Recently in a class I took on leadership by Terry Walling, we were encouraged to look at our lives and heritage more carefully using a Post-It Note Timeline to consider all the events, circumstances, and people the Lord has used to shape us. Dr. Walling had us identify how God as the Potter uses many influences to form us into the people we are. He led us through exercises that helped us recognize people whom God has used to mold us thus far.
As we prayerfully reflected on our lives with Dr. Walling's guidance, each of us began to see that the Lord uses a myriad of people in lesser and greater ways to prepare and direct us in our service to Him. Indeed, as we become more aware of God's shaping hand through others, we begin to see lessons and patterns the Lord uses uniquely in our own lives to guide us further into His ways.
For example, in my own life I saw God has often used "spanks" through the hands of others to shape me. One of my very first memories is crying as a toddler after my father had truly spanked me (with many repeats through my childhood!) which helped put the fear of God in my heart; an arrest in high school after doing something stupid with friends taught me a new respect for authority; a near failure in a mathematics theory class in graduate school from the department chairman redirected my career toward teaching; a pastoral mentor who in my early years told me after _every sermon _I preached that I was too fast and too quiet for people to hear shaped my preaching - the list could go on. I know the Lord loves me, for He has been faithful to discipline me (Hebrews 12:4-11)! Furthermore, I saw more fully through reflecting on these circumstances and the people God has used in my life how in turn He has called me to be one who corrects and shapes others in loving, relational discipleship.
Ephesians 2:10 says that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). Rather than viewing predestination only as pertaining to a salvation event or, far worse yet, some dry and dusty doctrine, we put boots on our election when we more clearly see the Lord's guiding and shaping hands on the whole of our lives. Going through this exercise helped me to experience more deeply the ways in which God has directed my life so that I will walk more knowledgeably in the works He has prepared for me.
I'm using this timeline in a class I'm currently teaching to help men preparing for church leadership reflect on their unique calling. They are having serious fun as they do so. If interested, you can watch the video here for an explanation of how to do the timeline. Note, however, that this exercise is best done in a group with others so you can discuss it with them.