“We have gone too far to not follow our hearts now.” This is something that I would repeatedly tell myself after making the decision to intentionally take an unconventional path that lead me away form my position in full-time ministry. I know many will say that to follow your heart is a bad thing, and that it leads to all kinds of rebellion and evil. I happen to believe the opposite is true. Betraying yourself is the first step on the worst kind of path.
Following the desires of your flesh = a bad idea. Having the courage to trust the leading of a heart that has been made new by the Holy Spirit = a God idea.
I second-guess myself all the time. It takes days for me to order off a new menu. I’ll walk around the candy aisle 3-4 times before making a decision. Fantasy Football draft is torture for me. When making life decisions, I want to hear the sound of applause from a host in agreement with me before I take the first step.
I know I am not perfect, and therefore know I need help from others. The problem is that they’re not perfect either, and only I can know what my conscience is telling me, unless of course you happen to be friends with a mind reader. In that case you’re not worried about making big decisions, because you probably work in a circus and your life is already pretty adventurous and carefree.
When I first began to wrestle with the decision that would lead me away from working in full-time ministry I got some wise advice from a leader at my church. I was hoping he would tell me what to do, but he didn’t. Instead he said, “No one is more qualified than you to know what God is saying to you.” This may sound so simple to many, but it was a revelation to me.
He then went on to say, “Josh, if you feel something is in your heart, then only you can know if God has put it there. You must not linger. Make a decision, one way or the other, and don’t look back. I would rather be transparent and be out, then be in, and have something concealed. Sometimes God leads us to do things that are not popular, and in those cases, you must not second-guess yourself. Just stay the course until you have walked it out.”
Sometime after that I came across this scripture,
“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” 1 Timothy 1:19
I thought about the times I felt God leading me one way, but went another because someone who I thought was more spiritual than me had a different opinion. If I was going to become who God had created me to be, I would have to end that type of codependency and choose the path I believe is in front of me. It may not be an easy way, but that doesn’t mean it is not the right one.
While it was impossible for me to see how at the time, taking time away from working in ministry was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. That decision required that I follow my heart, and not what I actually desired to have. I wanted to be applauded and celebrated, but my heart was leading me on a path where no one would know my name, and I would grow in anonymity.
After not working at a church for over two years I found myself at a job that I really liked, and involved in ministry in a meaningful way, but at the same time was sensing that a new chapter was about to begin. I wondered if I would I have the courage to follow my heart again? The road less traveled is not one that you look back on only after making the decision to follow it long ago, but rather a path that you continue on with the choices that you make every day.
What do you think about following your heart? Is it a good or a bad thing? How have we gotten that confused? How do you balance what you feel God has spoken to you with what others may tell you to do?