Go Where You (Don’t) Wanna Go

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Courtesy of unsplash.com and Alexandre Chambon

Courtesy of unsplash.com and Alexandre Chambon

Have you ever felt like there was something you were supposed to be doing? Something bigger than what you were currently doing? Maybe it comes in the form of a yearning to use your talents?  Or maybe, it’s this gnawing sense that there is more you can do through your job?  Maybe it’s a calling you feel to help others? 

I have felt this feeling as far back as I remember.  In fact, my first real memory of this took place when I was about seven-years old and the news was covered with concern for the people in Ethiopia. There was a severe famine that took place during 1983-1985 and I still remember how much I wanted to do something to help.

Since then, this desire to help has come in many forms and with it, a struggle to figure out my place in responding. When I went to college, I changed my major five times because I just was never settled about what I was supposed to study to help others, especially since there was no major called “How to Change the World.”  

This search eventually came to a halt when I felt as lost as ever during my sophomore year.  I felt God call me home and so I withdrew from my first semester that year. During my break, I was unsure about returning to my university and wondered if I should stay home and go to the local university to get my life in order. I remember struggling with figuring out where I was supposed to go and to this day, I remember God’s response: “I will be with you no matter where you go.”  These words have brought me much comfort during my seasons of trying to discern God’s will for my life.

I did go back to my university and eventually realized that it was the best thing that could have happened to me.  Because of my need to withdraw from school, I met one of my mentors—the Assistant Dean of my college—who not only helped me find a major that fit my interests but also, helped me stay enrolled while I took my break. I eventually got my masters in social work, which has led me to help others through many different avenues.  Yet over time, I realized that helping others would bring with it many seasons of highs and lows, both professionally and personally.  

The highs of my career have brought with them much satisfaction at helping others and consequently, many prestigious awards I have been honored to receive. The lows though have brought with them much frustration with managing others, disappointment with politics, and overall exhaustion at leading. Consequently, my heart has grown cynical, afraid, and unwilling to deal with humanity’s ambition, ruthlessness, power hunger efforts to win, to be in the spotlight, to gain personal recognition. My heart wants nothing to do with work, positions of influence or programs that would force me to deal with people or environments that foster these behaviors. And yet, it may be exactly where God is leading me to go.

See, about 10 years ago, I was given my first position of authority as executive director of a small nonprofit. From my first speaking engagement onward, people would approach me saying something along the lines of, “this position will only be a stepping stone to greater things.”  I remember feeling confused as I just had started my job and at the tender age of 27.  All I wanted was to do my job well and to do the best I could with the opportunity before me, but the comments only continued.

My next position was in local government and the messages evolved to questions of running for office. Having worked with many local politicians, my heart could not at all connect with what I saw those positions having to deal with and what I wanted to do. During one of my last months in this position, someone corned me with a speech that went something like this:

Have you ever thought of running for office? Because if you do, I would follow you.  There is something about you that makes me want to do whatever you say. It’s a very rare quality to have.  It reminds me of Colin Powell.  So I have to know, what are your plans? Where are you going from here? Because I know you will do great things.

Sitting in front of this colleague, I tried to persuade him that he was wrong about me. That I was not meant for politics, but the more I pushed back, the more he nudged me forward to hear him, to believe in what he was saying. After about 15 minutes of this, I eventually caved in wondering if God was using this man who I barely knew to tell me to take my things and go wherever God was leading. But the question is where to?

God has since brought me to work for a faith-based company. I have only been here six months and the only thing that I have fought to avoid is a request from my boss to apply for a national leadership program. My immediate reaction was to say no, I’m not ready, it’s not time.  My heart simply didn’t want to go back to politics, government or leadership. But I begrudgingly applied and got in.

Now that this opportunity is before me, I find myself wondering if I’m called to peel the cynicism off my heart to find the path God is carving out for me. Maybe this new year I do need to repent of my views of the world and the subsequent lack of interest I have to be involved with difficult people and environments. Maybe by doing so, God may surprise me.  

So as the world asks you about your new year’s resolution, I wonder, is God asking more of you? Is He nudging you somewhere you don’t want to go? Is He asking you to sacrifice comfort for perceived pain? If so, let’s walk together on this one and not run away from what God has in store for us.

Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33 The Message.

Written by Ana Lopez Van Balen

Ana Lopez Van Balen

Ana Lopez van Balen is a social worker by training who has spent the last fifteen years focused on supporting the healthy development of individuals, families & communities. She currently is the National Director of Community Development at Urban Strategies-a national faith-based organization working to tool, connect, and resource grassroots organizations to serve children and families in need. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, both of which are big believers in living locally–knowing your neighbors, supporting your local community and doing everything you can to help make it better place for all. This means opening up their home to friends and neighbors, participating in the local food-coop and serving on the advisory council of a great local organization called Food For Life!​

About Ana Lopez Van Balen

Ana Lopez van Balen is a social worker by training who has spent the last fifteen years focused on supporting the healthy development of individuals, families & communities. She currently is the National Director of Community Development at Urban Strategies-a national faith-based organization working to tool, connect, and resource grassroots organizations to serve children and families in need. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, both of which are big believers in living locally–knowing your neighbors, supporting your local community and doing everything you can to help make it better place for all. This means opening up their home to friends and neighbors, participating in the local food-coop and serving on the advisory council of a great local organization called Food For Life!​

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