I'm going to be writing a bit out of order here - but remember, this is a journey of obedience and not so much that of a qualified writer. So I'm going to go back to just before the night God called my name - to tell you about another three letter word that I believe was the catalyst to that whisper in the dark. And because more than anything I believe God is asking me to chronicle my journey of understanding the Holy Spirit...His voice, His presence and the importance of His role in my life, our lives...
Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." - Mark 10:28
It all sounded great in theory, the idea of living a life for Christ...that is until I wrote down those four little questions and then just stared at them. Anything? Anyone? Anytime? Any Cost? Could I say yes to all four of these questions and in the process, give God full control and access to my walk with him? Could I hand over to Him anything or anyone in my life, at anytime, at any cost? When the questions were asked, I took it very seriously. I knew God well enough to know it wasn’t a game and He doesn’t take commitment lightly. So I thought long and hard. Then I thought some more. Was I really ready to say yes to all four? I had committed my life to Jesus when I was in junior high, so it shouldn’t be much different, right? But there was something about one of the questions that,, as a mom and wife, caught me off guard and made me hesitate - big time.
I grabbed my pen and wrote yes to “Anything.” I was fine if God decided to take all my possessions. I’m not so sure we had much of anything I considered fantastic at that time anyway, so it was an easy call. After all, things I had owned up to that point were items like spray-painted plywood cubes that were used as coffee tables, four wooden tv trays that when combined made either a kitchen table or a dining room table depending on the company that was over, and a hunter green vinyl recliner. Not much of a sacrifice. I’m sorry if our dorm room furniture is anything that you are currently using, but let’s be honest, it is not cute! Really, for me, it would be a blessing in disguise if it all just went away!
Then I wrote yes to “Anytime.” At that time, I was working on building my own clothing and jewelry business and was just beginning an interior decorating business. My days where so full that they didn’t usually end until two in the morning. Between my new business, three little ones under 5 and volunteering for bible study and Mothers of Preschoolers, I was exhausted. So, if I’m being totally honest, the thought of taking a “break”, stepping out into something different for God and leaving all the tedious little details of my chaotic life behind, sounded kind of refreshing and didn’t seem all that scary.
Any Cost? That one was a little harder, but I figured if I could say yes to the other two, it certainly couldn’t be much different. So, yes it was. I felt pretty accomplished with what I had just done. What was that feeling? Oh, yes – pride. I was kind of proud of myself. Not exactly the “all in” attitude and heart of the servant I’m sure God was looking for. So, as if to humble me in one swift move, God shifted my gaze and I glanced down at the one question I pretended wasn’t a part of the four. Very humbling. I hadn’t written anything and knew I couldn’t write yes to that one yet. Anything but my 3 little babies or my husband. Sure, I had my moments where I actually hid in a closet from my kids because I couldn’t take the whining anymore (can I get an Amen from the moms out there?!). Or when my husband would intentionally, I’m pretty sure, irritate the fire out of me. But I loved them beyond anything I could have ever imagined. They were my life. The loves of my life. I couldn’t willingly say to God, “Ok, they are yours - do whatever you want.” I knew deep, deep down that they were already His, but saying it out loud would seal the deal…there would be nothing in my control when it came to my family. I would have to depend solely on God. I can look back on that time in my life and see how my relationship with God was fragile and pretty superficial. You know, the head knowledge. The games we play as grown-up Christians, acting the role of a lifetime. That was where I was at on that particular day.
So that day, I walked away from Bible Study with only three questions answered. I tucked them in my Bible and put them out of my head. I wasn’t going to let the guilt creep in or dwell on the fact that I felt like I failed God that day.
A couple days later, God caught up with me, as He tends to do. It was in a quiet moment that I know now was the Holy Spirit convicting me of something God had wanted me to do two weeks earlier. At the time, I didn’t really know why God was calling out to me, but I just knew. God wanted my whole heart, my whole mind, all my possessions, my time and those I held closest to my heart, at all costs. So I went to my Bible and pulled out the paper with the four questions. Before I could change my mind, I grabbed a pen and I wrote one simple word. YES.
