The writing has been rescued from where it lay in the trash of negative comments and share the writing for the praise of God and encouragement of others. Sometimes He allows a glimpse of the impact it makes in other people's lives and sometimes He just asks me to continue to trust and obey.
Have you ever had those moments where you need to ask for clarification, where the words, "Did I hear you correctly?"pop out? It has happened to me more times than I care to admit, including about things God is asking m
e to do.
Speaking in front of an audience had never been on my bucket list, not even a hint near the bottom. Writing had been an interest back before the advent of the phrase bucket list, but I shoved it deep inside after some comments I perceived as negative. They wiped writing from any list of dreams without even considering what God had in mind.
Years disappeared, life experiences multiplied, and God began to work on my firmly entrenched, heels dug in reticence about speaking and writing. First the pastor's wife, a friend since childhood, asked me to teach a ladies Bible study. She had confidence this was part of God's plan for me. She exhibited more confidence than I could muster, but I gave in and God used my love of learning, added a huge dose of passion for the ladies in the group, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Just when I believed God had finished this lesson of accepting challenges, a church ladies group asked me to be their speaker for a weekend ladies retreat.
Fear jumped up and screamed, "Say no! You can't do that! Tell them to pick someone much more qualified than you." I felt like Moses at the burning bush when God asked him to go and lead the people out of Egypt. I understood his hesitancy in Exodus 4: 10 (NCV) "But Moses said to the Lord, "Please, Lord, I have never been a skilled speaker. Even now, after talking to you, I cannot speak well. I speak slowly and can't find the best words."
Exodus 4:13 could have been my words instead of Moses, "But Moses said, "Please, Lord, send someone else." I had excuses galore. God reminded me, like He did Moses, of His faithfulness, and His ability to help me with words to say. I knew He had been with me through many other of life's struggles, trials, and new experiences - all those other times I had let fear try and chain me into my perceived comfort zone , all the times the nays needed to become yeas.
I obediently but hesitantly said yes, even though fear still ran rampant and I began to prepare. They had given me months of advance notice. I shared their request with friends who prayed with and for me. I learned so much on the vast subject for that retreat- The Power of Prayer. Little did I know what lay ahead.
Even once I arrived at the retreat and met some wonderful ladies, fear whispered , "Can you really do this?" I prayed and asked God to hush up that negative, inner voice so I could hear from Him. At the second session of my speaking, in the middle of the message, God gave me an extraordinary direction. It was so vivid I thought all the ladies must have heard it when He said, "Change your illustration!" I didn't want to change it and become more vulnerable than I already felt. God again commanded this change of illustration and once again I continued the message I had worked on for months while talking to God during all the steps of preparation. Why would I want to share that my son was not walking with God and I still was waiting for that answer to prayer? But I obeyed.
After the session, three ladies asked if they could talk to me. The first two told me their story of a wayward adult child and how they were also waiting for God to answer their prayers. They thanked me for being honest and sharing my story. Then the third lady, an older woman, told us about her wayward son for whom she prayed for over fifteen years until He got right with God. I was humbled and encouraged.
Later that afternoon, I escaped to my room for some quiet time with God and to review of the evening's message. God gave another extraordinary direction so loud and clear that I knew without a doubt God was asking something of me. He wanted me to change my illustration for that evening which would lead me deeper into vulnerability. God asked me to share with the ladies about the depression I experienced, the answers to prayer, and the people God used to walk with me during that dark time.
My immediate response went something like this, "God am I hearing you correctly? You want me to do what? These are very conservative church ladies and church people don't talk about things like this."
But God persisted and I relented to His directions. God gave me the words for that message and no one commented or asked questions once I finished speaking, but they didn't ship me home either. I had no idea why this message needed to be shared until the next day. A young woman came up to me after our Sunday chapel time sobbing so hard no words would come. She leaned into a hug and my shoulder grew damp with her tears. I had no idea what she needed but God said, "Pray." I prayed Scripture and generalities for her until the crying subsided and said, "I was at the end of my rope. I thought I was the only Christian woman who struggled with depression. I didn't know where to turn. Thank you for sharing."
The pastor's wife offered to walk with her through a journey of getting her help she needed now the problem had been named. I praised God. The question lingered "What if I wouldn't have listened to God's extraordinary directions?"
Since that weekend, a dozen years ago, many more things have happened in my life. About that bucket list - well God gave me a passion for sharing with others - even my peers. He brought peace to dwell where fear fought for control, allowing me to be authentic and vulnerable even with the difficult, dark times.
Exodus 4: 11, 12 was true for Moses and for any believer today.
"Then the Lord said to him, "Who made a person's mouth? And who makes someone deaf or not able to speak? Or who gives a person sight or blindness? It is I, The Lord, Now go! I will help you speak, and I will teach you what to day."
Whether it is telling the stories orally or in writing, I am learning that God's extraordinary directions to this ordinary grandma can make all the difference to someone, including myself. I just need to listen and obey.