It's one of only two times God has ever told me, "No."
While I was in college, I applied to be a counselor at a Christian summer camp that I'd gone to every year while I was in high school. It would be impossible to describe how much it meant to me to get the job. As a teenager, I had experienced God's presence at the camp in unbelievable ways. His Spirit was so tangible in that place, it was like you could just reach out and touch Him. So, naturally, I wanted to "build a tent" there and dreamed of being on staff so I could seek God for three months straight, the way I saw it. But, I didn't get the job. For whatever reason, I didn't find enough favor with those involved in the process of choosing the counselors. I can think of ways in which I wasn't ready for the task, but still, I was more than disappointed over the rejection. I was heartbroken.
I had nothing else planned to do that summer, so that's when my youth leaders approached me about being a nanny to their children and grandchildren. And, it seemed like the next best thing. They needed someone. The position offered me a place to live and a way to earn a little money over the summer, so I took the job.
They welcomed me into their home. We were already good friends due to the years I had spent in their youth group, the countless hours I'd kept them up after church meetings talking, asking questions, praying, talking some more. But, as the weeks went by that summer, I became more like family. So much so that when I met my husband, Mr. Bob had to approve of him as surely as my real father did. Mrs. Kathy started calling me her Timothy and sure enough, I became like a child in faith to her like Timothy was to the apostle Paul. That summer made them more like another set of parents than friends. And, there was never a question that the time I spent there had been a blessing to me, to them, even to God, since I served Him by serving their kids and grands. But, I always thought I had just settled for doing the next best thing that summer, that is, until recently.
I was sitting in church several months ago and we sang this song. For some reason, the tone of it and the lyrics did the job of dredging up the sadness I still felt over that summer. I didn't even know how much I carried the disappointment of not being "chosen" with me. But, God used the song to put me in touch with it, most likely so he could set me free and I wept in church out loud and asked him, "Why? Why?" over and over again. I hadn't cried in church in years. My husband noticed, obviously, and asked me what happened. I told him how rejected I felt over not being chosen. I felt silly, like I was being juvenile over something that happened so long ago. I should be over it by now. Right? It should be no big deal. So, that was the end of it for a while. It wasn't settled in my heart, but life had to start up again and I got too busy to think about it.
But, a few weeks ago, I heard the song again. I didn't realize it was the same song until, just like before, as I was listening to it, I felt in touch with that same sadness. I wondered for a second, then realized it must have be the exact song that I had heard in church that day. So, I talked to God about how I felt, said much more than "Why?" this time. I told him that by not getting the job, I felt like He had set a limit on how much of Him I would be allowed to experience in my entire life. I had missed so much of Him that summer. I was sure I had been shut out from his best for me.
But, I heard His spirit say to me that though I wasn't chosen, He had chosen what was better for me. Almost audibly, I heard Him say, "Could you imagine your life without that summer as it was?" And, that question was enough to put my spirit at rest. I have to say, as I think about it, I can not imagine my life without the Jones.' They grew to have such a huge impact on me, particularly within that span of months, that I don't think I would be the same person today without the time I spent in their house. And, I wonder a little, too, how different things would be for them had I not come to stay. God had to say, "No" to something I wanted, so I'd be lead to make the less obvious choice.
I cannot say how much of a relief it is to realize, after all these years, God wasn't actually limiting Himself from me. Instead, He was actually tailoring a blessing to fit me, in a way, allowing me to experience Him through a family who lived their faith and a spirit-filled home. And, incredibly enough, His best for me included not having one of my dearest dreams come true. And, even more glorious, perhaps, is that after years of being misunderstood, God went so far as to stoop to explaining Himself. I thought I had given Him every single piece of my heart and that He had healed every little pain, but He knows our hearts even better than we do, amazingly enough. If we follow Him, if we allow His spirit to guide us, He will take us around every corner to deal with those things that matter to Him, the things that we didn't even realize mattered so much to us. He is such a careful, deliberate, loving Father!