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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: Ruth Haley Barton

Calling, Day 14: Purposed Participation with God

May the Lord grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans. . . May the Lord fulfill all your petitions! Psalm 20:4


School has almost begun here. We have another two days to unpack from our recent trip to Ohio, do laundry, plan menus, shop for last-minute items, squeeze in a few play dates, and make our final library run of the summer. Thursday, the children have orientation, and Friday is the first full day of classes.

Because this will be my first year with all of the children in school full-time, many are asking the same question: What are you going to do with all of your time?

But I think a question that is more important to ask even before I plan the projects and schedule the days is a question of the heart, rather than the calendar.

Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, begins with a chapter entitled, “Longing for More: An Invitation to Spiritual Transformation.” That chapter opens with a quote from Elizabeth Dreyer: “One can being one’s [spiritual] quest by attending to the desires of the heart, both personal and communal. The Spirit is revealed in our genuine hopes for ourselves and for the world. How brightly burns the flame of desire for a love affair with God, other people, the world? Do we know that to desire and seek God is a choice that is always available to us?”

Attending to our heart’s desires isn’t always recommended to us, whether for life or calling. Maybe it’s that we fear our hearts to be a cauldron, simmering up a witch’s brew of treason. Maybe it’s because we’re retreated into our safer cognitive models that insist upon immersing ourselves in the grammar of God. It may also be that our evangelical emphasis on serving and doing simply keeps us too busy for the practices of self-reflection.

Whatever the cause, the false heart-mind dichotomies prevail. It’s the continental divide of the modern soul.

But look at the Psalmist’s integration of desire, plans, and petitions. Although it’s never fair to use one verse as the basis for a theological principle, I think this verse says something universally true that could be defended by other Scriptures.

We often do and become what we’ve hoped and planned and prayed. Life – and calling – may well be this three-strand cord of divine will and purposed human participation.

To say that wanting and planning and praying are important is not the same thing as saying that are ultimate, as if everything depends upon you and I getting up in the morning and braving our days with spiritual and moral heroism. Our heart’s desires and plans, our soul’s petitions, act like mere seeds of faith: we can plant and water, and yet it is God who gives the growth.

It may also be true that there are things God wants to transform in us and accomplish through us that He yet patiently waits to perform until we have the necessary inner will. Desire – longing for more of God and more of His redemptive activity; Plans – the commitment to partner with God and step into the responsibilities He gives; Petitions – the active looking to God as the One who authors and perfects all things good: we will need all of these for life and calling.

Because we aren’t spineless jellyfish, but humans, made in the image of God. And there is something true and beautiful about meeting life on our feet, and by this, I mean accepting from God the part of spiritual transformation and calling that are ours.

Let’s not ask God to do what He has required of us.

May the Lord grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans. . .

May the Lord fulfill all your petitions! Psalm 20:4