So far, the study is living up to and even exceeding my expectations. Last night Bill had a hockey game, and after I'd tucked Allyson in I had the house to myself for awhile. As I sat on the floor of the TV room and worked on my homework, the Word again came alive to me. This time what moved me most was the account of the first disciples meeting Jesus (John 1:35-51). I was struck by how He called them by name and said, "Come.... Follow me." And they did exactly that. They dropped everything and followed Him. The other thing that they did was to tell others about him. I loved Philip's words: "Come and see."
I tried to imagine what it must have been like to see and recognize the Messiah in the flesh. There in the quiet of the night, I felt that Jesus was calling me by name, saying "Come and see! Follow me."
One of the study questions asked me to mark my spiritual progress on this continuum:
I decided that I am just to the right of "trust." I definitely recognize Jesus as the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Over the past few years, I've learned to trust Him like never before. But I don't think I've truly followed Him--followed Him out of my safe, comfy life and into the plan that He has for me.
I knelt there, with my forehead on the carpet, and professed my faith to Jesus. "I want to follow you!" I prayed. "Please make me strong enough and teach me to hear your voice so I can obey. Help me to let go of everything that stands between you and me. And show me the opportunities you're giving me to tell others about you, to urge them to come and see."
I immediately thought about my upcoming shift in the prayer room this morning. What a great place to share the Good News with hurting people! I prayed then that God would prepare me for whatever needs I would encounter.
I prayed that again over breakfast, and again in the car on the way to church. When I got to church, I went straight to the prayer room, where I hoped to spend some time alone with God before the first service ended. I was disappointed to discover that the room was in use and that I'd have to wait in the volunteer check-in room instead. Now I know God is everywhere, and I can pray anywhere, but there's just something so soothing about that prayer room. Plus, I really wanted to be alone. I tried to pray in the other room, but too many people were coming and going, and I found myself feeling anxious and unprepared for the task ahead.
I lurked outside the prayer room door until everyone filed out, and then I hurried in to enjoy that last five minutes of solitude. I sank thankfully into a plush chair and started talking to God. "Why do I feel this anxiety in my chest? I know you are with me, but why do I feel afraid? I've got nothing, God. I need you to give me the strength to pray with whoever needs encouragement today. Help me to rest in you. Let your peace rest on me now."
Breathing deeply, I was just starting to relax when one of the other volunteers walked in and asked how I was doing. I groaned inwardly. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to someone. I needed to steep myself in prayer!
I decided to tell the truth. "I'm doing okay, but today I'm feeling anxious, as if there's going to be a really big prayer request and I won't know how to respond. Today is just one of those days when I wonder why I'm here. I wonder what made me think I was right for this job."
"Why do you say that?" he asked.
"Well, it's just that... I don't know. There are some people who have a gift of prayer, of faith, and they pray with authority. I don't think I really have that."
"I think you're very good at praying with people," he said.
"It's because the Holy Spirit reminds me of scriptures, and I just pray them out loud," I explained. "That's His job, you know: to remind us of everything Jesus taught us."
"So why do you feel like you're not right for this job?"
"Well, I usually get so nervous. I don't know who will come in or what requests they'll have. Sometimes people have such serious requests, and I feel like saying, 'Oh my gosh! What are you going to do??'" I put a hand on each of my cheeks, my eyes open wide in a pantomime of shock.
We both laughed out loud, and he said he understood how I felt. Just then, the other volunteer for the day came in. At his quizzical look, I repeated what I'd said about my reaction to some requests. The three of us laughed together, and I concluded, "But God always gives us the words, doesn't He?"
The tears of laughter were still in my eyes when the first man came in. Sure enough, his request was A Big One, but I felt perfectly calm. One of my memory passages came to me right away, and I prayed part of it over him. But then I began to pray some things that I hadn't planned to say at all, and I felt that trembling that gives me a compelling sense of urgency and yet total calm at the same time. I thought of a scripture I'd recalled during my Bible study homework the night before, and I also remembered a couple of Psalms that seemed to apply.
I'm not sure exactly which part of the prayer moved him, but when I said amen, the man grabbed me by the shoulders and kissed my cheek! "Wow!" he said. "That was amazing. That was exactly what I needed to hear."
Tears filled my eyes, and I pulled him into a hug. I went into the second service rejoicing, and every worship song held a special meaning. When we sang about soaring on wings as eagles, I really felt that I was flying. To quote the man in the prayer room: "Wow!"
It wasn't until later in the day that I really grasped how God had answered my prayer in such a delightful and unexpected way. What I'd wanted was to be alone so I could prepare myself, but instead he sent a friend to make me laugh. All of my anxiety melted away in just a moment of laughter, and I was covered in peace just as I'd asked. And though in my own eyes that first request was huge, to God it was nothing. I didn't have to feel ready; I just had to be obedient and make myself available.
This afternoon I spent a couple of hours with my sister Amy while Bill and the kids were at the baseball game, and we had a good talk about it. I told her how I feel I'm not gifted in the area of faith, and how I think that's more of her gift. "I think my gift is encouragement," I said.
Amy reminded me about the church being a body that's made up of many parts, with every part being essential. "God doesn't need a person with lots of faith--he needs someone who is available. That's you. You're there, and you're being obedient, and God can use the gifts he gave you." That was the second time in two days that someone had reminded me about the body having many parts, and I've decided to take that to heart.
I'm going to stop deciding what I think I'm good at and focus instead on being obedient. It's not about me anyway. I really don't have anything to offer anyone. But God... God has everything to offer.