We were sat in the pub, enjoying each other, the five of us. Drinks in hand, packets of crisps opened up on the table for all to share, chatter and laughter spilling out of our mouths, friendship overflowing from our hearts. He started speaking quietly at first, just to the person next to him, but slowly we all leaned in to listen and louder he recounted the stories he had just heard and watched earlier that evening. He was excited by what he was telling and we were captured, some with loud exclamations of awe, and others silently staring, trying to process. He continued, story after story, before each one promising it was the last, but unable to help himself sharing another.
He had watched these stories, a DVD to come, online, it’s streaming for just three days he told us, tonight was the last opportunity to catch it. My housemate and I looked at each other, let’s go home and watch it tonight. She was excited by what he had recounted, I was intrigued. Another asked if he could join us, we welcomed him. We extended the invitation to the others, one had to return home, but the other, the story teller was eager to watch again.
So we gathered, in our living room, laptop hooked up to speakers and a monitor, drinks and food spread out. We sat curled up on comfy sofas, blankets ready for when the night air set in, anticipating what we were about to watch. There was an air of excitement from the others, but I was a little reserved. I expected one of two things, either to be bowled over by how amazing these stories were, or to be filled with total skepticism, and I knew I was heading toward skepticism. It’s not that I don’t believe these things can be true, it’s more that I wasn’t sure if I would agree with their method for sharing them, and I wasn’t sure how genuine the stories would really be. I was eager to watch all the same, and I was ready to be stunned and amazed.
I sat ready to be challenged, expecting to be challenged. Expecting to be encouraged that God is able, and God is willing, and God still moves in power today, and that there is purpose and power in loving. Expecting also to be challenged, challenged to be bolder, to be more courageous, challenged to be more expectant, to have more faith.
When the film came to an end, I was stunned, for I had been encouraged, and I had been challenged. But not at all in the ways that I had hoped or expected. God had spoken to my heart, and I felt convicted, and stirred. It had produced emotions in me that I didn’t expect. We expressed our enjoyment and amazement to each other and as they left our house and I settled down to sleep, my heart felt full, and my mind was spinning.
Again God had spoken unexpectedly, about unexpected things, in an unexpected way. I was reminded that He will speak what needs to be spoken, when He wills, and He will not be contained in our box, or within our predictions. Oh how often He takes me by surprise the things he whispers to me, conversations I’m not anticipating having.
Are you listening to that voice?
Two days earlier I had driven around the city trying to find the entrance to my hotel. I could see it, I just couldn’t get to it. I typed in street names, post codes, hotel names, all the information I could think of into my sat nav, and still it was directing me to the wrong place. Apparently “Jane” was as confused as I was.
Fast-forward two days. I spent 45 minutes on a McDonalds run which should have taken 10 at the most. Again I had told my plans to my sat nav, put my trust in it, and it had led me to the middle of nowhere. “You have reached your destination.” I hadn’t. I was in the middle of a busy street with no McDonalds in sight, no where to stop, and no way to turn around. I had trusted my sat nav, and now it had stranded me. Thankfully, with the help of a friendly postman, I finally found the McDonalds and got some dinner. During this long drive, I had seen a gas station and made a mental note of it knowing that I would need to get some petrol after the meeting that night before I set off on my long journey home.
Now here I was, at the gas station, having driven around for a good 25 minutes to get somewhere that was only 3 minutes away. I had once again fallen into the sat nav trap. I had turned it on, told it where I wanted to go, and lo and behold, it took me, yet again, to the middle of nowhere. No gas station in sight and the only instructions being “You have reached your destination” or “turn around when possible”. Eventually I gave up, and did what I should have done in the first place, trusted my own instincts and navigation skills, and got myself to where I wanted to be.
Finally at the gas station I stood with pump in hand filling my car with petrol, and I realized how much like life the situation was. Sometimes we know where we want to be, and we know how to get there, but instead of trusting what we know and our own instincts, we listen to all the voices around us, and ignore all we know to be right and true. We follow the people telling us to go this way or that way, to turn around, to stop, even though we know in our gut it’s the wrong way. And then they tell us to stop and look around, “You’re there!” they say, only it’s not at all where we thought we were headed. Suddenly those voices have no useful input, often the most useful thing they can say is, turn around. You’ve been on a wasted journey, and unnecessary detour, and it’s left you tired, frustrated, confused, and discouraged. Sometimes we need to switch those voices off. When they’re telling us to go one way, and we know it’s not where we should go, we need to trust what we know to be true, trust our guts, ignore them and do what we know is right.
