I recently found myself, reluctantly, in my car alone, driving 6 ½ hours so that I could add my physical presence to an already explosive family “situation.” I had the enthusiasm of Eeyore, no plan, and no good reason to participate, other than an unexplainable pull. Time did not clarify my purpose; it only provided the fertilizer for internal tension and dread. Reasoning, problem solving, talking about the issues, only made my mind murkier, like quicksand. The best plan I could devise after 3 hours was “Turn around, go home, and don’t answer the phone.”
As if on cue, that’s when sleet began to fall. And you know what happened? I stopped thinking. All my focus was on the driving task at hand. As I left the interstate to follow the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway, my mind went to a calm, safe place: the gentle tapping of the sleet, rhythmic swaying of majestic trees, birds and wildlife busying themselves. I felt small, perhaps not the solution broker for all great problems, and I finally thought to ask “God, what should I do?” And through that quiet fog in my mind, somewhere in the distance I heard Otis Redding’s voice. And he told me what to do.
I have my own unique relationship with God; we all do. He created each of us individuals with characteristics he chose. He knows how to reach me, when to reach me, where to reach me, because I am designed by him. He could have used a loud booming voice. He could have waited for me to stop and read scripture. But He has plenty of options. He’s been known to send messages through a bush, angels, the stars, the written word of a ghostly hand, a rooster, even my favorite, a donkey. So why not Otis Redding? (And no, I didn’t run off to the bay, but you do have the right song.)
I continued to listen. I heard a song about how hard it is to love someone who is mentally ill. I needed that reminder. Then a song whose title made me laugh. I’m glad God has a sense of humor; I needed that smile. As I listened, I drove closer to my destination. Tension again crept up as a most annoying truck, in the sleet, made my path difficult. “Turn right, Lori.” But that route is out of the way. “Turn right.” So I did.
God knows me and takes me where I need to go. When Jacob was outcast and alone, God met him in his time of distress and brought Heaven to him. (Let’s add dreams to the list of how God communicates.) God met me where I was and sent me on a side trip to a place that holds my heart, the place where I met my soulmate, the place where I learned, and learned to love. For me, the stadium I saw looming over the trees rose up toward Heaven, my ladder, and again I felt peace.
One more song helped me through the last 20 minutes of the trip. The words spoke of a constant, mysterious companion. I’ve got one of those. Thanks for always being there, God, and joining me as I journey into the unknown.
There is no happy ending to my story. No solution was found. Only miniscule progress was made, and that was the type that can be easily undone. Perhaps my effort was pointless, though at least I didn’t make the situation worse (or did I?). But later, I received a clarifying phone call. Months before, I had committed to mentoring a young family member as part of FUMC’s discipleship program. Apparently, I showed her that I would make the effort to support her and stand by her during a trying time. She didn’t need a solution; only to see me. That’s why God sent me somewhere I didn’t want to go.
“You are small. I am in control. Remain the same. I know what you need and will point you in that direction. So smile. I am your companion. I will guide you so that you can help another.” And this, to me, is discipleship.
MAY GROW OPPORTUNITIES
• 1 John 3:18 – “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
• Read through the Letter to the Ephesians. There are only six chapters to Ephesians. Read through this letter every week of May. Notice how much Paul speaks of his love for the Ephesians, how he prays for them, and the encouragement he writes. Throughout the month of May ask God how you could pour out love and encouragement in a new way to someone in your life.
• Pray for those attending the General Conference of the UMC, during May 10-20. Pray for wisdom, courage, and unity as they make decisions that impact the health and witness of our denomination worldwide. For more information: www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2016
• Subscribe to an online devotional to receive daily, biblical inspiration. Try thewordfortoday.com.au or todaysdevotions.com/our-daily-bread
• Initiate conversation at the dinner table about what you are reading and learning from the Bible. If you live alone, do this when you go out with a friend.