The Path God Uses

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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When I write, I like to give voice to historical characters that had no chance to speak. I’m interested in the retrieval of words unrecorded. Often I write about Native Americans such as Sacagawea, the young Shoshoni woman who traveled with Lewis and Clark, or biblical characters, such as Miriam, Dorcas, the four daughters of Philip, and Joseph—the eleventh son of Jacob.

All of them found themselves in places they didn’t want to be: a leprosy camp, sickness and death, persecution, prison. For the Native American, the unwanted place was erasure and loss.

“What was it like?” I ask when I start into a character’s voice. I also have known places I didn’t want to be. I often still am in those places. For 17 years, I have taught in Minnesota. If I never see another eight-month winter, I will not miss it. I will soon enter retirement. Will there be money enough for health insurance, gasoline, whatever unknown needs lie ahead?

When I wrote about Miriam, I thought “I have known these places where the water was bitter—trapped between Egypt and the Red Sea.” How often have I been where I did not want to be, or in situations I wanted to avoid? Yet it is where I found the step to the next step.

Looking back over my life, I see how God maneuvered me through circumstances from the back roads of Oklahoma to the University of Iowa on an Equal Opportunity Fellowship to a college position. And I see how He used each step. I achieved tenured professor, my children are reared, my daughter’s school loans are paid, my son returned from Desert Storm, my grandchildren are here.

I am beyond so much that seemed a snare, a circumference of despair, a cage. But in those tight places, it was God and not my own efforts on which I relied. He is God. He takes me where He wants me to go. I can get in His way. Sometimes I make my own places. I complain. I suffer. Life comes that way. But each step belongs to Him. And each falls into His divine pattern.

Recently I took a vacation with my daughter, her husband, and their three children, ages 2, 3, and 5: a 10-hour drive there and back. In the rowdiness of passing over land, I felt the long trail of those who came before me and left evidence of their lives on the land. I pick it up when I write, and in those moments when the children sleep and I am free to dream, to imagine. I feel the same presence of those who went before me when I read scripture. I have learned to follow the Lord; He will lead me even through the rough gates of death to my eternal home.