After I was all filled up and on the road I got to a major intersection in the road, there was a billion lanes and different ways to go, and I realized I had no idea which lane I needed to be in, where I was headed, or which way to turn. Thankfully just at that moment there was a signpost, it was a little help, but not complete. I thought I knew which lane I needed to be in, and possibly which way to turn, but I really wasn’t all that sure, and I was feeling a little panicked. Just then my sat nav spoke up, it confirmed what I thought and guided me step by step through this strange and busy intersection. Now I had learnt my lesson not to listen to my sat nav on most occasions. But this time, I knew I was lost, my gut had no feeling, I needed a voice to guide me. I had also seen the road signs this time, and they had given me a clue as to what I should be doing, and then my sat nav confirmed it and filled in the details and gently guided me through the whole process.
Once I had made it through and was on the motorway my panicked mind calmed down and I realized life if like that too. Sometimes we need to listen to the voices. We need to recognize when we’re lost and have no idea where we’re headed and we need to reach out and find those voices. We need to read the unchanging signposts in our lives, and then we need to find voices that match up with those and listen to them. They’ve got the knowledge, they’ve been there before, and they can guide us through.
I hope I am humble enough to admit when I am lost and have no clue where I’m headed so that I can allow people to speak into my life. I also hope that I have the courage and conviction to block out the voices in my life that are leading my astray. I pray I have the wisdom to distinguish between the two. I pray that I open my eyes to read the signposts, clear my ears to hear the voices that match with them, and soften my heart to be corrected and guided by those people.
It’s interesting how in both cases the voice was my sat nav. The voice I needed to ignore, and the voice I needed to heed, came from the same place, yet in different circumstances it needed to be treated differently. I think that’s also true in life. Sometimes the same people can both speak things we need to ignore, and things we need to hold closely and allow to mold us.
What voices do you have speaking into your life today? Do you need to ignore some, or do you need to start listening and following what they are saying?
What sort of voice are you in others’ lives?
I watched a TV program once, or maybe it was part of a film. It was many years ago now… but it spoke a lesson to me, which has been rattling inside me since. And this week it really hit home once again.
In this program a young girl lost her voice, and she started out being very frustrated by it, but because she couldn’t talk, and therefore couldn’t go about her normal daily activities (she was a singer in the program I think), people would come and sit by her. At first they would just let out odd comments, but slowly they began to open up to her. After a day or two she began to give in to her circumstances, and she used her weakness to her advantage. She listened to people, people would come and tell her their thoughts and fears, they’d open up to her, tell her their excitements, share all their joys and their sorrows. All she could do was sit and listen, and occasionally she would nod, or give them a hug, or a smile. She learnt a lot during those few days, and it changed her character, but it also really blessed those around her. Having someone who was there, not to judge, not to try and fix things, but just to listen.
It made me think, how available am I to people? How willing am I to just listen? How well do I hold back on judgements? How many people around me are just in need of an ear? It’s shaped my life from that moment (yeah even as a teenage I read far too much into TV shows!) I try to be intentional about being available, about being flexible, about being quick to listen, free to love, and slow to speak. I more often than not miss the mark, and although this lesson has stuck with me and gone round and round my thoughts, it’s not always been acted on as intentionally as other times.
This week I was sick, stuck at home, stuck in bed. I missed my friends, my church, my family, the people I do life with. I wished I could go out, socialise, fellowship, “serve”, actively being. I remembered that lesson. I couldn’t do things, but I could be, and I could still be available. Throughout the week I had numerous phone calls, emails, texts, conversations with people. Just wanting an ear, needing to share. I listened (there wasn’t much else I could do!), and I prayed. I had visitors throughout the week, people who popped by and would end up telling me a tale, or a decision before them, or some other situation, and asking for prayer. I felt useless, not being able to do anything. But I was available, and my availability led to a big blessing. I sought God, I bought the pleas of others before him, I lent my ears to others, and in my sickness I was too lethargic to judge, or speak.
It was like that lessons from years ago hit me again. Be available. Stop doing, stop trying to fix it, stop trying to work it out, stop judging. Be available.