One morning several years ago, as I reflected on the needs of my family and the demands of the coming week, the Lord put Joel on my heart. At sixteen, my six-foot-three, gentle-spirited son was a mixture of mystery and promise. His quiet nature provided a soothing touch to our family rambunctiousness, but it also made him harder to know. I've learned I need to seek him out alone if I'm to know what's going on inside. Really, Joel is a lot like me—pondering many things in his heart that aren't always obvious to the louder, more active types surrounding him.
As I sat there praying for Joel and his future and his needs and desires, I suddenly had a thought: I'll wake him up and sneak him out to breakfast so we can talk and I can see what is on his heart.
Joel was all for it, once I managed to wake him up. Individual attention can be hard to come by in the group atmosphere. He quickly rolled out of bed and hurried out to the car.
Just a month before, Clay and I had taken Joel for some career testing that evaluated his aptitudes, skills, and strengths. The test took into account desires and personality as well as abilities, and was supposed to be useful in giving direction for further education and training. The man evaluating the test assertively explained Joel's test results and went into detail about what areas he thought would be best for Joel to pursue as a possible career. Clay, Joel, and I had fun on the way home talking about what the test had revealed. For the moment we were all in agreement with the test's assessment.
After a Cracker Barrel feast of scrambled eggs, toast, biscuits, grits, and bacon, we both relaxed with mugs of hot coffee and settled in for the important, secret-sharing talk that usually took place at our private meetings. I asked Joel what he had been thinking about during the weeks after the test, and if he agreed with the assessment he had been given.
"You know, Mom, the test told me a lot that I already knew, and that built some confidence in my mind. It was good to know I really am gifted in some of the areas I have always enjoyed—you know, like playing music or designing and structuring things."
I laughed. "You mean like 'organizing lists of facts and assimilating data' and 'working best in the context of accountability with a team of people'?" He laughed too, remembering the assessor's professional jargon. "Yeah," he said. "Stuff like that can make a normal personality sound important. And it makes sense what he said—that maybe I'd do well as an architect or a graphic designer. But you know, in the past few days I think I've realized something that's more important than any of the things he told me. The man who tested me is a nice pagan," Joel went on. "He's developed lots of skills at testing people in the areas of secular work. But he isn't a believer. He isn't committed to having a ministry to others. He doesn't have an eternal perspective on the importance of answering to God for our time and skills. So his world-view just doesn't provide for the same goals I have developed."
I sat there amazed to hear such mature eloquence coming from the mouth of my sixteen-year-old. "Mom, he never even mentioned any options in full-time Christian work," Joel went on. "And I think that's what I want to do. I've realized through all of this that I really want to either be in ministry, to serve God with my whole life. Or maybe I will be in the secular arena where I can use my gifts to reach out to others, to inspire or help them. That's the kind of 'career answer' I'm looking for—to figure out what God wants me to do with all the skills and strengths he has given me. So I've been looking on the Internet at colleges that have missions and ministry as a major or minor. I've found several places where I can get the training I need to go full time into some sort of ministry. Do you think I'm thinking right, Mom?"
It was one of those parenting moments when the Lord's presence seems to fill my heart with His assuring companionship and voice of encouragement: See, he really was listening all those years when you were seeking to reach his heart for My purposes. I have been working to reach down into his heart and call him to myself, and he has made the choice to follow. You can trust me to continue the work I have started."
I'm so glad God has inside access to my children's hearts! And I've been blessed to watch the evidence of that access play out in Joel's life these many years since this conversation, as he's discovered the ministry that exists for him within music composition.
How might you need to trust God in leading your children--or yourself!--today?
Joel, now into his profession and loving having found God's place for him.
He will be sharing more stories from his life.
I hope some of you will be able to join Joel and me at Life Giving Home Evening Encounters. He will be sharing music and stories and I will be speaking about home as a place to mentor and inspire.
For more family stories and ideas to spark your own traditions, trust, and teaching times, see The LifeGiving Home!