The subject line of the email from a particular training institute made me smile this morning: “Certificate in Spiritual Direction.” Like the contents of the fortune cookie Gary handed across the table the night before last, these were signs “following.” What happened between these two events was yesterday.
With the exception of the driving and shopping experiences, I’m not led by signs. But when they follow after a decision or choice has been made and acted upon, I become very alert. Some would call it “confirmation.” When we effectively pray and believe that God will answer, then proceed to act upon what He reveals to us, this obedient faith brings many rewards. Among these is the continued assurance that everything around us is congruously aligned, because we are in the right place at the right time and we’re hearing, seeing and doing what is right —right down to fortune cookies and emails. It’s called “peace.” This peace I’m referring to is the peace whose root is in the Hebrew word “Shalom,” and a simplified paraphrase of that multifaceted word is: “nothing missing, nothing broken.”
Getting back to yesterday’s decision making. The need arose the day before when things that had been painstakingly aligned began to fall apart. Imagine if you will, trying to hold a house of cards together in a wind storm. Instead of trying to hold it together, sometimes you have to let it fall apart, look at what’s left and figure out what God wants you to do with it.
In this case, it was transportation plans for a conference in Virginia Beach that fell through, leaving me wondering what to do. After receiving the news, that the family I was supposed to ride with had a very sick child and wasn’t going to go, I began praying and reviewing options. None of them seemed to produce the efficient and smooth results of which I have grown fond. By dinner time, I had decided to leave it alone and let God show me, knowing the answer would probably come in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
Taking the first fortune cookie after our meal at the Chinese buffet, Gary admitted his fault and handed me the paper with a smile, “This is for you.” I realize now that they could well have just been a poor translation into English, but at that time they seemed quite clear. “Good decisions will only be made tomorrow.” Exactly as I had already determined, I repeated aloud. “Yep, the only good decision I will make about this is going to come tomorrow,” and smiled back.
When tomorrow arrived (yesterday), I began looking for the answers in every leading, whether it resembled inspiration or not. But, after researching every possible mode of transportation and weighing all the aspects of driving myself, only one fact was clear. Anyway I looked at it I was going to lose something financially. More important was the loss of the peace I have come to greatly value. It was time for a heart-to-heart talk.
“What’s wrong here, Lord? What am I missing? Where is the connection broken? If I’m not supposed to go, I won’t go. But if I’m supposed to go and this is just enemy opposition, I need to know what I’m dealing with. I’ll believe you to restore the money that’s been spent, like I believe You’ll restore other things that were stolen or destroyed. But I thought You wanted me to go. I would rather repent now than to go where You aren’t leading me.”
One thing was immediately clear. I wasn’t going anywhere in my nightgown. So, I began to dress and do the chores, and things began to get clearer. I began to follow each little piece of the tangled strands to see how it was connected and where it led. When I pulled out the one that led to not going to the conference I found my peace.
I counted the cost. The hotel alone was $200. The conference was only $69. But the peace was (you guessed it) priceless. The burden began to instantly lift. I didn’t know just why I wasn’t supposed to go. I just knew I wasn’t supposed to go. A couple of hours of peace passed before the thought occurred to me to call the hotel to cancel. When I did, I simply explained that the family I was coming with had a very sick child and I wasn’t going to be able to come. What would I owe them? “Under the circumstances,” the clerk replied, “Nothing.” Add to the peace, joy!
As the day went on the peace lasted and I really didn’t feel like I was missing anything. There was certainly plenty to do and now I could focus on those things. It was that simple. The subject line in the inbox today was exactly what it stated, my Certificate of Spiritual Direction, God’s loving way of saying, “well done!” It makes me wonder why anyone would want to live any other way.