Sometimes God speaks so profoundly and directly into our lives that there is simply no avoidance of the reality. We may not be so quick to obey, but there is no question that God showed up and spoke into our private world with a Word so strong and compelling that we knew to the depth of our being what the Lord wanted of us.
Other times, God is less directive and seems to take an approach which one writer called a “holy flirtation.” Or to put it in a different way, God leads less by giving us a hard push than by gently, quietly tugging and beckoning us to follow.
One challenge is learning to distinguish between the beckonings that are truly from God and those that are either the seductions of the world or the desires of our own hearts. Another challenge is learning to pay attention to promptings that may well be from the Holy Spirit as opposed to practicing the art of rigorously ignoring any adventure or summons that would stretch us, change us or demand sacrifice of us.
I have often heard people question why God just didn’t send us a morning email with clearly written instructions of what he wanted us to do.
In my own pilgrimage of both personal faith and professional leadership as a minister, I have found that God often calls us to be simply about the business of rattling doorknobs. That is, he invites us to be bold in Christ and to test out where he would have us go. We more commonly call it the process of discernment.
If as individuals, we long for the holy email with the day’s marching orders, even more so do we as congregations struggle in the discernment process. Short of God showing up in church on a Sunday morning in a great revelation of glory as in Isaiah 6, how do we gain insight into what the Lord might be calling us to do?
Obviously, prayer stands at the core of the process. Prayer by faithful individuals asking for wisdom, understanding, or even a word of prophecy. Prayer also by groups of members gathering to intercede and seek God’s face. Prayer by the corporate body seeking to be in the centre of the Lord’s will and to be attentive and obedient to his call.
But another part of discernment is what I call the rattling of doorknobs. I see our current process of exploring the possibilities of a development project on our adjacent property as just such a doorknob rattling exercise. We are daring to see if God wants to open for us a door into a challenging mission enterprise that far exceeds our human abilities. If the door swings wide open, we want to be faithful and eager to enter and explore further. And if the door doesn’t swing open now or if at any time in the future God closes the door, then we need not bother trying to force it. Our first job is just to rattle the doorknob.
We did this as a congregation years ago when it was apparent we needed to expand our facility but were far too landlocked to enable an expansion of the current building. We tried various approaches to the local school board in terms of a property swap or lease or purchase, but to no avail. In the light of the offer of fourteen acres of land from a few years prior, we wondered whether the Lord in fact wanted us to relocate, so we went searching for other properties where we might build. We walked many pieces of real estate. We even put in an offer on one property, that which is now home to Baljet Motors. Not a single door swung open. Then, as only God can generously provide, a new opportunity arose to bid first on the adjacent school lands and then on property owned by the City, and suddenly we found ourselves owning over two acres of land in the centre of Duncan.
God provided in what can only be called a miracle. But we also were faithful, I believe, in obeying what we understood to be the Lord’s promptings in going forth searching (rattling doorknobs) for alternatives. When suddenly the land became available, we knew clearly that this was not only a gift from heaven but a divine affirmation that we were to remain in this very particular part of the community. Indeed, our door rattling helped confirm for us just what an ideal location we had here on Herbert Street and raised for many of us a dream of eventually being able to purchase even more property from the School Board and City, consolidating a parcel from Herbert all the way through to Cairnsmore on which we could do such things as build affordable housing for people.
It seems now that God might be leading us to fulfill that dream, not on other properties we don’t own, but on that which we do. God enabled us to go a long way on our original development plan, then suddenly swung closed the door on further construction. Could it be that the Lord wanted to direct our dreaming, praying and working to a very different kind of development, such as we are now tentatively exploring? It seems to me that the Spirit may in truth be doing that very thing.
So we rattle doorknobs. We explore new options. We dare to see if God would have us undertake a project that a few years ago we had not even considered. I trust our Lord to leave firmly shut the doors he does not want opened. I also trust him to surprise us with his provisions which we could never anticipate. Our job is to pray. And rattle doorknobs.