Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do the Work!

Did you notice in my last post how I casually mentioned something hugely significant? That I feel God calling me back to teaching? In case I've never told you, I taught 7th- and 8th-grade English and reading in an inner-city school back in the 90s. Truth be told, I wasn't all that good at it. I think I needed more patience and wisdom, and probably more anointing. After 3.5 years, when Ethan was an infant, I resigned. It was too hard to take care of a baby and keep up with all the lesson plans, grading papers, disciplinary phone calls, etc. I was just plain worn out.

Although I've always figured I might go back one day, probably when I retire from my "real job," I've never had any desire to go back in the near term. But for the last three weeks, a tiny seed has been growing. It started when I was driving past Ethan's high school. As I often do, I prayed for the teachers and the students, and I started to pray that God would raise up strong Christian leaders there. But before I could form the words, another thought interrupted: "You could be there."

My immediate reaction was nervous fear. I didn't even want to ask if that was God because I knew there was no WAY I was going back to teaching. I still have teaching nightmares after 15 years, for crying out loud.

Within three days, I had said, "Yes, Lord. I will do this... if you open the door and show me your plan. But if you want me to do this, I need you to change my heart."

When I have more time, I'll have to tell you all the ways God kept gently breaking up the hard ground in my heart and watering that little seed. One of them was watching Allyson's teacher embracing her students last Friday at the Kindergarten graduation.

As the idea began to take root, I found myself getting a bit impatient as I wondered what the next step should be. Do I go back to school? If so, when? How will I manage that?

Daily, I kept asking God to show me what to do. As I waited for the answer, I found myself reflecting on something our pastor says: "Stop asking God what He wants you to do next when you haven't done what He's already told you to do."

So I changed my prayer. "What have I not done? What have you already told me to do?"

Asking the right questions made all the difference. The answer came one morning when I wasn't looking for it, in I Chronicles of all places. In addition to my Bible studies over the last few months, I've been reading through the Bible as quickly as possible. I have to confess it's been slow going in books like I and II Chronicles. I wasn't looking forward to another list of soldiers or a list of furnishings for the temple that morning, but I prepared my heart as I usually do when I read the Word; I asked the Holy Spirit to help me understand what I needed to learn, and that he would reveal the truth hidden in the Scriptures.

That morning's reading was the story of King David preparing his son Solomon to take the throne and to build the temple in Jerusalem. He admonished him to acknowledge God and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind.

The next words instantly sent chills up my spine, and I had to read the verse again, aloud, with a tremor in my voice:

Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work. (I Chronicles 28:10, emphasis added)

An overwhelming mixture of conviction and excitement washed over me. I knew what the Holy Spirit was telling me. I thought of my book, languishing untouched on my computer. I'd long since finished typing it up, but hadn't done a single revision. "God, you chose me to write that book," I said aloud. "Please forgive me for being afraid and being too lazy to do the work. Help me be strong and do the work."

At that point I was tempted to stop reading because I knew I'd already received my message for the day, but thankfully I turned the page and read on. Verse 20 was even better:

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail your or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. 

"Yes, Lord," I said. "I will do the work. Thank you that I don't have to be afraid or discouraged any longer. Thank you that I can trust you to guide me and give me the support I need."

God continued to encourage me in the days that followed. First, my friend Heather emailed and reminded me that I had promised to send my full manuscript so that she and my other writing buddy could talk through what needs to be cut with me, and what needs further development.

And then my friend Anne emailed this after reading a couple of my blog entries about Laura: "The experiences you had are amazing of course because God is amazing but also... you really have a gift for writing!!  Have you thought of pursuing that further?  (Just a thought!)"

To which I replied: "Thank you! Yes, I have been halfheartedly pursuing a writing career. I’ve written the first draft of a novel but have been too afraid/lazy to do the hard work of revision. God has been convicting me about that, and your words are a confirmation that I need to DO THE WORK."

So I did the work, or at least took a baby step. I finished a bit of research I'd been putting off and filled in some blanks in my manuscript, and then I formatted it for printing. Last night I sent it off to Office Depot, and this evening I gave copies to Heather and Jacque.

I kept a third copy for myself. It will be the first time I've read it through, and I'm excited about that. Having taken to heart Anne Lamott's advice about giving myself permission to write a really crappy first draft, I know there's lots of work to be done. But with God's help, I'm up for the task!

Here's my copy, hot off the press.

I'm so thankful that God speaks to me, that he enables me to hear and understand and that he provides confirmations to build my confidence--even when I don't ask for them. I love it that when I'm not expecting something "good" out of an Old Testament book, he proves me wrong. And I love it that he never gives up on me, that he doesn't get disgusted with all of my waffling.

As the priests and the Levites sang, "He is good; his love endures forever." (II Chronicles 5:13)


Victor S E Moubarak said...

It's somewhat confusing when God does not speak clearly and in plain English what He wants of us.

No wonder Moses took 40 years going round in circles in the desert !!!

Best wishes with your new projects.

God bless.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

My website

Sarah said...

Thank you, Victor!

Victor S E Moubarak said...

God bless you Sarah.

Michael said...

Hi Sarah
I saw your comment on Victor's blog and just wanted you to know I said a prayer for you.
God Bless.

Sarah said...

Thank you, Michael! I think it's amazing how people all over the world can encourage and pray for each other.

Gentz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Hallelujah, Gentle. Yes, something out of nothing. Thank you. I needed that!

Gentz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Gentle, I needed to be reminded of this verse again today. Thank you for helping me resist the urge to give up. Thank you for all your comments this morning to show me that I am not invisible.


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