August 1973 looms large for me. On August 12th of that year I became a Christian, hearing the gospel and responding in baptism all within a two-week period. On the exact same day, only minutes prior to my baptism, I, at 14 years, was even then thinking about the opposite gender, and I intentionally ventured from one side of a campfire to the other and met the girl to whom I have been married for 37 years. At the end of August 1973 the high school cross country team began their workouts, and by joining them just to get in better shape I launched a running career in which I have been active for 43 years. Each of these: meeting Christ, meeting Robin and she eventually deciding that I really was loveable, and my being driven to be a runner has to a large extent defined me for the majority of my life.
But none of this did I anticipate or really plan. I previously had no relationship with Christ, nor did I regularly go to church (although something in me had recently motivated me intentionally to occasionally attend the Catholic church with which my family was loosely associated—I think I was becoming a seeker). I previously did not know Robin. And I started running just because I had decided not to play football. My point is that many of us have those moments we can point to that were truly decisive, but we certainly cannot always see in advance when they are going to occur. That means that right now could be a significant moment for you! Or it may come in five minutes. Or it may come when you are at the grocery store two hours from now or when you are sitting at a stop light and witness an accident, or view a construction site, or catch the wording on the side of a bus. I have told the story before about how Albert Schweitzer was sitting in his office when a notice was delivered that stated that there was a need for physicians in the Congo. He saw the notice and decided on the spot how he would spend the remainder of his life. What if the notice had for whatever reason not reached him, perhaps being placed under a pile of papers that he would not see until he was in an entirely different mind space? What if his Administrative Assistant simply had decided that he wouldn’t be interested because he already had a calling and a career and decided to just throw away the notice?
I would like to think that in the summer of 1973, even despite myself, God was doing something with Kelly Carter. I don’t know exactly why, but God chose to extend to me certain moments, opportunities, or directed offers that He knew were just what I needed. He may even have thought that given my circumstances, such directed offers could take me somewhere in life, down a path that had at least small implications for the Kingdom of God, even as they had huge implications for me.
All this to say that I firmly believe in God’s interaction in our lives and even in His providence. I am not even close to being a determinist, as if God orchestrates all our steps. But neither do I believe He is far off, isolated from who we are. One reason we can pray to Him, be at peace in Him, be thankful to Him, and be expectant of what He may at any moment do in our lives is because He is near, at hand, present, sometimes intervening in ways that lead us right where He wants us to go. We need, then, to have open hearts; we need to be listening and watching and ready and willing and trusting. We also need to be discerning and wise, looking for guidance about what is really an opportunity from Him and what is simply a personal whim or selfish desire. My sense is that when we are ready, expectant, watching, open, seeking, discerning—that God will come, that He will decide to use us, focus us, point us in the direction He wants for us to go. Even without me being fully aware, I think this was happening to me in the summer of 1973.
So, are you ready? Are you longing for His will in your life? Are you clay to be molded? Are you asking, seeking, and knocking? Are your eyes open, your prayers reflective of a searching heart, trying to see the opportunities He has set before you, trying to differentiate these from what is mere fancy, or shallowness, or a rabbit trail? If so, be ready. He is not far off and He is not sleeping. At any moment he may present before you exactly what is best and needed both for you and for His Kingdom. Are you looking? Are you ready?