As I drove six hours home from a speaking engagement in west Texas, I heard a voice in my heart: “Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.”
It is from James 4:8, a verse I had read many times. In that moment, the written Word of God became the whispered Word of God. I knew He was calling me into a deeper relationship with Him. I could sense He was ready to bring me to a more intimate level of trust.
So often, God speaks to me by bringing Scripture to my to my mind. Because I am so encouraged by this, I seek ways for it to happen more often. I post Scripture all over my house, pinning it on mirrors and under magnets. I keep it on a sticky note on my car’s dashboard. I put it into clipboards in the kitchen. I want to hear His voice, and if ever there is a time I feel the silent distance, I press into the Word. Instead of begging Him to say something new, I meditate on what He has already said.
The more I drew near to God in response to His request through James 4:8, the more I sensed I was coming to the last page of Chapter Two. In my life, Chapter One had been about pursuing a career as a writer, but then a paralyzing stroke at age twenty brought me to the end of that dream. Chapter Two had been about physical rehabilitation and a decade of teaching English in public schools. I loved every minute of it, but as I drew near to God in a new season of quietness and trust, I knew I was on the verge of the next chapter.
When we open our hearts to the Lord, He opens our ears to hear Him. God is always with us, always within us. However, when we intentionally host His presence, as we would a dear guest, He manifests Himself in new ways. We will see Him when we look for Him. We will hear Him when we listen for Him. We will sense Him when we make space for Him. He will fill the entire space we make for Him. If there are times when we do not sense the fullness of His presence, we should ask ourselves if we have made enough space.
One way I drew near to God during that time was by meditating on the words of Jesus in the book of John. Specifically, I read John 15 every day. I memorized it and then muttered it while I sat at red lights or waited for water to boil on the stove. John 15 became my brain’s “screensaver,” popping up when my thoughts idled.
Two particular passages in the book of John caught my attention.
The first is in John 5:19-20:
“So Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing’” (NLT).
The second is in John 14:8-12,16-17:
“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’
Jesus replied, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.
I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father … And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you’” (NLT).
If Jesus did nothing of His own initiative, then why was my own initiative the way I consistently operated?
I made a decision: I would no longer make my own decisions.
I committed to prayer and fasting to discern the next right step. I was completely open to His direction. I determined to act upon God’s leading alone, not on what I could design for myself. What happened next was a series of events that were revealed to me one at a time. God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet, not a lamp unto the miles. It is not as if a long-term blueprint unfolded before my eyes, but I did know the next right step at every turn. The words of John 15, hidden in my heart, did a great work in strengthening me along the way. I knew that the only way living by the Lord’s whisper would work is if I deliberately and daily chose to abide in Him through soaking in the Word, praying, fasting, and staying active in the Body of Christ.
Step one: At the Lord’s leading, I informed my campus principal that I would be completing my contract for the year but would not sign one for the following year.
Step two: Only when the school year was over, did I sense Him guiding me to write. I was to write with the focus and commitment of someone who had been commissioned to write. I was to prayerfully be about “the good works He had prepared in advance for me to do” (Ephesians 2:10). I once heard Christian author Mary Demuth call this “writing a book on your knees.”
Step three: I sold my house and 99% of my furniture and belongings. This, by far, required the greatest amount of faith.
Over the next two years, I would write a book on my knees, examining biblical examples and applying Scripture to real life experiences as I felt His guidance. That book is called Hunting Hope and it will be released in just a few weeks.
On the day I left the classroom, I had no literary agent. I had no contact at a publisher. I had no author friends or writers’ group. On the day I sold my house, I had no specific plan for where to live. God has provided for everything He has asked me to do.
Though I did not have intricate plans in place, I had the voice of God, speaking blessing upon what I had always known I was born to do. As it turns out, Chapter Three looks a lot like Chapter One. I am the writer I always wanted to be. But I had to go through Chapter Two, that bizarre season when my life seemed to take a permanent and irreversible turn in the opposite direction. It was in the discomfort of Chapter Two that I learned how to truly love the Father who loves me.
You may be experiencing a sharp and inexplicable redirection of your life path. You may be holding on in order to survive the hairpin curve you see ahead. If you must fiercely hold onto something, may it be the Hand of your loving Father and not your own plans.
He can be trusted to take you exactly where you need to go.