Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuned In

Two weeks ago today, I was having an overly emotional day and I didn't feel like being around anyone, not even my own family.  I didn't want to talk on the phone, didn't want to have interaction with others, and surprisingly didn't want to go to my women's Bible Study.  Ordinarily, this event is one of the highlights of my week, the mid-week spiritual boost that I eagerly anticipate every Wednesday morning.  However, two Wednesday's ago, because of my fragile emotional state, I was leaning towards staying home.  My son, on the other hand, wanted to go and wouldn't take no for an answer.  "Please, mommy, can we go?" he asked with the most adorable brown eyes and pouty, lip-protruding frown. "Okay, we'll go" I reluctantly gave in.  Well, I usually drive the exact same way to our church, but earlier in the day before I contemplated not going, I had decided that if I went I would take a new route after stopping at the grocery store for snacks.  It would be quicker, so when Ashton convinced me to go, I opted for sticking to that plan and we headed out.  At Albertsons we got the snacks we needed and were headed to the check out when I remembered that I was almost out of cat litter.  As much as I didn't really need it yet, I opted to grab it while I was already there.  "Let's hurry, Ashton, so we're not late," I rushed.  We were on the opposite end of the store, so it would add just a few more minutes onto our already pressed drive time to church.  "I just need to get the cat litter" I reasoned, though at the time I wasn't sure why I didn't just get it later. When I'm running late, it's very uncharacteristic of me to take time for something that isn't absolutely necessary at the time, but that night I did.  So I walked to get it, and in the mere two minutes it took me to walk across the store and grab it, I was spared what looked to be a fatal wreck that occurred on the new church route I was about to take.

 I can think of four car accidents that I've been in throughout my lifetime, only two of which were serious.  In one I was the seat belt free passenger of a compact car that flipped and landed the opposite direction of its initial destination. To this day I believe an angel held me in the car because I remember actually being upside down as the car flipped and I braced my hands on the car roof beneath me. I may have even prayed, though of that I'm not sure. All I know is that it's an absolute miracle that I wasn't thrown from the car. The second serious wreck I was in pins me as a drunken driver in my early twenties, also without seat belt. Though my car remained roof side up, the impact was severe enough that I should have been crushed or thrown.  I was bloody, bruised, and badly injured, but I was neither crushed nor thrown.  Again, I believe the very hand of God reached down and held me in place, though not for a second did I deserve to be spared.  I can also think of many more accidents that I've passed on the freeway, but of them all, both the ones I've been in and the ones I've witnessed, none have impacted me in quite the same way as the one from two weeks ago.  As Ashton and I got into the car and headed towards the church, I looked at the clock and realized that those couple of minutes it took me to grab the cat litter may cost me my on-time arrival. Tempted to stress out in a uniquely "Heather" way, I took a deep breath and said the following words to God: "Well, God, You know what time I need to be there, so I'm just going to forget about worrying and trust in You to get me there."  And get me there He did.

As I continued driving, I took note of the homes and park surrounding me.  "What a cute little neighborhood," I thought to myself as I approached a line of slowing cars. "God, you must have wanted to bless me with the beautiful scenery," I told Him with a smile, but up ahead I saw the accident that had just happened.  As drivers quickly stopped their cars to stare, I took in the scene.  To my left was a badly smashed car, but it was sitting upright and I assumed the people standing nearby were the survivors. Yet as I inched forward I heard someone yell "Check the car for survivors," and then I saw it.  The other vehicle involved in the crash lay smashed, roof side down against the concrete with an outpouring of smoke.  Between the car's roof and the concrete could only have been about three inches.  Tears sprang to my eyes as I tried to see in the small crack that appeared to leave no room for survivors. I began to pray.