YES. Three little letters that began a journey with God that I never in my wildest imagination could have dreamt of. It didn’t happen overnight, but that was the day that started the shift away from looking at God as just a bunch of scriptures compiled in a pretty leather bound book. Slowly, I began to see what God desires for all of us; a relationship. And not just your everyday, ordinary relationship. One filled with love, awe and wonder, a close personal friendship with the One who created us.
I wrote that word down and that's when the Holy Spirit began speaking. That night in Santa Fe was the first I can remember clearly hearing from Him and, from that point on, as long as I'm listening, He is speaking. It doesn't always look the same and I'm not saying I'm great at listening all the time, but I'm learning what it looks like to try my best. Because what I believe - is that God has gifts for each of us and He is simply waiting for us to listen, to be willing and to say yes.
One day, years later, I went to my Bible Study like I did every Friday morning and God reminded me again - real time - of this commitment I made to listen to His voice. My Bible Study is a precious time for me, surrounded by women full of wisdom and love, a time for me personally to refresh and refill. It's a time I get to open up and share my heart. So I was excited for this Friday - I had a cool story of how the Holy Spirit had worked in my life that week - a story that involved a spiritual gift. But it didn't go like I imagined. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous about sharing to begin with because at this point, I was still kind of out there on my own with how God had been talking to me and sharing this story was a big deal to me. But I knew I was supposed to. That is, until I walked in and noticed someone new. At the time, we were a very small group, so a new person stood out. But what really caught my attention was that she looked very much like a picture God had shown me earlier in the week of a person with dark hair, wearing glasses. The image had come with a warning that there would be dissension. I didn't understand what God was trying to tell me at the time, so I had just prayed about it, wrote it down and tucked it away in my brain until later.
This day was apparently "later." The hairs on my arms stood up, because I've learned at this point that when God shows me something, I need to pay attention which, in this case, wasn't too hard to do! We dug into the study and had just started talking about the events in the book of Acts, when suddenly the girl stood and walked to the front of the room and proceeded to say the very opposite of what I had planned to share - that what happened in Acts was for then, not for now. I think I stopped breathing for a minute. You could hear a pin drop in the room. Okay God, do you still want me to share? I don't like confrontation and, actually, I totally got where she was coming from. I began to have doubts. Many of us aren't really taught about the Holy Spirit or about spiritual gifts...at least I wasn't. And it makes us uncomfortable. But what I'm learning is that it's not about being comfortable. It's about being in the presence of the very God that was in the Old and New Testaments, the God that is present with us today and the one who will be by our sides forever. Studying His word for ourselves and learning to listen to His voice - experiencing a surrendered obedience - believing with every fiber of our being, the verse in Hebrews 13:8 that says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." That's when I believe He can start speaking in a voice we can understand, designed specifically for us, unique to who He created us to be.
That day for me wasn't about the dark haired girl with glasses, it was about Satan trying to keep me from the relationship God desires and it was about a lesson in obedience. For me that day was God asking - Are you willing to listen to what I'm asking you to do? To be teachable and stand firm? I did it. Shaky, yes. But I stayed firm in what I knew God was telling me. Backed by scripture, wrapped in love, I told my Bible Study ladies the story that someday I'll share with you. There was dissension that morning after the dark haired girl spoke and it created an uncertainty in the ladies that God's voice was in fact real and for us now, and it broke my heart. I'm grateful God asked me to do something uncomfortable that day and I'm grateful I listened, because I remember walking away with an even greater conviction of the realness of the Holy Spirit.
YES to anytime. YES to anyplace. YES to all costs. YES to anyone. But the biggest yes I've given is YES to believing that God has more for me. I simply need to stretch out my hands, ask and then be willing to walk out whatever He gives me - even if it makes me look different. Even if it goes against what others believe or makes me uncomfortable. I've decided I'm not willing to cut God short on what He has for me. As far as I'm concerned, He's got all the room in the world to work on me because I've seen Him move in some pretty mighty ways in my life. Through sickness, through healing and in my personal time alone with Him. So, no matter how hard it is, why not? At this point I'd be crazy not to.
That begins my journey and what follows are the stories of my encounters with the Holy Spirit...the pictures, the lessons and the ways God has shown Himself to me over the last 10 years.
Ever since I said "Yes" and He said "Jae"...
"But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand." - Isaiah 64:8