictable, there’s something exhilarating about not knowing what’s next. I don’t think Peter was hung up on his Google calendar—and we shouldn’t be either. When we fold ourselves into God’s plan—we don’t have to toil or push. We can simply rest in the knowledge that we’re doing what He wants…and that’s enough, even if it’s not what we expected.
If you’re struggling with a direction you want to go but can’t get to; a relationship you can’t fix; a problem that seems to lurk and linger like an unwanted odor…maybe it’s time to go sideways. Allow God to take you on a detour, and see if you don’t end up at a better final destination.