You'll never guess where it happened.
My Sunday School class is more like a book discussion group. We read a book together and discuss one chapter each Sunday. It's led by our pastor and his wife, and they choose books that really push my thinking about God and what He does and does not do.
Three weeks ago, we read a chapter on prayer. The main point of the chapter was that when we pray, we should be listening instead of talking. The author explained that God already knows what's on our hearts, so our telling Him is more for us than for Him.
Makes some sense, right?
So we're supposed to listen.
Have you ever tried to listen instead of talking during your prayer time?
It's not easy.
For the last three weeks, I've prayed more or less the same thing.
Dear Heavenly Father,
You already know what's on my heart. I am so blessed, and I thank you for my beautiful daughters and my handsome husband, and my mom and dad and sisters and Devin and Old Grandma and Nana and PopPop. Please forgive my sins (if I can think of any, I confess them, but I always say that just in case. You can't be too careful with these things).
And now, Lord, I want to come into Your presence and hear whatever it is You want me to know.
Change me, Lord. I'm ready to do whatever it is that You want me to do.
And then my mind starts to wander, to a snoring child or a purring cat or nagging memory or a blog post needing to escape my brain. It wanders awhile, and I remember my mission.
Sorry about that, Lord. I'm back in Your presence now, and I'm listening.
Inevitably, my mind wanders off again. No matter how hard I try, I just can't stay focused on listening for the Lord's voice. Usually, I end up falling asleep.
For three weeks, I've attempted this listening as prayer thing diligently. I've not heard a single word.
I began to think there was something wrong with me. I went back to my Sunday School book. In it, the author said sometimes God doesn't answer you because there's sin between you and God. He listed a couple of other reasons, and I thought, "That's it! He's not answering me on purpose!"
Then I got really frustrated. I think God points out our sins to us so that we can confess them, and nothing was really popping up. I mean, there was a snarky thought here and a cross word there and a binge eating session, but I confessed those, repented, and promised to try harder.
What could possibly be standing in the way of my hearing from the Lord?
I kept at it. I prayed my nightly prayer, and then I waited. And my mind wandered.
And then, in the middle of the evening, when I wasn't praying, He answered.
And you know where He got my attention?
It wasn't in my nightly quiet, mind-wandering prayer time.
It happened on FACEBOOK.
I'm not even kidding you.
I opened my Facebook to write a quip about how I was surprised when I found myself wearing a necklace made of pop beads, and it turned into much more.
In the previous 24 hours, there had been discussions and disagreements and plain old drama (that I may have partly caused by venting, I'm not sure) among my blogging peers. Ã‚ The specifics are unimportant, but a series of events led me to feel belittled and excluded. I was going to miss out on something fun, and I was disappointed.
All day, the disappointment and feelings stewed. I said to myself (many times), "I need to just get over this." But being the imperfect person I am, I couldn't get over it.
As I began to type a status update about the necklace I'd forgotten I was wearing, the necklace that Gracie had fashioned around my neck at dinner, the hurt poured out. I'd had a fine day with the girls, cleaning up and playing, but I couldn't shake the dark cloud hanging over me.
As I typed the last three sentences, "This tumult doesn't belong in my heart. My family and Jesus belong there. I'm done with the rest of the nonsense," I had an epiphany.
People drama, blogger drama, homeschooler drama, political drama, Girl Scout drama - none of this stuff belongs in my heart.
Jesus belongs in my heart. My kids and my husband. My mother and father and Old Grandma and the rest of our family. My mother-in-law and father-in-law and the rest of their family.
These are the things of my heart.
After I hit post, I was struck by another epiphany.
I have been praying for three weeks to hear God, to be changed by Him.
He came at just the right moment, the moment when I was broken and needing help.
He changed me, not in the way I'd imagined (um, rich! magnanimous! absent of sarcasm!), but in the way that serves His plan.
He pushed out of my heart the trivial things that have taken up too much space. He pushed out the extraneous people crowding my temple. (That's from Luke 19:44-48 if you're wondering.)
He made room enough for Jesus and a few people and a project.
He met me where I live, not where I went to find Him.
I guess to say that God spoke to me is misleading. I didn't hear a voice in the room. There was no thunder, no miracle, not even a whisper murmured.
No words were spoken, but I understood the message loud and clear.