It was 1985 and I was excited to begin the next step in my educational and career journey. We had just recently moved to Virginia Beach, VA, to pursue our first ministry work. I was serving as a youth pastor and my wife was teaching kindergarten in our Christian school. We were full of expectation, wonder at what God was going to do, and finding our way in the world. We wanted to follow God's plan as a newly married couple...having just just celebrated our one-year anniversary. After about a year there, I decided it was time to take the next step in my education. You see, I had determined that God was leading me to pursue a graduate degree in counseling to better equip me to engage my calling to help others find peace, healing and fulfillment. I considered the local graduate school options...a state school that was very close by, a Christian graduate school that had a connection to a well-known religious leader and a somewhat exclusive college that was in the historic town of Williamsburg. After visiting campuses, gathering information, and prayerfully considering the options, I settled on The College of William and Mary in Virginia. I knew that this was the most challenging of the three, regarding admissions standards, but I believed it was the right place for me. Long-story-short, I was accepted and started pursuing my Masters of Education in Agency Counseling.
It was a great experience. I was introduced to many new things and challenged with learning all of the theoretical and technical aspects of mental health therapy. I was impressed with many of the professors. Although it was not a faith-based university, the faculty were always welcoming of my integration of biblical principles and thought into my work. I did not have a scholarship or internship, and my financial resources were meager, therefore, I had to go part-time, taking only one or two courses at a time...as I could afford to pay for them. This would mean that my completion time would be longer than normal, but I was okay with that. I had my plate full with the ministry responsibilities and my wife.
Things went along well for a while, until something happened that changed the timeline...
...I was approached by a school in the mid-west that was interested in my coming to work in leadership and help grow their enrollment. It was an opportunity that would take us closer to family, give us the opportunity to have family help with the care of our new baby girl while my wife was working, and provide me with new opportunities and experience. However, it meant that I had to walk away from my graduate work (you have to understand that online education was not a thing yet). As hard as it was to do that, I knew that this opportunity was the right thing for us. So, we offered our resignations, packed up our belongings and made the trip halfway across the country to our new home and work.
I didn't know what would come of my graduate degree. I just trusted God to have a plan and that it was good. Fast forward only three years, we found ourselves unloading our moving truck on Hemlock Street in Norfolk, VA. God had brought us back to the east coast once again. I was provided an exceptional position as Director of Guidance at a large Christian school, where my wife had taught previously. I was provided the opportunity to complete my graduate degree with the support of the school and I was in an excellent location to pursue my residency in private practice after graduation, while continuing to provide guidance and educational evaluation services to the school. I couldn't have orchestrated that on my own. It was God who brought all of the pieces together. One major aspect of that process was the three-year pause that had to take place. There were some very important things that God did in those three years that were necessary in order for me to pursue my purpose.
I didn't know all that would lie ahead for me in pursuing my purpose. There was so much integration that would be in store for me in the seven years from the time I returned to Virginia to the start of the next phase of life and ministry for us. My graduate work would be integrated with application, leadership, pioneering and influence that I would have never imagined when I started out. It was necessary for me to go through the three years of experience in the small school in the mid-west so that I would be prepared to embrace the challenges, imagine the possibilities and thrive in leadership and creativity. I couldn't have been that well prepared without the season of pause.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
This goes hand-in-hand with preparation. God often uses our seasons of pause to mature us in various ways. For me, His plan was to place me in an organization where I was provided extraordinary support, guidance, training and the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, all in a safe and nurturing environment. This brought tremendous growth to me as a leader...it was actually the first time I had such a high level of leadership responsibility in my career, yet it was in an environment where I could learn a great deal about leadership and managing people. When I returned to Virginia, I was prepared to step into a leadership role and build on that important foundation that was laid in the period of pause. God uses these seasons to grow us into the person He has called us to be.
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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29
One thing that pushing the pause button can do is to help us gain a clearer perspective. This, however, is dependent upon how we respond. For me, it meant keeping an open heart and mind to what God was doing. Trusting Him to lead me step-by-step, I learned to trust Him even more. His faithfulness proved that my trust was not ill placed. In turn, my faith grew.
Ultimately, stepping back to take a broader look at our circumstances, the path that led to where we are, and looking to the God who has created us, gives us an eternal perspective. This enables us to let go of our efforts to control everything around us for fear we will not get what we want. It permits us to rest in His sovereignty and trust His plans above our own. It gives us a vision of what is really important in eternal measures and sift through the nonsense of this temporal world and cling to what is real...what is eternal. That makes our next steps more intentional and purposeful, and our determination and commitment to God's purpose in us, even more solid than it could have been before.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
So...the next time life brings a twist in the road that you didn't expect, which seems to be putting a pause on everything you thought most important...the next time you get overwhelmed and feel that the only choice is to hit the pause button...don't feel discouraged and think that all is lost and your efforts have been in vain. Remind yourself that God was already in the midst of this situation before you arrived and He has already worked out a plan for you in this season. Pray a simple prayer, "Father, I trust you and I know you have a plan for me that is born out of your unfathomable love. Help me to just wait, listen and learn. Make my pause your purposed potter's wheel for my life."
But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8
Are you in a season of pause? How are you coping? Thriving? Growing? What have you learned? Perhaps you are on the other side now. What did God do for you during that season? We invite you to share your thoughts and inspiring words in the comments below! Also...if you are encouraged or challenged by something here, please take a moment to like and share on social media!
With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!