Personal Handpicked Provision
Many of us search for ways to better hear the voice of God's Spirit in our lives. It's no different if you are an experienced leader or a stay-at-home mom. That's been my experience as I look over the landscape of my prayer life as an experienced leader and as a stay-at-home mom. Recently I had opportunity to lead my daughter in hearing the counsel of God's Spirit. This is her story, my distraction, and our Father's faithful provision for both of us.
It was Monday morning and my 12-year-old daughter awoke in tears. We had lots of Monday mornings all summer but this one was different. This was the Monday before the Friday she was scheduled to have surgery. Neither of us wanted this to happen, but the closer Friday came the sharper in focus was this reality. Those Monday morning tears now make perfect sense to me.
I wanted to comfort her, but I felt my skills and resources were too limited. I wanted to whisk her away from all the turmoil maybe even more than she wanted to be delivered from the pending surgery. I knew this was a perfectly shaped set of circumstances for God's Spirit to speak to her in ways that only He knew how.
We took time to remind ourselves of some very important truths—Jesus is always with us, the Holy Spirit is our comfort and our counsel, and how wonderfully loved we are by our Heavenly Father. I didn't recognize it at the time, but these truths were for me too. From there I invited her to share her heart with Jesus—her fears, her disappointments, her questions—and invite Him to speak to her as she listened. This is what many call listening prayer. Whatever the label, I knew my daughter needed to hear for herself the words of life that only He authors.
We often do this listening and sharing on the "outside"—talking and responding to one another as we discern the Spirit's presence and counsel and then process the message together. Today, she would listen on the “inside”—just her and Jesus. This is a double-edged discipline for me. On the one hand, I'm free to patiently wait for the results of my daughter's listening. But on the other hand, I have no opportunity to be tracking the twists and turns. This was a faith exercise as much for me at it was for her.
Her inside listening lasted a long time. Longer than I was comfortable with. I thought maybe she had fallen back to sleep. But she was listening and God's Spirit was speaking. Finally, she shared with me. Mom, I have a thought. The nurse who was supposed to be in the ward to check me in won't be available and then (our good friend who is a nurse) would be there!
She shared in faith with enthusiasm and joy. I momentarily panicked because I immediately began looking in my tool box of skills to fulfill this provision and it didn't look good. The friend my daughter referenced did not even work in pediatrics. She wouldn't be called in to cover the scheduled nursing shift. I considered the complications that surround nursing schedules, such as the coordination of shifts and the needed sleep, and then added this to the probability of a request to visit my daughter for a couple of moments before surgery. The sum was more than a long shot. I was distracted with how I was going to pull off the details described in my daughter's listening.
During my panic, God's faithful voice spoke to me even though I was barely listening for my need. God's Spirit encouraged me that what my daughter heard reflected His personal and handpicked provision. I could quickly agree and together we did just that. I wanted to encourage my daughter and build her faith, but I was still unsure how I was going to pull these details together by Friday.
But that's just the point! It's never up to us to orchestrate the faith details that have been set into motion by the Spirit of God.
As Friday approached, I continued to be occasionally distracted. On Thursday afternoon, we were told that we were booked for the first surgery on the following day. We would arrive at the hospital at 6:15 for prep on the pediatric floor. My daughter waited in peace and even said she almost felt excited. The Holy Spirit had met her all week in several personal and handpicked ways. She was feeling loved in ways only authored by our Heavenly Father. This was a world away from the tears of Monday morning. Just as she got ready to put on her gown, guess who walked into the room with a sleepy end-of-the-nightshift-smile and a note in hand from her daughter, who is my daughter's best friend?
The words that God's Spirit spoke to my daughter five-days before were fulfilled before our eyes. My daughter received a hug and some words of encouragement from our nurse friend as well as the note. I looked at my daughter with surprise and delight. She looked back at me with a smile and a confidence that she knew she could trust her loving Heavenly Father. The fulfillment of the Holy Spirit's counsel was standing right before us. I didn't do a thing to position that personal and handpicked provision into place. My daughter left the ward heading to the operating room with the confidence that God's Spirit is faithful and that Jesus would be with her wherever she goes!
Life with Jesus is an exponential gift. My daughter was affirmed in her hearing of God's Spirit, I was assured that once again I could trust Him with the details, we both had our faith tested and strengthened. When we told this story to our nurse friend, she and her daughter were encouraged to find themselves in the supernatural middle of being the celebrated answer to prayer. The practice of learning to hear the voice of God's Spirit will continue to be a lifelong adventure.
Heather Neufeld is an active leader and volunteer in her community and she knows she was created for the pleasure and fruitfulness of her Heavenly Father. She experiences fruitful discipleship as she invests in relationships and gathering people for celebration. Her life-long interest and personal commitment are to practices that build and strengthen spiritual formation. Along with her husband Larry, she has served MB Mission in prayer resourcing. Heather looks forward to sharing the stories and practices that shape her prayers and her life in Christ at Equip 2017 Study Conference: Transforming Discipleship in a workshop called "Growing Your Prayer Life".
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