Monday, June 2, 2008

Thoughts on Leadings

I have been trying something new when I pray. My prayers start the same way they have in the past; I think about the problem I am facing, then I ask for help. I usually have something in mind, a sort of instruction for God. The difference now is that I try to end with "or whatever you think would be better."

When I told my Mom that I was interested in reading the Bible again and asked her to bring one with her when she came to visit, she went out and bought a new one and sent it to me. It is The Message translation, which is good for me because I read the NIV so much when I was growing up that I have a hard time even seeing the words anymore. Seeing familiar verses stated differently helps me read with new eyes. One thing that has surprised me is how short all the stories are. They loomed so large in my childhood that I have a hard time believing they are only a few pages long. It is a much faster read now than it was in fourth grade!

The first biblical character I felt like I really connected with on this read was Moses. God knows that Moses is going to need something spectacular, so he sends an angel in the form of a burning bush. But even after God explicitly tells Moses what to do, Moses tries to talk God out of it. Moses points out all of the reasons he is a poor choice: he lacks confidence, he's not a good speaker, and no one is going to listen to him. Even after Moses eventually comes around, he is not exactly saint-like. He gets impatient and angry with the Israelites and repeatedly reminds God that he is not interested in leading them.

I have never encountered God in the form of a burning bush, but I have experienced unmistakable leadings. The most forceful is like a kick to the stomach. I can't breathe and I know I will not be able to breathe again until I do whatever it is that I am led to do. With this kind of leading, the leading usually happens first and I have to figure out why afterward. Sometimes a leading is more of a growing conviction. One thing leads to the next until I know exactly what I am supposed to do. Most often, leadings are more like a whisper, a quiet sense of what I should do and a strong feeling that I need to follow and trust.

Every once in a while, I get leadings for other people. Fortunately, this does not happen very often. Usually these are more of the kick to the stomach sort of leadingotherwise I would never have the guts to approach the person and say, "I feel led to tell you . . ." When this happens, I try to say that I could be wrong. I also try to remember that like any other leading, it may not turn out the way I want it to or think it will. But usually I get some reassurance that it was the right thing to do.

One of the hardest parts for me is to not let fear interfere with leadings. It is easy to convince myself that something is not a good idea, and leadings usually take me in directions that make my life more difficult. I am afraid of a lot of things that can keep me from following leadings, including public speaking, ridicule, not having the right words, and never being good enough. But I am more afraid of what I will miss or fail to do by not being faithful.

I know that trying to discern leadings is not something I can or should do alone, so I am constantly checking in with others about my leadings. I go to people I trust, usually friends and family. They probably don't know that this is what I am doing most of the time, they just know me well and know whether something is right for me. I also ask weightier Friends for more formal counsel. I am grateful that they have been elders to me in the best sense, providing nurturing support and guidance.

In the inside cover of the Bible she gave me, Mom included a reference to Jeremiah 29:11, which in this translation says, "I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned outplans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." It is scary to trust God and follow leadings without knowing where they are going. But God knows what he is doing and more importantly, he knows me. He made me, so he knows everything that I am capable of and the best ways to use my gifts. Even if I can't always see the pattern, I need to have faith that God's plans are better than my plans.

The verses that follow are a comforting reminder: "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." Amen.


  1. I was given a copy of the Massge too, and I found as you did that it is really thought-provoking to have familiar verses cast in a more everyday language. Sometimes it brings things out that I never saw before.

    Your growing trust in God's plans for you mirrors my own journey very closely. Sometimes I have got ao exasperated that I've said, 'Go on, then, I might as well do it your way because I know it's going to end up right - but I still think you're wrong.' And, of course, I do it God's way, and it turns out fine, and I hear him chuckling :)

  2. Ashley, I am reminded of a time in my life when I was trying to make some very difficult decisions, and every little decision was a monstrosity to me. I found myself driving in an unfamiliar place and talking with God about which way to go when I finally admitted I was lost. I was at a T intersection and I wanted to go left where I could see the road for a long way, but I heard God telling me to turn right where the road went along a cliff and into a wood. I sat there in my car having a snit with God, because I didn't want to go the way that I couldn't see. At some point in my rant I realized how stupid I was acting, and how mistrusting, so I ended up laughing through my tears, and turning right. The ordinary sometimes takes on mountainous meaning. Ha.

  3. I believe the Lord has many other nuances of His leading for you to discover... The ones you have been so far aware of are the most demonstrable so they have been able to grab your attention, but these will give way to other means that will bring you to a more steady and mature sense of your communion with the Light.


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