I recently subscribed to an interesting devotional plan on the YouVersion Bible App on my phone–it’s twenty-five days of delving into the lyrics of different Christmas Carols and discovering their biblical meanings and the implications they have on our lives. Today’s message came from a carol that I haven’t sung since I was a little kid in a Christmas choir (“Ding Dong Merrily on High”), and it’s definitely NOT one of my favorite songs, but the message of the devotional portion really gripped me. It talked about how there are all kinds of bells and alarms in our everyday lives (the most frequent bell I hear during this time of year are the Salvation Army bells outside every storefront), and the author compared those different bells to the different ways that God speaks to us.
Sometimes God kind of grips us by the shoulders and shakes us awake–which is usually a little bit unpleasant, but always worth the experience when a positive change results.
Sometimes God is a still small voice that we have to strain to hear–almost a whisper.
This devotional forced me to remember a time a couple of years ago, when I was in the midst of teaching a very “difficult” (using the most polite term) group of high school kids. I felt emotionally drained, like a soldier returning from battle at the end of every work day. And the following morning when it was time to return to work, I dreaded having to encounter these kids again. I would find myself praying in the car on the way to work for God to miraculously give me a “good day” with the kids–to supernaturally fix their behavioral problems and give me a break for once.
One day when I was in the midst of this prayer, I paused because I felt like God was whispering to me, “You’re praying the wrong thing.”
Is it possible for a prayer to be the wrong prayer? I wondered.
“You’re always concerned about having a ‘good’ day and having an easier time with your job, but that’s not why you’re there,” he whispered.
Oh? Why am I here, then? I wondered.
“Do you think that you got all of the tough kids in your classroom by some horrible mistake? Do you think it’s mere coincidence that they are forced to interact with you day after day? Or that it’s part of Satan’s evil plan to ruin your life? You need to start looking past yourself, and realize that it’s much bigger than you.
“Don’t you think that if I walked through the front doors of your school, in the flesh, I would purposefully choose to teach the class with all of the ‘tough’ kids, so that I could minister to them? Don’t you agree that they are the ones who need me the most?”
I suppose that’s true, I decided.
“Don’t you realize that since I cannot be in that classroom, in the flesh, I chose you to go there in my place? To be my ambassador, and reach out to those students with love and mercy in the same way I would do?”
That’s an awfully important job to trust to someone like me, I gulped. I might end up letting you down.
“You can do it. I’ll be with you. I wouldn’t just tell you to do something and then leave you to do it by yourself. Don’t you know me better than that by now? You have to trust me.”
I’ll try, I decided.
“But you need to start praying for the right things. It’s okay to pray for an end to your hardship, but that shouldn’t be the only thing you ever pray. I’ve commissioned you to minister to other people in the way I would have done. You need to start praying for your eyes to be opened to the students who need my help. You need to pray to see those tough students through my eyes, the way that I see them. You need to pray for me to give you the words to say and the strength to get through all of these hardships successfully. Don’t pray for an easier life–pray for a meaningful one! A life in which you make an impact on this world for the better.”
That sounds hard. I might mess up, I faltered.
“That’s allowed. When you mess up, you’ll get up and try again. But really, you’re capable of so much more than you realize. If you just trust in me, I can help you do awesome, adventurous things that you never thought possible…”
Whoa. That sounds pretty….exciting. I’ve never thought about my job (or anything!) that way before, I mused.
“You’re welcome.” 😉
What has God whispered to you lately?