Updated: Aug 25, 2020
In every life there comes a time when we have to decide if we will remain stagnant or take the next step. I am not talking about a crossroad (at least not today) in which we are deciding between 2 actions or responses, but those instances when we stop at a stop sign WE have erected because of fear, frustration, doubt, or despair. I am referring to those moments when we know the next thing to do-it's obvious, it's the next step in the natural progression of what we either sincerely believe or know to do-but, we just don't want to or are afraid to do it.
One of my most memorable struggles with taking the next step was when I was developing my online platform and launching my first course, Less Stress Sermon Prep. I stopped after coming up with the idea. I stopped drafting the outline. I stopped after I created the course. And I have had moments of stops and starts as I put it and myself out there.
So, for whatever it's worth, here's what I learned...
1. Some things cannot be figured out from the sidelines
I have found that taking the next step is part of my discerning process. The irony is that the next step is usually really clear. It's what will come next or be the result of that step that is unclear. But that answer only comes in realtime, not in theory. We can turn it over in our minds ad infinitum (or ad nauseam), but greater clarity often requires taking the next step.
When we take the next step, we find out
if we are good at it
if this really is our calling, passion, or sweet spot
if we have the gifts and if there is a receiver
if we have the necessary skillset, talent, or temperament
Whether things turn out as we expect or not, this step provides clarity. When I took the next step with Less Stress Sermon Prep, the step was validated by students and reviews. When I took the next step with my planner-not so much. However, it still clarified what I should do next go 'round.
I learned that the people in my circles prefer paper rather than digital planners. I found out that people are not as detailed in their planning, nor do their lives require the intricate planning that my planner was designed around. I found out that the real struggle was organizing and prioritizing while remaining grounded and centered in the midst of everything demanded of them. So, I will take a step in that direction, because creating this planner is still in my heart.
AND after my life was thrown a curve ball with a breast cancer diagnosis and four surgeries in quick succession, just taking that step reminded me of the power I had to create, to do, and to live. I planned to live and that planner was a tangible expression of that faith stance.
So maybe you don't need a "word" or glimpse into the future. Maybe you don't need more information. Maybe you just need to take a step in the direction of what you already know and more clarity will come.
2. We rarely get all the answers in advance
The next step helps us to pull the pieces together. In my experience, I keep taking the steps and then there comes a moment in which I see how everything fits together to get me where I am and point to where I am going. At the time I was taking the steps, each of those steps seemed individual and somewhat disconnected. I didn't quite understand
the "logic." I just knew what I was supposed to do next.
Sometimes, your next step is taking you to something bigger than what you see. I was focused on creating a course and an online platform because it combined the things I love and am called to do (preach, teach, and interpret Scripture), gave me the ability to reach people around the world while remaining present to my family. I didn't know a pandemic was coming and the world would go digital. I didn't know that Eden Theological Seminary would need a New Testament professor and because everything went remote, I was uniquely positioned for this appointment. I was just taking the next step and it led me beyond what I imagined.
So, the whole picture doesn't need to be clear-just the next step.
3. It's not always a leap of faith. Sometimes, we just need to walk
There have been times that I was afraid to take the next step because I saw the big picture and it scared me. I didn't feel ready, prepared, or qualified for where I was being led.
I was afraid to fail and afraid to succeed. Where I was felt like light years away from where I was going. Glimpsing the end result made me feel like I had to take this huge leap of faith, RIGHT THEN. The thought of that leap paralyzed me.
But then I realized I did not have to leap. I realized I wasn't being asked or urged to get to the end right now. I just needed to take the next step and commit to taking each step as it came. I felt like I was being asked to go from kindergarten to college... and I was. But, one (maybe two) grade (s) at a time.
So, focus on the next step. TAKE the next step, because it is time to move forward!
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