“There is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does – maybe more.” (Parker J. Palmer, quoted in The Intentional Woman)
That quote struck me when I read it and it’s been on my mind ever since. When I pray for guidance, I look for opportunities or open doors. It’s what comes naturally. But what if closed doors are guidance? And what if fences that have no doors at all are guidance, too?
Every life has its fences. And there are lots of different kinds. I can try to ignore the fence, but walking into it really hurts. I can beat it with my fists until I’m exhausted. I can scream and yell until I’m hoarse. I can cry and mourn the loss of freedom. But the fence remains. Why?
Paul knew. His “thorn in the flesh” was frustrating and kept him from the things he wanted to do. He was an Apostle. You would think that God would have opened every door and torn down every fence to make the way clear for him. But He didn’t. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Cor 12:8-9a)
How would it change the way we respond to illness, disability and all the other fences if we thought of them as guidance? Would we sit down and just wait for it to be over? Or would we actually look for what is inside the fence? If it is God’s guidance, then I have to believe that there is something for me right where I am – inside the fence.
And, if His power is made perfect in weakness, then what I do inside the fence actually shows God’s power more than all the things I would like to do outside it. It’s going to take more thought and practice, but I hope someday to say with Paul, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me … For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9b,10b)