Four years ago, about halfway through seminary, my life changed forever. Radically. I grew up in the church, had been studying and teaching the Bible for years, but for the first time in my life I was about to see Jesus in a completely different way. Or, maybe I should say, for the first time I would come to a transformational understanding of how Jesus sees me.
One of the requirements for my particular degree program was a 30 week concentration in spiritual formation. The requirement, though time consuming, was relatively simple: meet with a local ministry leader once a week for mentoring. At the end of the 30 weeks, I would present my mentor with a project entitled “My Story”; a simple narrative of my testimony.
I still remember that fateful day, sitting at my local Starbucks, presenting my paper, clearly and concisely sharing my testimony with a woman brave enough to take on the job of mentoring me. It’s wasn’t a job for the faint of heart. But, this final meeting was easy. I’d given my testimony a hundred times, learning to keep it sweet, simple and too the point.
Box checked. Moving on.
Or so I thought.
That night I tossed and turned for hours, but sleep eluded me and I had absolutely no idea why. Did I consume too much coffee after 4:00pm? Were the kids okay? Did I forget to lock the doors? It went on for hours. And then, out of nowhere, it hit me. Almost like God was talking to me. (He wasn’t. At least, not audibly.) Maybe I was talking to myself. Whomever was behind that still, small voice… my deep subconscious was breaking through with four simple words:
“That’s not your story.”
I’m sorry. What?!? What do you mean it’s not my story? Of course, it is! I’ve told it a hundred times, if not more. The Carry On Project was based on that story. I mean, I LIVED it.
But, then, almost like an answer to what I thought was a rhetorical question, the Lord brought the story, ready to be told, into focus. This wasn’t a forgotten tale repressed in the cob-webbed crevices of my mind, nor was it a story I chose to ignore. It was just so far removed from my life… decades removed. Before I knew Jesus. (Yes, you read that right. It IS completely possible to be raised in the church, even be baptized, and have absolutely no idea who Jesus is.) And for someone who had first hand experience of how the church shoots it’s wounded…
Yeah… no thanks. I’m good.
But, the Lord was unrelenting and the turning point finally came in a moment of frustration as I screamed in my pillow, “For the love of Jesus.”
It was almost like the Lord answered, “That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
So, I did the only thing I knew to do when faced with a decision I didn’t want to make. I pulled a Gideon and threw down my fleece. But, this was no ordinary fleece, mind you. This fleece had points and sub-points. In no uncertain terms, if the Lord wanted THIS to be “my story” then He needed to make it UNDENIABLY clear.
Here were my conditions (laughable, I know): #1 He needed to clearly confirm this was the story I was called to share; #2 He needed to clearly articulate WHY I was the one to share it; and #3 He had to do it within the next 24 hours.
Yeah, I know. I have some nerve, right? Questioning the Lord of all creation? Giving Him a timeline to meet MY demands? Who the heck do I think I am?
Truth: in that moment… Jonah. Ready to run as far away from Nineveh as possible. And, thankfully, the Lord extended to me ALL KINDS of CRAZY GRACE. Because He answered all of my questions by the following night.
Lesson for today: When you try to paint God unto a corner, He might just blow that corner up.