Did you know that when you Google “The Lord’s will for my life,” it produces over 12 million hits?
In June, 2008, my wife, Liz, told me that she was dissatisfied with her work as a Family Practice physician. She didn’t feel like she was using her gifts and skills to their fullest ability. She wasn’t “changing the world” like she had always planned.
In addition, she was seeing less and less of our four children and missing their growing up. God had blessed her with being a mother and a physician, and she wasn’t able to do either very well. I was a stay-at-home dad who was deeply involved in our neighborhood, the school, and the kids’ lives. Our children had friends and activities and loved their school. They missed their Mom a lot, of course, but if it were up to them, she would never leave the house! My life was good and comfortable. (Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Thou shall be comfortable.”) I told Liz that it was natural for her to want to have everything, but someone had to earn a living. I may have even told her to “pick up her cross…”
In November, 2009, one of our twin daughters gave Liz a birthday card. It had a picture of a little girl in tears on the front. It read, “I miss you when you’re at work. My heart misses you, too. Happy Birthday!” That opened my eyes to the fact that something needed to change. But what should we do? Move? Change jobs? Switch places? I wanted to keep the status quo. Liz wanted something different. The kids wanted both, of course. That led us to the first of many important questions we have asked in the past year: “What does GOD want us to do?” We finally opened our eyes to the fact that whatever God had planned for our family, it would be better than anything we could come up with. We moved our focus upward.
A second question soon followed: “How do we figure out what God wants us to do?” After much prayer, guidance by our prayer partners, (and a little online research), we found the first answer we were looking for, and it became our mantra. We embraced Romans 12:2: “Do not allow yourselves to be conformed to this age. Instead, allow the Holy Spirit to transform your mind, then you will be able to discern the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We wanted to follow God’s perfect will for our lives, but we were willing to at least figure out His good or acceptable will. We began to “allow the Holy Spirit to transform our minds.”
Mainly, we prayed. After dropping the kids off at school, I spent time in the back of the quiet church, just me and God. I found ten saints whose patronage went along with our needs and asked them for intercession. Liz and I prayed together and we brought the kids in and prayed as a family. We put our whole situation into God’s hands and said, “What should we do?”
In our hearts, we knew that the answer was, “Do whatever I tell you to do.” That was a scary proposition, and it led to another prayer, “Help us to accept whatever you call us to do, even if it means to go somewhere we would rather not go, even if it means to stay here and suck it up.”
I remember the day when I was able to say, “Lord, I will do whatever You ask.” It was very liberating. Before that, my answer had always been, “Lord, I will do whatever you ask unless it’s too scary or embarrassing or my family wouldn’t like it or doesn’t fit into my life goals or…”
We returned to our first prayer with more enthusiasm. “Lord, tell us what to do and we will do it, no matter what.” While we were doing this, Liz was being bombarded with job offers from almost every state that didn’t have any real summer months or enough professional sports teams. We tested different offers and asked God to make it clear which one we were supposed to accept. We wondered how far outside the box we should consider going. The plains of South Dakota? The tundra of Alaska? New Zealand? Germany? We visited northern Wisconsin and loved the resort town and the people Liz would be working with. But that wasn’t the place. I made Liz turn down a free trip to Alaska--a free trip!--because I knew in my spirit that the job there wasn’t what God had in mind.
Finally, we determined that a “chance” encounter Liz had had with a doctor at a conference in California the previous summer wasn’t as random as we thought. He worked for a company that trained Family Practice docs to work in Emergency Rooms. Emergency medicine! That was the kind of change Liz could embrace. We visited Ohio. We prayed individually, as a couple, as a family, and with our prayer partners. Having been born and raised in Michigan, we knew that only the voice of God could move us down to the Buckeye State.
Convinced this move was what God wanted us to do, we left our comfortable home in Michigan, where we were never more than six miles from a body of water. We took the kids out of the Catholic school where they were loved, where I had been PTO President and part time teacher. We left our small Catholic charismatic church where we literally knew everyone. We left our families and friends, and we moved to Ohio.
We began homeschooling the kids, partly because that allows Liz more time with them, and partly because it allows us more flexibility to do whatever God calls us to do in the future. We walked outside the box and kept going. We joined Immaculate Conception parishand its community of Radical Disciples. We made friends with a family who also misses charismatic worship and meet with them regularly to loudly praise the Lord. We are certain that this is where God wants us to be. We don’t know why yet, but we ask, “Now what do you want us to do?”
We keep trying to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our minds, so that when God is ready to tell us what He wants us to do from here, we will be ready to listen. Even if His plan doesn’t call us to “change the world,” the path we have taken to get to here has already changed our hearts and minds.
- Mark and Liz Mussin Phillips