I had a very interesting experience the other morning. After spending several days trying to figure out which path to take, I thought I might try asking God for some direction. I know it sounds like asking God for direction was an afterthought, but that’s not really the right way to look at it. I ask God for direction every day and often many times in a day. On some days I pay more attention to Him than on others. He’s always paying attention to me; sometimes so much I can hardly stand it and turn away, dulling my awareness by indulging in one of my many addictions.
But the other day I stuck my neck out and asked God specifically and repeatedly to tell me what I should do. It’s the start of a new year, which means closing the books on the previous year, doing taxes, and paying all the fees that businesses must pay to be recognized as a legitimate entity. I have two businesses. One is a consulting business. The other is a writing business.
I haven’t delivered any consulting services since December 17th of 2015, the day I walked out of my client’s building with a box of pictures once displayed on the upper shelf above my monitor inside my tiny cubicle. I’d been serving that client for the past seven years, starting with a palatial supervisors cubicle offering 120 square feet of space to accommodate my analytical sprawl down to 18 square feet of space containing a shallow depth table top and a rickety chair. The progression from the larger to the smaller space mirrors my progression from a role of larger influence and a broad circle of colleagues down to the smaller voice of influence and a ghost town once filled with a spirit of collegiality. About five years into my stay, most of my friends and colleagues had moved on either through retirement or transfers to other jobs, leaving me feeling anonymous and surrounded by strangers.
I know it sounds a little dramatic, but that’s how it felt. Coincidentally, it was also about five years into it when I began having trouble getting around and garnering the energy to do my job.
Obviously, my professional life as I had known it was winding down. It took a long time. But then again, it was exactly right. In God’s economy, all things work together for good, including His schedule for the slow deterioration of a woman’s former identity.
Did I mention that prior to the seven years of service at that particular client, I had been a consultant for 21 years? That makes for a total of 28 years. That’s a long time. You don’t just set aside 28 years of your life as something that didn’t matter.
So on Thursday morning of this past week, I sat down on my remnant of former wealth Restoration Hardware couch in the bonus room and said this: “God, dear Jesus, Holy Spirit. I need You to tell me what to do. I need you to make it clear without ambiguity, muddiness, or room for interpretation. I need to know if I should close the consulting business once and for all. Because, You know, it feels like I’m throwing myself away. But I want to do Your will. So, I’m asking You…please tell me what to do.”
After meeting with my former trainer Reid to discuss how I might get back in shape, I drove up the hill to the county tax collector’s office to take care of some business. What a busy place it was. The skies had opened up with a major downpour, so I wasn’t too interested in walking 200 yards from the parking lot to the entry door of the building, so I used my handicap placard to snag a space up close to the building’s front door. It’s the second time I’ve ever broken the placard usage law, which isn’t bad given I’ve had it in my car for the past four years. As soon as I got out of the car I began praying for mercy on my wretched soul.
There was only one customer ahead of me when I walked into the Tax Collector’s office. The wait was short. The woman behind the counter had long silver hair with a nice smile, and was wearing a purple vest over a turtleneck sweater. She seemed like someone who would live up the hill: casual and relaxed. The other customer finished his business and left. The silver-haired lady called me up to the counter.
Okay, so I’m going to tell you what happened and I may botch it up, but here’s how it went down. After explaining to her that I need to renew the business license for my consulting company, the company I want to close because I don’t want to do that work anymore but I’m confused and don’t know if I should or not because I want to be a writer, she asked, “What do you write?”
“I write Christian devotional literature,” I said as she stood there politely listening. “…and I’m also writing a book about my daughter…”
Her face suddenly changed as if she’d been shocked by brushing against some cheap nylon carpet.
“Oh my gosh, I just got chills…all over my body. I mean really, look at this, the hairs on my arms are standing up!” Her eyes were big but she wasn’t afraid.
“That’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”
It wasn’t just a comment. She’d made a proclamation.
Her response was so fast; I hadn’t even told her what the story was about. It took me a few seconds to understand what was happening. But then I felt it, the firm but comforting pressure of His hand upon my soul, reminding me of what I had asked of Him only a few hours before.
“Oh my gosh. I prayed this morning that God would tell me exactly what to do.” The silver-haired lady nodded, smiling. She was as excited as I was. I started to tell her a little more about Christina’s story and as I did, she experienced a second wave of the Spirit’s chill-inducing presence. And so did I.
And then she said this: “Well, I always ask God to make me a vessel to do His will.”
I don’t know why it took me so long to recognize her. I told her I must send her the book when it’s published. She gave me her home phone number. I mean, who does that?
As I left she said, “God bless you”, pointing to a little sign with the same words peeking out from behind the counter window frame. It had completely escaped my notice.
As I walked out to my illegally parked car, I thanked God for answering my prayers: both that morning’s prayer for clear direction and the parking lot prayer for mercy on my wretched soul.
I often feel swept up by the chaos of life, what’s happening in the world today, and the sense of helplessness that comes when you believe you can’t do anything to bring world peace. But then something like this happens and I realize that God can show up and make things clear anytime He wants. And sometimes it’s because we ask.
I’ll be doing a lot more asking from now on.