I’m running toward goals, panting as the marathon takes on new twists and turns. I thought it would be a straight run, one goal in sight, but now it seems I need to run four roads at once, keeping close track of miles run, things done. I’m not sitting back! I’m moving ahead with purpose, doing what you set before me. But forgetting to listen.
Without your guidance I’ll lose my way, get tangled up in circular paths leading nowhere. So now I stop, breathe in, breathe out. Listen. The Word planted in me puts out new leaves, fresh buds. I hear you reminding me that your timing is always best! You hold my hand and will lead me forward. I can walk ahead, assured. Running is not always a “must.”
This has been a year of waiting, right? We wait for pandemic restrictions to be lifted, for second vaccinations, for open borders, for news that the rate of infections and deaths has truly fallen. We wait to see loved ones who are not even that far away. And we wait to see how the next phase will turn out. What will be the changes in our jobs or personal goals? What should we do first, second, third?
I’m sure you, like me, can think of other times in your life when you somehow kept busy but were not sure you were doing the most important things. For me, the pandemic shut-down started out like that. At first I just tried this and that, read some books, wondered how to use my time. My mother-in-law requested a book of my poems. I gave her a personal collection for her birthday, then Christmas. Sorting the hundreds into themes took some time, but it felt productive.
Then I broke my ankle and for three months I was mostly chained to a chair. That was when a firm “prompt” came, to put together poems that talked about how I had learned to spend more time listening to my Lord. Selecting them, choosing images to underline some themes, and doing all the editing made my ankle-recovery time productive.
We were also dealing with a variety of other concerns that required much prayer and correspondence. And our ancient house (100 years old) needed renovations. Plus our second year of retirement was nearly over – which of the ministry opportunities we had had in mind were the ones we should or could pursue? It was very much like when you are on a journey and the first flight on your itinerary encounters problems and delays; it finally lands safely but you have missed the connecting flight. There you are, stranded, waiting for a different flight that may have room for you ten hours later. You pace the shop-lined halls, grab coffee, wait for news about where you need to go to catch that flight, but it’s hard to understand the foreign accent making announcements. You wait.
This spring when I wrote the poem above, I was realizing that although I was sharing in my book what the practice of listening had meant to me during my years on mission abroad, I was not putting it into practice currently.
As I began actually listening with intention, priorities became clearer. Certain proposed ministries were now closed doors since those possibilities were shutting down (church plants in the city that unexpectedly dissolved). But others began opening up! For instance, lately we’ve been amazed at the new connections the Lord is putting in place with African immigrants. Three young people in this category, all from Côte d’Ivoire, have already been a key part of our lives as we’ve shared our home, our love and some English language coaching. Now some friends have brought us into contact with an immigrant from Congo. While getting to know him we discovered that there is a church in the suburbs made up of French-speaking African immigrants! It looks like a new door is opening!
Day by day, we pray and ask the Lord to show us the way forward, to guide our words and actions for his purposes. And he does! I hope you are encouraged in your walk too, motivated to listen more intently as you navigate the tricky paths and daily choices.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Prov. 3:5 NLT)