When our first child Anna was still a young baby, we met a man who lived in our same apartment block in Shenzhen, China. He was Chinese-American, a very successful businessman, and was quite interested in David and I helping him run some of his English Teaching business. We bumped into him a few times in the elevator in our building, and every time he would bring it up. We politely shrugged it off, as we had a young new baby and no experience in running big English Centres, although I had worked in one. Eventually we moved to another apartment building in a different part of the city. One day I was visiting a friend back in our old apartment block, and lo-and-behold, I ran into him again! He tried very hard to convince me I would be great for managing one of his centres, and the idea started to stick in the back of my mind. I asked him where the centre was that he had in mind, and when he told me the address, I realised it was right across the road from our new apartment!
I went home and told David, and we agreed to meet with him in his office. When we arrived at the meeting, we realised just how successful this man was! He had a big and fancy office in the building where he had a big company, and proceeded to tell us all his business endeavors and accomplishments. After meeting with him, I felt this must be the direction that we should go with our teaching business! We had lost quite a few students due to our move, and I was feeling quite anxious about it and ready for something different. We’d never managed an established English Centre before, and it made me feel important and excited. I love to “manage”! (Just ask my kids!). David, however, wasn’t so convinced. “But it’s literally across the road from us! How can that be a coincidence?! It must be a sign…”, I said. We went and looked around the centre, and though it was low in student numbers and activity, we met someone there we knew. It turns out a friend-of-a-friend’s husband worked there as a teacher! “See? Another sign…” I told David. “This is definitely what we’re meant to be doing.”
After another meeting with him, I was rearing to go. I had told the ladies in my bible study group all about it, and we were all excited about this new direction that God seemed to be leading me and David in! However, David was still not convinced. Like all our big family decisions, I said my piece and then allowed him to take the responsibility of the decision-making. He said he just felt no peace, and that we shouldn’t go ahead with it. He arranged to go and have one last meeting with this guy and let him know. That was the end of it. I was so disappointed, frustrated, deflated, but I knew that David always felt the seriousness and responsibility of making the right decisions by God for our family… so I just had to give it up and let it go.
Several weeks (or maybe it was months) later, I ran into some friends at a shopping mall. It happened to be the friend and friend-of-a-friend whose husband we had seen working in the English Centre! After catching up I shared how we’d bumped into her husband there, and she told us how glad he was to have quit that job! “Why?” I said, “What happened? We were going to manage that place! In the end we didn’t though…”
“It’s a good thing you didn’t!” she said, “that boss was terrible! My husband almost never got paid on time, the guy was so unreliable, and my husband always had to fight for his salary!” The centre had soon closed after that.
Wow… my husband had been right all along! The door of opportunity that I thought had opened so widely for us would have been a snare! Goodness knows what could have happened if we’d put all our eggs in that basket. Not only would it have had financial implications, but it would have taken away much-needed time from our young family. In fact, right after David said “no” to that job, I found out I was pregnant with our son Levi!
Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.” I don’t know if it means physical death, spiritual death, or the death of opportunity, blessing, relationship, or all of these. All I know is, don’t judge a way by how it appears! I was taking all the appearances of the situation as “signs” that this was God’s way for us, when in fact, it wasn’t! That was a really big lesson for me.
Recently a friend of mine told me about the difference between “faith” and “confidence”. Sometimes, we feel confident about something because perhaps we’ve seen God give it to other people, or it’s something we want, or we are desperate and impatient for something to happen. “Faith, on the other hand”, he explained, “comes from hearing, hearing what God has to say.” Had God actually told me that job was something He wanted me to have? Had I even asked God if that was the right thing for us? Or was I just so confident that it must be, because all the ducks seemed to be in a row (and it served some of my selfish ambitions)? Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is stay back when all we want to do is walk right through that open door… especially when it has flashing lights, confetti, and good music on the other side!