God has His hands on us, even when we don’t feel it. As I sit here typing in my bed, I have an incredibly swollen back, and I should be on a shuttle to the airport en route to Colombia. The past 48 hours have been incredibly bizarre and humbling. Let me tell you a story. I left in May for a two-month backpacking trip to Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. About two weeks in, some things happened on the trip while some unrelated things were happening back home, and I felt God telling me to go home. I didn’t really know why, and I didn’t want to. I talked to some new friends I had met at the hostel about my feeling to go home, and they all encouraged me, “Just go, you can always come back.” I have to preface this with the fact that I’ve been to 40 countries and I’ve never missed a flight. I’ve never canceled a trip or wanted to go home. The only trip I’ve ever ended early was one where I got dengue fever and almost lost my life. So, this feeling for me was very strange, and I was sad to forfeit my next two flights and countries. But I agreed with them; I should go with my gut. So, I booked a flight from Costa Rica back to Miami, and, because I’m a spontaneous travel addict, I also booked a round-trip ticket from Miami to Colombia for the next month.
I spent the next month at home back in my routine of working and going to the gym, but really just waiting for my chance to return to South America. Honestly, I was so excited, but something in my gut felt off about this next trip. I couldn’t explain it. It was my dream to go to Colombia, so I tried to bury the strange feeling. Not enough to make it go away completely; just enough to remind me to watch for other “signs” that I shouldn’t go. Fast forward to 48 hours before my trip: I pulled a muscle in my back at the gym—right up near my neck, where my 45lb backpack sits. It hurt, but I could tough it out. The next morning it hurt even worse, and I went to the doctor. I screamed as he touched my skin. The muscle was spasming. He told me there was no way I should wear a 45lb backpack and probably shouldn’t travel at all. At minimum, I would have to switch to a suitcase. “Interesting,” I thought as I cried my way to a World Cup party in downtown Miami. Was this my sign? I mean, traveling was doable. I’d switch to a suitcase, cut out some of my big hikes…too much to think about for a World Cup party. I’ll deal with this when I get home.
I was tormented on my hour-drive home with thoughts swirling in my head, and it was only 24 hours until my flight. Was this my second sign? Was God trying to tell me something? I called my mom. She said, “You got a back injury the day before a backpacking trip. What more of a sign do you want?” I wasn’t convinced. We prayed together that if this was, in fact, the sign that God would make it so that I would know 110% that He didn’t want me to go. My mom recommended I read my Bible when I got home since that’s how God speaks to us.
The doctor recommended I take a lot of hot showers to loosen and warm the spasming muscles. So, when I got home, I took a hot a shower and read my Bible. Still nothing. And now my back felt better. It must be OK, I thought. God hasn’t told me anything. Just then, I got a text from my best friend. “Do you think this is God protecting you from something? That you should not go to Colombia? When has one of your trips ever been interrupted like this before? Not once but twice.” I immediately knew it was God. The two people whose opinions I hold most high had both said the same thing, separately. Devastated, I did what any millennial would do. I got on Instagram and told my devoted followers that I would not be going to Colombia tomorrow due to a back injury and my thoughts that God was saying it wasn’t the right time.
I woke up the next morning with not one, but three messages from friends telling me they thought the universe was saying this isn’t the right time and that I shouldn’t go. An hour later, I got a message from a woman I knew as a child, whom I hadn’t spoken to in years. She wrote, “Hi honey. I am so sorry about your back injury. While I know this sounds bizarre, I felt a great need to pray for you and your trip to Colombia. I only tell you this because God’s hand is evident in keeping you right where you are. Love to you, you are a blessing!” Wow, does God hear our prayers!
So, what did I learn from this that I can share with you?
First, how deeply loved we are. I cry when I think about how much God cares for us. He’s not going to let us fall when we choose to trust Him. He knows what’s in our best interest and will protect us from harm. His faithfulness surpasses all understanding.
Second, He listens. I asked Him for clarity. I asked Him to make it so obvious that I couldn’t ignore it. Could He have made it more clear? He sent six—six—people who don’t talk to each other to message me separately with warnings. In thinking about my decision, I thought about Jonah, and his choice to run from what God clearly told him. And then he got eaten by a whale. I’ll let your thoughts wander on the things that could happen in Colombia…
Third, the people you surround yourself with matter. The two most important people in my life are some of the strongest Christians I know. Why is that relevant? Because when they bring something to my attention that they think came from God, I know that’s where it came from. The other women who reached out to me about what God had put on their hearts for me blew my mind. I hadn’t talked to some of these people in years. But God uses the Christians in our lives to encourage us and sometimes even send us messages. Strong, godly friendships are some of our greatest blessings.
I’m deeply saddened about not going to Colombia. My mom describes it as the death of a dream when we have to mourn giving up something we really wanted because God said, “Not today.” Maybe for you, it’s not a trip, but a move or a job or a relationship. But here’s the part we have to remember: He may not have said, “Never.” And He doesn’t say no simply because He wants us to be unhappy. Often it’s because He has something better for us, wants to protect us, and He wants us to trust Him. So that’s where I am today. Trusting that there’s a reason for this season and that He has a good plan for me.
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