Heading Due North/South
This coming Wednesday through Saturday is the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers’ Conference…a gathering of Christian creatives from all over the country for a time not only of business connections and opportunities; but of Spiritual outpouring and refreshing. And another great benefit to going is that it’s a time to get reacquainted with old friends whom you’ve met in past years and a chance to make new ones. It’s a time of good food, learning, fellowship, laughter, and honing your craft,
….And I was not going to be able to be there!
For many months I’d thought about it; “How can I come up with the money to be able to attend again?” Last year, I’d attended on a full-tuition scholarship, generously provided by the well-known writer, Cecil Murphey; but this year, what was going to happen? I knew if God wanted me there, He would open a way for me to be able to go…So I waited…my hopes gradually fading as the registration deadline approached and no clear way presented itself.
Then, late last week, I began to get a series of personal emails from the director and organizer of the conference, urging me to attend. When I told her of my financial concerns, she offered me a generous partial scholarship. I added up the remaining cost. It was still daunting (to my budget at any rate). She emailed again…I could pay whenever I got the money she said. So I began to seriously consider whether her interest in my attending was really the voice of God letting me know that He had plans for me to be there as well.
But then concerns from the home front began to make themselves felt….My daughter is quite ill with an illness which can linger for some months and she would be all by herself for 12 hours a day while I am gone. (She’s 18, so don’t panic about this!). Still, I knew that she really needed me to be here for comfort as much as for anything else.
So this morning I sent an email to the director, one last time, telling her all of my reasons for hesitating to attend and that, ultimately, there were too many to overcome, and that I would have to remain home.
But still my heart did not rest. I was uneasy thinking things like, “Maybe God had some blessing waiting for me there that I will miss out on by not going?” “Maybe someone who’s there will miss out on some blessing that I might be to them?” “Maybe the elderly couple with whom I was going to ride and share the driving, will have difficulty or danger on the trip if I’m not there to drive?”
So, I went to Scripture and to prayer. The following is something I wrote in my journal after doing this:
‘I asked God for wisdom this morning and then read the first couple of chapters of James. Several things have haunted me since saying I couldn’t go to the conference; things that I noted, but which didn’t make sense till now:
1) When you ask God for wisdom, you must be seeking HIS answer alone (“let your faith be in God alone”)…not looking to your own rationale or to the circumstances of your life to arrive at the answer. You cannot let yourself be “divided” between God’s wisdom and the wisdom that the world offers…otherwise you will be unstable in your faith and will not receive the blessing God has waiting for you.
2) Faith requires action. It’s one thing to say: “I believe in God” and another, to put your feet where your mouth is and to actually GO and DO what He is telling you to do. These actions will be inherently hard, and may initiate some negative feedback from “the world”, --that’s why it’s called “faith” and not “common sense”!
'God’s voice and His message to us is difficult to hear among the tumult of the crowd…Jesus wrapped His messages in confusing or misleadingly simple stories which obfuscated the point He was making to the listeners who just “didn’t have ears to hear.” It is those who hear with the ears of faith, to whom His messages will make sense and strike home.
'All of this “makes sense” to me….but I am still faced with the fact that going on this trip will be HARD….It will challenge me at every level of comfort. It will require a long day today of work and preparation in order to be ready to go; it will probably invite the criticism of my husband and the sadness of my daughter….It will involve very literal pain and exhaustion….Am I really WILLING to do it? Am I GOING to do it? Am I sure enough of God’s call to take the necessary steps? (I sense some definite “wave-ering” here!)(see James 1: 6) Is it my concern for my family that is preventing me from going? Or is it my own discomfort?'
After writing that I spoke to a number of people…each of whom had strong opinions about whether or not I should attend…and each person’s opinion was the polar opposite of the one before them and the one following them!
At long last, I prayed. I went to God with my confusion. I said to Him, “WHAT are you trying to tell me? And WHY is every direction I get making me more confused?”
He answered in His inimitable, unmistakable way, “What do YOU want to do?” I thought and then had to answer honestly, “I don’t know. Even my own feelings are mixed. I would enjoy going in some ways, but in others it would be really hard on me physically and mentally…and there’s the difficulty it would cause my family; I can’t harden myself to that.”
He asked next, patiently and quietly. “If you knew for sure that I wanted you to go, would you go?” I answered, very honestly, “You KNOW I would, Lord, I would go in a second!” He then asked, still softly, “And if I told you to stay, would you do that?” I answered with the same affirmative.
He wrapped up His response in a manner that suffused my being with peace, so I knew the matter was settled. “THAT is all I’m looking for. I’m able to abundantly bless you whether you go or whether you stay home. I’m able to protect those you love, whether you go or whether you stay home. What I wanted out of this was your willingness to obey and trust me, in any direction that I might steer you, and you have given Me that. So now, make your decision. And either way you decide, it will be well and I will be pleased.”
So I decided then not to go.
Yes, I will miss seeing my friends. But I can stay home knowing that I’m not missing out on some great blessing; I’m not causing anyone to die in a car accident; I’m not causing my daughter to suffer; I’m not adding more debt to my already strained finances; I’m not having to face the inevitable pain that such a trip would bring on me physically and the fact that I’m disappointing a few people, is really OKAY. Because God is pleased with me; and that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?