Up to this point when people asked me what I saw myself doing after grad school, my answer would be something along the lines of “I’m open to anything. Wherever God leads me and whatever He has in mind, I’m totally down for it!” I was ready to go with the flow. I’ve been preparing myself for anything and everything. And I genuinely meant every word of it. Whether I was called back to the suburbs of Detroit or to the bush-bush in Mozambique, the Lord had my yes.
Just the other day, I was talking to someone and they asked me what I was hoping for regarding life after graduation. And without hesitation, I spat out my broken-record answer. “I’m flexible. Whatever God has, I’m open to it.” The person responded by affirming the level of faith I had for being so openminded. And if I’m totally honest, I agreed with her.
But God is funny. After my friend responded, God did too. On my drive home, a little whisper from the Holy Spirit spoke so loudly to me, “That’s not faith, Maila. That’s fear masked.”
[Insert Gasp Here] What?! I was convinced being open and flexible was the most faith-filled posture I could give the Lord in this season of my life. I genuinely wanted to trust in the Lord. I wholeheartedly wanted Him to steer my life. And I definitely did not want to be the one calling the shots when it came to the topic of my destiny.
After a mini-episode of panic, I quickly realized what the Lord was saying. His kindness was revealing to me that my willingness to “do whatever” was not because I had faith for the next season, but because I was afraid to articulate dreams that I have or things that I am believing for because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I’d rather hope for anything than to get my hopes up about one thing and not see it come to pass. It is easier to have faith for anything than it is to have faith for something.
I am not promoting the idea of God as a genie in a bottle. This isn’t to say He is present for the sake of making our wishes come true. The Christian life is anything but self-serving, and I think it’s important to understand that there are indeed seasons in life when we will be called to hold things loosely in order to respond to the spontaneity of the Lord. That, too, requires great faith.
But I guess what I’m trying to say is, in the same way that God is not like a genie in a bottle, He is also not a narcissistic dictator who only cares about His agenda. We are more than mindless pawns in the Kingdom of God. I had this horrible misconception growing up that if I wanted it, if I liked it, or if it excited me — then God hated it. Somewhere along the way, I had come to believe that the right and spiritual things were only the difficult, distasteful, and burdensome options. The Nineveh of all Ninevehs. Enjoyment became synonymous to sin; dreams and passions were equivalent to idolatry; faithful living meant doing the thing I didn’t want to as a badge of honor for surrender and obedience. As a result, I somehow came to my own conclusion that the best Christians were those who had no preference.
I’m learning that fear prevents us from walking fully into our destiny because it handicaps our ability to dream for the impossible. Sometimes fear looks like trembling, but I think other times it looks like contentment (and I’m not talking about the good kind that Paul mentions in Philippians). Maybe the most faith-filled thing we can do is to dream with God about who He says we are — and to actually believe for the greater things He has for us. Not for our own sake and credibility, but because doing so will position us to do the good work that He has prepared in advance for us to do. What if the only thing stopping you from your destiny is the permission to dream?
Faith is less about what we are believing for and more about how we see. Do you see God as a distant ruler who has little value for the dreams in your heart? Or do you see Him as a good Father who placed those dreams inside of you — and with great joy and anticipation — waits for it to be awakened?
This month, I’ve committed to listing out and praying for specific things that I hope for after graduation. Not to demand things from God, but because more than anything I want to commit to having a perspective of God that awakens faith in me instead of fear. I don’t want to beg, but I do want to dream. Because I think dreaming for greater is a manifestation of a faith anchored in a God who is truly good. And if there is one thing that I am confident of, it is that He is indeed good.