(Listen to the audio version of this article here.)
It’s true what they say: God knows how to call his children back to him. He’s the one who created us, after all.
With a week off of school for spring break (and no research papers, video projects or other tedious graduate work due), I finally had a chance to decompress.
The previous six months had delivered an unending supply of due dates, elaborate holiday planning and writing opportunities that were too good to pass up. So, to make time for it all, I cut out anything and everything that I felt got in the way of me getting ahead. One of those was my morning Bible study.
Fast forward again to spring break. If you counted the weekends that bookended the glorious week of spring break, it tallied up to nine days of a mostly clear schedule and, more importantly, the opportunity to reevaluate my life.
For me, this process is a bit like establishing a New Year’s resolution. A handful of times a year, I’ll decide to step back and take inventory of The Life of Tess, and see what habits I need to kick—or, which ones to start. I’ll assess with internal questions like, How’s my marriage? Do we need to spend some more time together, without the distraction of the TV? Is my house clean? (The answer is usually no.) What books have I been dying to read but just haven’t had the time to sit down with?
As a matter of fact, Annie F. Downs’ Speak Love had been eyeballing me for weeks from my coffee table, spine still stiff and teasing me with its pretty pink floral cover. And so, I sat down to read, consuming words for the sole purpose of enjoyment—a first in a very long time.
Missing God’s Voice
I admittedly felt a bit disconnected. Not with the subject, which was about how our words impact ourselves and those around us, and, more importantly, how the words that God speaks are bursting with love and the lifeblood we need to survive this world.
I felt disconnected because it had been so long since I sat down with not just any book, but a Bible. Ages since I met with God and talked to him and revelled in his majesty. I hadn’t placed a priority on our relationship, and it wasn’t the first time I realized it.
In the weeks around spring break, I kept getting that voice in my head, almost like something that keeps bristling on your skin but it’s not quite brash enough for you to address it immediately. But that voice kept reminding me that my morning dates with God were overdue. And maybe it was time to ease back into it.
I love God and I treasure my faith, but I’m ashamed to admit that during those weeks, the spirit inside me was drowned out by my run-of-the-mill human desires. Namely, shopping and binging on shows.
Then Loneliness Set In
Then, things came to a very sudden halt. My husband, who’s in the Navy, was scheduled to head out for a two-week training at sea, leaving me alone at home and with no way to communicate with him.
It was already dark by the time I dropped him off for that short expedition, and my drive home was just as somber as the mood outside the car windows. We’d been apart before but this was different. For the first time, I felt truly alone.
The next day was the same. On the third day, someone else I loved left. I received a call that morning as I was about to walk out the door that my grandpa had passed away.
As loved ones grow older, there’s always a part of your brain that knows one day they’ll no longer be around. But when that day arrives, it just doesn’t feel real.
Needless to say, the storm brewing inside me didn’t cease. It now felt like someone had scrambled my insides.
Asking God to Speak to Me
The night of my grandpa’s passing, I opened up Speak Love again. I needed some semblance of peace and contentment to calm my shattered heart. Annie had recapped a section on hearing God’s voice. She noted that he speaks differently to each person, and sometimes the best way to hear is by offering up a simple prayer that goes like this:
“God, I want to hear from you. Speak to me. Teach me how to hear you in my heart and in what others say to me.”
I paused here. Was there something God has been wanting to say to me? Has it been too noisy with my own pursuits that I couldn’t hear him? Or were those gentle reminders to resume my morning Bible study just God nudging me all along?
So I mumbled that little prayer, albeit earnestly. If he wanted to share something with me, I was ready to listen.
The next day, as I milled about the apartment trying to stay busy under the giant metaphorical cloud I could feel looming over me, I couldn’t stop thinking about my stagnant relationship with God and the twinge of guilt I felt about it.
For some reason, the image of Joyce Meyer’s book, Battlefield of the Mind (a book my mom had while I was growing up) appeared in my mind, and led me to think about another book Joyce had written on prayer. “Maybe I need to get that prayer book…” I mused to myself as I continued my pitiful stroll down the hallway.
Eventually, I got tired of looking at the same walls and feeling stifled, so I grabbed my purse and drove to our local bookstore.
Calling Me Home
As I headed down the center aisle to search for another book that my dear friend recommended, a blast of navy blue caught my eye and there it was: Battlefield of the Mind, brought to the front of the shelf, cover out at eye level. The other books near it were still snugly stocked, spines lined up in a neat row. I don’t know what prompts bookstores to pull some books out and not others, and even though I’d seen the book a million times growing up, I still wanted to hold it.
I detoured to the aisle, picked up the first copy and the pages fell open as instantaneously as a light switch being turned on. Tucked into the crevice of that page was a small business card, except it wasn’t for a business—it was for a nearby church. And I just knew.
Listen When You Feel Lost
Yes, he does work in mysterious ways, but sometimes he works in practical ways too. If we’re too bombarded by the sights and sounds and promises of this world, we’re going to have a hard time deciphering his voice. So, his spirit within us drops hints. Small voices in your head and soft flutters in your heart aren’t to be ignored. More likely than not, God’s trying to call you back to him. He will search for his lost sheep until he finds it, and when he does, we’ll rejoice.
If you’re dealing with grief or know someone who is, take this message to heart: