Thursday, March 29, 2012

In re Daniel

So there's this story in the Old Testament about a guy named Daniel.  He was one of the Jews who was carried off to Babylon.  Apparently they had the young captives hanging out together, getting beefed up to do whatever it is they were supposed to do, coming before the king.  And their daily regimen included a diet that was contrary to the dietary restrictions the Jews followed as part of their religion.  So Daniel stood up to the guy in charge and asked if he could eat different things - vegetables and water only.  And the guy in charge said that it would be on him if they didn't perform as well as the other captives.  So Daniel asked him to test them for 10 days, to see if his own diet would hurt him.  After the 10 days, the guy was so impressed with Daniel (and his friends), that he switched all the captives to that diet.

I've been thinking about this recently because we talked about it at my church a few weeks ago, and a lot of new things have been happening with my law job.  I've been seeing some parallels in the way that God responded to Daniel's choice to follow him and how God has responded to my decision to have a nontraditional legal career.

When I first got out of law school, I had a nice cushy state job with benefits and pension and a regular paycheck.  It was relatively prestigious, and I was doing something I enjoyed.  But back in law school, God had given me a different vision for how he wanted to use me.  So the question became, would I follow him into the great unknown, chasing after this possibility of using my legal knowledge to effect justice and impact the people around me?  Or would I stay where it was safe and predictable?

I ended up choosing to leave that job, and I've been on a journey these last five years where I haven't known what to expect.  Those first few months I was living off a credit card and not seeing how I was going to make enough to pay it off.  I was taking legal work I knew wouldn't really pay the bills (or pay anything at all), but I was doing it because I felt like it was the right thing to do--like God had called me to help these specific people.  And I remember making the choice, day after day, to believe that God would provide.  I said to God that everything was his--all my time, all my choices, everything, and I was trusting him to provide.

And he truly has.  After 4-5 months of real testing, work started coming my way.  I got a three-year contract that would pay almost all my bills.  I kept getting classes at a local law school to teach that would pay the rest of my bills.  And I got to give pretty much the rest of my time away, building relationships, serving the underprivileged with legal services, doing ministry, and writing.  God has been so faithful to provide for me.  And he continues to.  I just got another contract that by all rights I should never have gotten--it's extremely competitive and unheard of for someone so young.  I'd like to take credit for it and say it's because of my performance in law school and other things.  But I really can't.  I believe that God opened those doors so that I will be able to continue to do what he's called me to do.

I sometimes wonder whether stepping out by faith like Daniel did actually accomplishes anything.  What impact does it have on the world around me?  What impact can it have?  But I get the sense that it's to be a testimony to the people whose lives I touch about what faith looks like.  Sometimes I get to tell this story when I'm listening to others who are trying to decide whether to risk stepping out by faith to do something.  Sometimes I get to tell it to other lawyers who are trying to figure out why my life looks the way it does.  I really wanted to tell it here because I wanted to tell you--I want God to get the praise and the glory for his faithfulness.  I think it says something about who he is.  My friend always says that you can't out-give God, and I really think that's true.

Many times, walking with God is going against the flow.  Sometimes it's going against the flow of the world, and sometimes it's even going against the flow of our complacent Christianity.  But I want to encourage you to take those risks, to walk by faith, to go where God is encouraging and calling you to go.  A life of faith is like nothing else in the world.  And when you put yourself in a position where God is the only one who can come through, the only one who can answer, the only way you can make it, it's amazing what that does to your faith.  You can't be apathetic when you desperately need him.  You can't.  Even more amazing is what you will see him do through you.

What visions has God put on your heart that you are considering?  What is holding you back?  What would God need to do to make those things possible?  What would you need to do?  I hope you'll pray through these questions, and I hope that you'll decide to step out by faith like Daniel did.

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