In the absence of an ability to deal with certain aspects of my life, I have a trick I (consciously) call "pushing thoughts away." Perhaps a thought appears in my mind that says I'm not doing the best thing in a situation, but merely the easiest; or perhaps someone has hurt me and I just don't want to admit I can be hurt in that way. And so I push the thought away, generally by immediately distracting myself.
But, of course, inevitably my carefully constructed distractions start to disintegrate in the face of the real issue I have to deal with... and it's terribly hard. I've probably "avoided" certain thoughts more than once in every big decision I've made, and ended up regretting it. At certain moments, I'm brought to a place where I understand that the illusions I create and hold so dear are worthless, and I resolve not to shrug thoughts away. If they are thoughts that are from God, I don't want to miss them in favour of something else. And if they are thoughts that are not from him, I can analyse them to death, pray about them, and come to that conclusion.
Basically I don't believe that he will let me down, but do believe that I will let myself down if I don't listen.
This weekend a thought came, and I realised it's a thought that I've been 'pushing' away for a few weeks now. So much for my resolutions. But today I stared out from the 32nd storey of my office building at the people and yellow traffic below, and was mesmerised by the beauty of this place that I'm leaving. I was reminded of my vow not to push thoughts away anymore, and I finally followed this thought through.
The thought was this: what if I really am leaving New York rather than going to Belarus? What if my departure is based, not on the joyous excitement of God taking me to the next step in my life, but on a feeling that New York has gone too far under my skin now that I've been here for five years, and I have to get out?
I've always been taught -- and was blessed to experience -- the importance of being part of a solid community in which to grow. Clyde reminded me of it in his Village Church sermon this past Sunday. The body has many parts, all of them necessary for optimal functioning... if I were to leave the local body where I am now, for which I bear more love each day, would that be just because my role as a 'part' is chafing at me? Is it just because I feel these people, who are a part of me, getting too close to my core?
I'm a pretty analytical person, and some have translated this to mean that I must be afraid of a lot of things, and that if I play the role of an intellectual observer, I'll never be able to be a participant in people's lives. I take it a step further; in that role I don't think I can even be a true participant in my own life. But what if a drive to observe instead of participate is pushing me to new places?
If it is, then I'm really fleeing New York by going to Belarus.
And if that is the case, then the right thing to do would be to call the whole Belarus thing off, stay here, become more involved in the Village Church ministry, get a real job, invest all my time in the people that I know and love here.
As I continued to follow the thought, I realised that I wouldn't mind doing any of that, except for one rather key part: I wouldn't be able to go to Belarus. By now I've already set my heart on it, and while all of those other things would be my joy and pleasure to do, I would hate to go back on something that I intended to do. But I had to remember that God won't let me down, and I will inevitably let myself down. So I told God that even though I've made a decision it is still really up to him... Whate'er my God Ordains is Right was my theme song all summer, why should that change now?
So I prayed, and was a little scared that I'd get an answer of STAY HERE in a few days, but if that was to be it, so be it.
I was absolutely not expecting the quick answer that I got. This evening, I was recording a tinwhistle ditty that I'd made up and ran out of minicassette tape. So I fished through my desk drawer for another tape, and found an old one that I figured I could tape over. But not, of course, without listening to make sure I didn't erase something good. Well, I had recorded the tape in Scotland and Ireland, and most of the side I was on held people telling me about how clear it was to them that God wanted to move me about the globe.
I don't know what kind of stock you put in prophecy and especially modern-day prophecy; I have a pretty theologically diverse crowd of friends, I know. But when I was in Scotland, I met a woman who was pretty much -- there's no other way of putting this -- a prophetess. I do believe that God still speaks through people and signs today, but we need to be very careful and test everything we hear, make sure it resonates in our own spirit and get confirmation from others around us who are holding us accountable, and of course make sure it's totally Biblical. And if what they say is not the truth, well... don't stone them like they did in the Old Testament days, but do what you can not to let them pass on lies to others either.
This woman had passed these tests with other people that I knew and trusted in Scotland, and one day as we rode by Sterling Bridge, she had a word for me... and I had two trustworthy brothers in the car hearing and confirming all of it. And the resonate with my own spirit thing? That happened in spades. Tonight as I listed again to what all three of them said, I was amazed at how little I understood about my own life then as compared to how much I've learned now (which is, of course, not much). I was amazed too at how accurate the words were -- all of it has been confirmed in my life and in the desires of my heart since then, though with my short memory I forgot most everything they'd said, from shortly after leaving Scotland 'til now. And my final amazement was that God chose this evening, in the midst of my questioning, to share this word with me again.
I'm gonna jot down a few things that stood out to me as I listened to the tape, not to stun you with freaky "ooh that came true" stories or to prove anything, but rather to share with you how this became a step-by-step confirmation of the (yes-go-to-Belarus) desire of my heart that has been building steadily since midsummer. 'Cos it's neat how God answers prayer.
Again, by no means am I saying that the answer to my thought and my question today came from this woman; God used a truly bizarre sequence of events in my life (a visit to a friend of my dad's in scotland two years ago, a car ride to the aeroport, a 30-second-long pennywhistle ditty that was 2 seconds too long for the remainder of a tape, etc.) to confirm something that he'd already told me, which I was questioning.
- "God has not given you a missionary's heart, but he has given you a global heart." CHECK. I was just writing to Erika today about how I don't really want to be a missionary but would rather be a communicator between and among different parts of the body as they are spread throughout the globe.
- "You have a gift of analysis, and this is not so that you can stand outside of situations and critique, but so that you can have wisdom based on knowledge in situations." Well, anyone who knows me knows I'm analytical. Actually this thing I'm writing now pretty much amounts to an analysis. And this addresses my previous fear, too... analysis doesn't necessarily mean detached observation. Impassioned and even intuitive analysis has never seemed a contradiction to me; in fact it seems a necessity.
- "You least expect it now [february of 1998], but you'll sing and make music." Wow. I had maybe written one song by that time, and it was awful and I knew it... since then (again, I completely forgot that anyone had ever said this to me) I've written many more that weren't quite as awful, gained a lot of confidence about my singing voice, learned some new instruments, played on an album, and discovered that making music is one of the many things I want to do with my life.
- "You will travel around the world and speak and write for those whose voices aren't being heard." Um. As paternalistic as this rings in my New York ears, it happens to be pretty much exactly what I hope to do in Belarus.
So I learned something tonight... it's good to question, and pursue those thoughts in prayer and reflection, not only in case I got something wrong, but also in case I actually (!) got something right.
Taking every thought captive, even the scary ones.
- October 2, 2000
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