This is a guest post by Bill Blankschaen:
It’s time. Or at least you think it might be. You’ve been sensing a struggle within for awhile, but you’ve kept it to yourself. You’ve felt a restlessness, a sense that you should be pursuing a new life calling, something more in line with your God-given gifts — but you’re scared to step out without knowing how it will all turn out.
You may be sensing a new calling to get into the pastoral ministry, to get out of the pastoral ministry, to start a church, to start a business, to switch careers, or to revisit a calling left dormant for far too long.
That was my story. Not many years ago, I found myself deep in ministry as the leader of a thriving Christian school. And yet I sensed a restlessness within, an awareness that I had quietly begun to drift into simply existing. I’d allowed God-given writing gifts to lie dormant. And I knew a drifting leader was not what the school needed.
In what was one of the most challenging decisions of my life, I let go of the school and stepped out to pursue a new life calling as a writer, a Kingdom catalyst determined to live a story worth telling where it matters most. My journey, the journeys of others I encountered with similar stories, and the practical faith-stretching lessons learned from it form the framework for my new book A Story Worth Telling: Your Field Guide to Living an Authentic Life.
There are different ways to live with radical faith. Some can look pretty normal on the outside. Most don’t involve relocating your entire family, or even changing careers. But when your God-given dreams do require you to step out in a significant, life-changing way, here are some lessons I learned from having gone through the process of stepping out before I knew how it would all turn out.
What You Need to Know Before You Go
1. You do not have as much help as you think you do. If you’re expecting people to respond as if in a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, think again. Sure, family and friends will help as they are able. But most people have lives and pressing issues of their own.
2. You have more help than you think you do. Instead of expecting other people to come through, expect God to show up as you learn to trust Him in ways you never imagined possible. Only when we had no other choice but to trust God did we realize we should have been trusting Him more fully in the first place.
3. You do not have the faith you think you do. But don’t let that stop you. You will grow it along the way. When we place great faith in our great God, we pull back the curtains to reveal more of his majesty. And that just makes us want to trust Him more — so we can take one more step. The test of your faith is what it takes to stop you.
4. Not everyone will understand what you are doing. In fact, a lot of people aren’t going to get it. And that’s OK. The truth is that when you step out to live an authentic life, one that is true to what you believe about your God-given gifts, you will scare some people. I saw it in their eyes when they congratulated me for making the move and stepping out into the unknown while praying it never happened to them. To minimize discouragement, only go public when you know you’re going to follow through.
5. Someone understands and supports what you are doing. You’ll want to find that person early in the process. I enlisted a life coach as I began the transition. As your life situation shifts, you may not have ready access to advisors you regularly lean on. It is critical that you find someone you can trust who shares your faith and who will speak the truth in love to you along the way.
6. You’ll need encouraging success stories. You’ll find plenty of negative thinking out there, in addition to the thoughts you’ll have on your own. One of the most encouraging things for my wife was to learn of other FaithWalkers who had already emerged on the other side of significant life transitions. She found great comfort in Biblical stories, as well, such as those of Abraham and Sarah — ordinary people who lived memorable stories by walking with extraordinary faith.
7. You must make a habit of praying — hard. Don’t wait until a crisis arrives before cultivating a deeper prayer life. Henri Nouwen said, “Prayer is a great adventure because the God with whom we enter into a new relationship is greater than we are and defies all our calculations and predictions.” Share your concerns with God before sharing them with others.
8. You’ll need to repeat the previous step. Often. If you think you don’t have time to pray, that’s exactly when you know you should. It’s when we have no communion with God that we hear no calling from God.
9. You can expect to fail. You should also expect to get back up. We focus a lot on Peter’s failure to keep walking on the water in the midst of great uncertainty. But seldom do we consider how he got back into the boat. Matthew doesn’t tell us Jesus carried the soaking-wet disciple or magically transported him. The most likely answer? Peter walked. On water. Again.
10. Get a lot of counsel, but listen most closely to those who’ve actually done what you are thinking of doing. Seek out those who’ve been there, done that. These days, you can buy the t-shirt online. But scars only come from experience.
Bill Blankschaen is the author of A Story Worth Telling: Your Field Guide to Living an Authentic Life, just released from Abingdon Press. A writer, speaker, and content strategist, he blogs at Patheos on church and culture and at FaithWalkers.com where he helps Christians live an authentic life with abundant faith. Follow on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.