I remember a day not long after God had told me to quit my job: I was driving home, and I felt like my chest was going to cave in. It felt like I had on a corset that was too tight. It was the pressure of feeling like I had no possible way of making it through this. As far as I could see, there was no way that I could do what God had told me to leave my job to do.
In that moment, I lacked perspective – and that’s a crucial requirement for any career artist. As you’re walking out God’s promise to you for your career life, it’s important for you to check yourself at each juncture about how you’re seeing what you see. What is your perspective on the things you’re watching unfold in front of you?
We Looked Like Grasshoppers
In the book of Numbers, a group of men get challenged in this very area. In this account, God tells Moses to send some men to scout the land God had promised would belong to Israel.
Moses says to them, “Go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.”
The men go out. They spy out the land and they collect fruit. They report back to Israel: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large.” They recount all the different tribes there, and they say: we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them!
Basically, ain’t no way we getting in this land.
Perspective is not just about what you see. It’s about how you see what you see. Remember, they’re in the process of being brought into their promised land. They were not sent to find out if they could get in; that was already settled. They were only sent to find out what was there. But they lost sight of that, and instead made conclusions about their situation from the way they saw it. They reported from the wrong perspective.
It wasn’t the fact that they reported these difficulties. The difficulties were there, and they were real. It was that they lost sight of why they were sent there, and of what to do with the difficulties they saw. They didn’t come back and say here’s what’s going on. Let’s seek God about how to deal with this. That’s not how they saw the situation. Instead, they talked themselves out of God’s promise because of their own perspective on it.
“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”
I just think this is so funny because these men are like no, y’all didn’t hear what I said. I said the Canaanites are here the Jebusites are there, these people are here, you got these giants over here. We can’t do this! There are times when you’re walking out God’s promise where no matter how you look at it, it seems there’s no possible way you’re going to be able to do this.
Getting Nostalgic for the Past
Because of the report these men brought back, “all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!”
It makes me laugh, because this is the insane talk that truly happens at some point when you step out to believe God. Now let’s remember what was happening in Egypt. They were enslaved. They had no freedom – the Egyptians treated them horrifically. The whole reason God tapped Moses on the shoulder was because they cried out to Him about how horrible Egypt was and how they were being so mistreated. They were in the position that they’re in in Numbers 13 because God answered their cry.
That’s important to remember. Sometimes, in the midst of God answering us, our perspective goes awry. You are in the position you’re in now because of God’s faithfulness to you. Remember how miserable you were behind that desk job? Remember how much you prayed that God would make a way for you to leave Kansas and get to New York? Remember how hollow and depressed you were not being able to do anything with your art?
Instead of looking at their current situation, remembering they were there because God was in the middle of fulfilling His promise to them; instead of seeing this as the next step into that promise; their perspective became that God had brought them there to die, on a mission that was guaranteed to fail.
Their perspective was so bleak that they planned to select a leader who would take them back to Egypt – the place of their oppression. This is another way we get it wrong: without the proper perspective, we start to have crazy conversations, and we start to devise steps and solutions of our own making. And they are always stupid ideas that make the situation much worse if we actually go through with them.
Being Blessed with ‘Enough’
I quit my job in June 2016 at God’s asking. After an amazing experience in Spain over the summer, I came home to begin the next season; and things were dead quiet. I went from 7 years of being busy with plans and phone calls and projects… to silence. And I’m the kind of person who’s able to find plenty of peace and enjoyment in long periods of solitude and silence. But in this particular season, the silence was deafening and hard to deal with.
I felt anxious; it was hard to sit still, and the overwhelming presence of inactivity was very hard. Not only was I broke, but I was broke and inactive. My phone wasn’t ringing, no emails were coming in. I just felt stuck in limbo, like no progress was being made. All I could think about was the gnawing feeling that I left my job for nothing.
And then one day while I was cleaning the house, the Lord checked me and he checked me hard – by reminding me of the previous four years. Over those years, I wanted to write, but I was working full-time; I would get up early in the morning to write, or I would stay up late at night to write. I would write on my lunch breaks. I would take my stuff with me everywhere I went, so that any available time I had I would squeeze in time to write these books that He told me to write. And because I was faithful when it was difficult, he had brought me into a time where all I had to do now was write, a time where I had the freedom to do nothing else but write. He had brought me into a time of blessing, a time where he was rewarding me and honouring me: a season where I didn’t have to juggle my life to follow him anymore.
I’ve had conversations like the children of Israel, where I felt nostalgic for the times I didn’t have to worry about paying my rent, even though there was no doubt it was time for me to leave my job. Whenever I would substitute teach, or try to stick my toe in to go back, as much as I’d remember very quickly why I’d left, there was the very real temptation that “at least I didn’t have to worry about this” or “at least I had that”.
In those “at least” times, when the day-to-day-ness of walking this out seems overwhelming, when the bill collectors are the people who check on me the most, I remember God’s faithfulness to the children of Israel even in the Manna season. Yes, during that season every day was about just having enough. But for forty years in that wilderness, they always had enough to eat. Was it what they wanted? No. Was it what they needed in that season? Absolutely. And I’ve seen that same faithfulness in my own life. Even in a very, very slim financial season, my rent’s been paid every month, I’ve never gone hungry, my lights haven’t been turned off. When I get my eyes on the right things, I can see God beautifully bringing me into the very thing He promised me. I can see His hand at work all around me.
So I challenge you to take some time and assess how you’re seeing what you see, right here in the moment you’re in. I challenge you to see God who has been faithful in taking care of you; and I challenge you to acknowledge all the signs of forward progress He has allowed you to see and experience along the way.
This article has been adapted with permission from Marlita Hill’s podcast, The Kingdom Art Life.