By Melissa Walsh
One of my favorite books is The Jesus I Never Knew by Phil Yancey. Over 15 years ago, when I first read it, my imagination was swept away with Yancey’s challenge to think of Jesus as a real person, living with a real family, having real friends, real feelings, real problems, real pain, real joy. I imagined Jesus as a little boy with a cute little boy laugh, as a lanky teen goofing off with his brothers, as a young man taking care of his mom, making new friends, and being rejected by the people of his home town. I saw Jesus as a renegade peacemaker, as a champion for women, as the voice of the marginalized, as an advocate for the poor, as a guy who had compassion for kids, as a courageous speaker, as an amazingly brilliant storyteller, and as a man with a fantastic sense of wit.
This week, I reread The Jesus I Never Knew for the third or fourth time. This time Yancey jumped out of the pages and grabbed my attention with these words: “I do not get to know God, then do his will; I get to know him by doing his will.”
But how can we know we’re in God’s will? How do we know if our vision matches God’s?
My experiences have taught me that doing God’s will requires my stepping out into the unknown. It requires purity in my intentions. God’s vision has no room for my pride and selfishness. It requires prayer without ceasing.
An Irish hymn I love explains how to discern whether your vision matches God’s vision. Here’s the first verse:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
You know God’s will, or vision, by thinking about him ... all the time. Still unclear? Let’s look at what it means to cast a vision in scripture.
Luke 5:1-11 is an awesome cast-a-vision story. It’s kind of a funny story too.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.
2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.
3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,
10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Picture it. Imagine how this might have played out? I see Simon Peter muttering under his breath about Jesus as he rows out to deeper water. I see him totally rolling his eyes and whispering to his buddies, “This guy’s nuts, man.”
Then bingo, bango, whamo, fish are ripping the nets, and the boat is beginning to sink because the catch is so enormous. I wonder if Jesus had a good laugh. I bet the disciples chuckled later as they retold this story around the campfire. That Jesus ... he’s full of surprises.
When my first marriage was in jeopardy, I prayed and prayed and prayed a simple request. “Lord, please help my family. Save this marriage,” I begged God each night as I cried myself to sleep. The prayer was so desperate. I was so scared. My sons were just babies. “Certainly, God will show up,” I thought. “He will make things right. He will protect us from the evil forces that were attacking the marriage.”
When the marriage ended, my simple and desperate prayer became, “Lord, help me learn about boys. Give me the wisdom to raise boys well.” This became my prayer many years ago and is still my prayer today.
When my oldest son was in third grade, I was offered an interview for a marketing position with Snap-on Diagnostics in Auburn Hills. I was living in Grosse Pointe at the time caring for my four young sons and working as a freelance writer. My first inclination was to turn down the interview for this position. Commuting an hour away would be too hard on my boys, I reasoned. In addition, I had been a publishing professional my entire career and wasn’t at all interested in switching industries. However, a friend talked me into at least going to the interview.
A couple days after the interview, I was offered the job. Though I wasn’t happy about it, the money and benefits were good; so I accepted it. After just a few months into the job, I started to enjoy working in the automotive service and repair industry. I enjoyed learning about the diagnostic tool I was marketing. I enjoyed traveling with the OEM customers to speak with the tool endusers, dealership mechanics. I enjoyed learning from the mechanics and getting familiar with the shop environment. After about two years at Snap-on, I went back to college for applied engineering (auto tech). I found myself in automotive electronics and engine-repair classes with all men, mostly very young men fresh out of high school. I became more and more familiar with guys and their experiences.
When I was notified that I was being laid off from Snap-on, I was devastated. I loved working in the automotive service and repair industry. After an anxious three months of trying to land another job in that industry, I was offered a position in military vehicle logistics with General Dynamics Land Systems. Though I wasn’t eager to join the defense industry, the salary and benefits were good. And I was happy to find myself in a shop environment again, this time working alongside several former and active-duty service men and women.
After a few weeks with GDLS, it hit me. God answered my prayer. He answered big. Boy oh boy, was he ever teaching me about guys. By leading me into the deep waters of two extremely masculine industries, God answered my request to gain boy-rearing wisdom.
It’s like God was saying to me, “Okay, Melissa, think about it now. I wanted you to venture out into the deep waters of car repair. You didn’t want to go, but you went. Then I sent you into the even deeper waters of military vehicle programs. You didn’t want to go, but you went. All the while you were casting your net to catch wisdom about raising boys. So tell me, what did you catch?”
I started to sense God’s loving laughter as I hoisted bountiful nets of boy wisdom into my boat. And I laughed with him.
These days, I frequently come home from the office to a house packed with teen boys. It’s great. Those squirrelly boys, with their endless appetites, testosterone spikes, loudness, and stinky shoes, are part of that pure vision I cast long ago. Those wonderful boys, with their keen senses, sharp minds, and potential for greatness, are essential to God’s unshakable purpose. It’s an honor and a joy to know them and care for them. (I may not appear to be joyful when they break things, but deep down I truly am.)
With a pure heart, cast your vision. God will bring your vision to life. It will become so lively and abundant, that it will surprise you. It might even make you laugh.
Share your story with us: What vision have you cast for you family? What have you found in the net?
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:16
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28