Overwhelmed with grief for the people involved, I began to imagine what the family was going to feel when they received notification of the accident. It just didn't look possible for the overturned car to be carrying survivors, but then I remembered how my own wrecks didn't turn out how they looked.  I was alive today because it was never God's plan for me to die in those accidents.  I began feeling hopeful for whomever lay trapped in the severely crushed car I saw, when it hit me.  That wreck had just happened a matter of minutes before I drove upon it.  I remembered the detail and out of character thought processes that went into my decision to walk across the store for cat litter even though I didn't absolutely need it right then.  What if I hadn't gotten the cat litter that evening?  The timing would have been perfect for me to have been in the wreck's location. My tears began to fall faster as I realized that God had quite possibly just spared both my life and that of my son's.  I felt almost numb.

In that moment of realization, my arrival to church didn't seem to matter.  As I prayed for the lives of those involved in the crash, I just continued thinking about the events and thoughts that led up to that moment.  For instance, for hours leading up to the minute I reached the accident I was contemplating staying home. "Was my influx of heightened emotions sent from God to keep me away from a wreck that might try to claim my or my son's life?" I wondered as I recalled my emotionally flooded mind from the day.  He may very well have been using those circumstances to keep me in place, but because He will never take from us the free will that He graciously gave us, He had to find a new way of keeping us safe after I decided to go.  The three minute detour for cat litter? "Was that you also?" I asked God while tears still filled my eyes.  With all my heart, I believe it was, and isn't it interesting that before I ever saw the wreck, my prayer to God was simply "I trust You to get me there."

How often do you pray to God?  Do you pray regularly or only in times of crisis?  Do you talk to Him all the time or just when you need help?   Do you trust Him to lead you to where you need to go or do you wonder whether or not He's interested in what you have going on? Do you include Him in your daily plans or forget He's there unless your plans go wrong, at which point you yell at Him for not being there? Do you talk with Him about the little details of your life or only the big ones? What about in the mornings?  Do you tell Him good morning?  Who/What is God to you? A constant companion or an unreachable, unfathomable concept?  If you're looking for Him but feel He can't be found, look smaller and look again. He promises to be found by you when you look with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:13-14).  Look at the small details of your life, not just the big ones like a baby's birth or a miraculous and unexplainable recovery from illness. God is constantly working on your behalf, but when He does it's often in the small, less detectable ways.  Our God is an amazing God, capable of all things, but when leading us He often does it through a gentle whisper rather than a loud yell from Heaven.  Though we fantasize about hearing from Him in such a direct way, if He actually yelled to us from Heaven, we would be too terrified to answer!  Let's appreciate His soft approach and seek Him there.  When He appeared to Elijah, He wasn't in the wind that tore the mountains or the earthquake or fire that followed.  He came to Elijah in a "gentle whisper." (1 Kings 19:11-13) and that's how He comes to us as well. How tuned in we are isn't up to Him; He leaves that for us to decide.  How small that voice was that told me to go get cat litter, but how mighty the results!

Tuning in to God isn't just about reading your Bible or attending church, though those are both excellent ways to draw closer.  Equally important is just talking to Him and including Him in your daily routine.  The more you include Him, the more tuned in you'll become.  When you're getting dressed in the mornings, ask Him what He wants you to wear.  Sound silly?  Maybe, but I've never known a better fashion coordinator.  How close you are to God is entirely up to you.  Don't just want His involvement when you're hoping for a loved one's healing from cancer; want Him with you when you're getting dressed each morning, when you're styling your hair, when you're preparing your food, when you're going for a walk, and when you're cleaning your house. Want Him with you everywhere and at all times, both good and bad, and you'll start to see confusion give way to discernment, frustration to peace, and loneliness to companionship.  The more you include Him in the small details of your daily life, the more tuned in you'll be to His voice when He whispers your name.  You can know God on a personal and intimate level - you just have to want to. 

Tune into the Lord by asking Him to reveal Himself to you today.  He has been waiting for the invitation!

"Call to me and I will answer you..." --Jeremiah 33:3

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord..." --Jeremiah 29:13-14

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