When God Changes Your Plans

Do you ever begin a big endeavor with all kinds of good intentions, and then toward the very end of it life shifts and you’re wondering why the hell you even did it in the first place?

*raises hand*   That’s me right now.

I began seminary in the Fall of 2014 to work on a Master of Divinity in Christian Social Ethics. (Sounds heady, yeah?)

Well, I began with the intention of going straight through, entering a PhD program after, and then becoming a professor at the collegiate level.

I would tell people, “I want to teach church leaders how not to be douchebags.”

Everyone would look at me, laugh, and then realize I was kind of serious. It’s still sorta true.

Only I’m not doing the whole “PhD” thing.

James Gayaldo. Creative Commons.
James Gayaldo. Creative Commons.

It Started with a Vision

After starting school, I remember having a conversation with my good friend, Mark.

I told him that I kept having this vision of me walking down a trail. Some way down the trail, but not too far off, it cut into the woods — a well-defined path.

Yet just off the trail before the woods was the crest of a hill. I knew something was on the other side of it, but I couldn’t see what it was.

In my vision, God asked me, “Do you wonder what’s on the other side of this hill?” I answered that I did, but that I also needed to stay on the path that cut into the woods.

“But don’t you want to know what’s on the other side of this hill?” God asked.

I was stuck.

I really wanted to know what was on the other side of the hill, but I knew that if I wanted to get where I was intending to go, I should stick to the well-defined path.

After I told Mark my dilemma, he simply exclaimed, “WELL!? What was on the other side of the hill?!”

I told him I hadn’t decided which way to go yet, but he knew my answer was obvious: I was gonna climb the damn hill.

I just didn’t know it yet.

PhD Conversations

About another year into school, into the books and the lectures and the studying and the writing and the reading after reading… this thought kept plaguing my consciousness: I’ve been set up!

… only I was afraid to entertain it.

The LORD always does this junk with me. He’ll gently lead me one way, make me think it was a grand idea, and then He’ll corner me and say, “… I have another idea.”

Renaud Camus. Creative Commons.
Renaud Camus. Creative Commons.

And He knows just what to do to make me take the bait!

So naturally, this past Spring (2016), I sat down with my advisor and asked him what it was going to take to get into a PhD program. (I like ignoring God)

After an overwhelming two-hour conversation, I knew that I needed to go home, talk with Merridith, and pray like hell.

A PhD would demand a lot of things, including: six years, a move from Atlanta, and becoming best friends with a library.

Then I Had a Dream (or Two)

One of the ways that God speaks to me is in dreams. I try not to make any major life decisions without a good dream. You might think I’m crazy, but trust me, I’m spiritually sane.

And what God gave me was a series of two dreams.

1. I Almost Cheated on My Wife

In the first dream I spent the day with a super attractive girl. I mean… whoa. I don’t even remember her name (typical guy move). But I do know that we spent the entire day working on a project together. She was attracted to me and I was attracted to her.

After we finished our work, we got coffee and went for a walk. I thought to myself: Man, if I wasn’t married… this girl.

Then she turned to me in my dream and said, “You know, Matt, I feel like if we had met ten years earlier, we would really hit it off.”

As soon as she said that, I looked down the sidewalk and saw Merridith with a bunch of our friends. They were getting into a car to go somewhere.

She looked up and me, I at her, and we both smiled. Then I turned to the super attractive girl and said, “Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. But I’ve already made my decision.”

Then I walked away toward Merridith… and woke up.

2. We Had a Child

The second dream was brief but incredibly telling. In it I was observing Merridith and I. She had a kid in her arms and we were standing in front of a giant whiteboard doing some form of strategic planning on something.

That was it.

What Did the Dreams Mean?

If you’re like me, then your initial thoughts were: YOU ALMOST CHEATED ON YOUR WIFE?! AND YOU GUYS HAVE A KID?!

Right. But the dreams told me two things:

  • The first one told me that while the PhD/professor path was a viable option, it was for another time, another season. I’ve grown well past that.
  • The second one told me that Merridith and I have something to build together, to grow together, to bring into this world together. And while I don’t know the details of what that is, I have a feeling it’s going to bring us a lot of life and utilize the best parts of us.

My Conclusions

And so I decided that the reason I came to seminary isn’t the reason I’m in seminary. Sure, I think that many church leaders still need to be told how not to be douchebags, but maybe that’s not my path.

My path is one where there is apparently no path at all, but rather an idea of what could be.

I just know that I have to climb a hill to see what’s on the other side. And I know that once I get over there, it’ll be way more fulfilling than traversing that well-worn path through the woods.

Following God into the unknown is more my speed anyways. I love a good adventure.

Have you ever felt led out of something? What was it? I’d love it if you would share it in the comments below…

MS

 

About Matthew Snyder

Matt is a thirty-something writer and young adult minister. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Merridith, and their dog, Finn.

5 Comments

  1. I’d say I felt led out of Atlanta. It just didn’t seem like the place for me at the time. However, that leads me to remind you of something, as you and I are similar in this area:
    Once you get over the hill and find out (at least get a glimpse of) what is over there, it’s gonna be fulfilling and exciting. But you also know you’re gonna think back to the original side of the hill with the well-laid path and miss it and consider whether you should go back to it…
    You know I’m not trying to discourage you, but encourage you to stick with this decision (e.g. to see what’s on the other side of the hill) and know that it was the right decision. You have eyes to see and ears to hear the life and purpose of a season. You know the life you have received while working on your MDiv and you will cherish that. You will also know the life you will receive on the other side of the hill. Maybe someday you’ll return to this side of the hill, and maybe not, but either way you’re in the right place and you’ve made the right decision.
    I don’t know if my stream of consciousness has made any sense here, but I’m incredibly proud of you, Matthew. Thanks for being an inspiration to me.

    1. Thanks, brother — YOU are an inspiration to ME. And your stream of consciousness made complete sense! You’re right though, I need to always keep in mind where I’ve been and where I’m going.

  2. Pingback: Running from God

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