I’ve tried listening to the subtle nudgings from God these past few years, and with even more intent since the Iron Men group studied Sam Williamson’s book, Hearing God In Conversation. Like most things of value, it takes practice, it can be improved, and it must be acted on. So last week while I was spreadsheeting our trip to Durango, Colorado, and planning a hike up to Gudy’s Rest on Sunday, our first day in town, I got the softest thought in my head – Why don’t you go to church?
It isn’t such a radical idea for me. Thanks to my observant Baptist family I’ve attended church regularly and faithfully my entire life, even in college when almost everyone else I knew slept in. But Cyndi and I like to maximize our fun experiences when out of town, so we tend to do something besides church on Sunday mornings. So, when I had this thought about Durango, it wasn’t from my own backlog of good ideas. It was a nudge from God. I knew I had to follow through if I was serious about listening to Him.
First Baptist Durango started their service at 10:40 am. I got there early so I sat in my car and watched families walk up and go inside. I told myself I was investigating the best entrance to use, but I was really waiting for the main crowd to pass so I could sneak inside without having to talk to anyone. I keep thinking someday I’ll be old enough to comfortably walking into a room full of strangers, but it hasn’t happened yet.
The unexplainable part is this: the people I should be most comfortable with it are church people. They are my people. They held me when I was a baby, taught me about Jesus all through my childhood and student years, came to my wedding, helped me raise our two children, put me into leadership positions, listened to me teach every Sunday morning, loved my Mom and Dan and helped me say goodbye to both. Why would I avoid normal conversations with people like that? I don’t know.
The worship leader began the service by singing, ‘Take my life and let it be all for You and for Your glory, take my life and let it be Yours.” But when I sang along, I heard different lyrics inside my head. Take my writing and let it be all for You and for Your glory … Take my time and freedom … Take my analysis and creativity.
The pastor asked, “Why are you here this morning?”
I often travel with Cyndi when she attends a workshop. For me it’s a gift. I get to spend time alone, in a different place at a different pace, with long chunks of unbroken time available for projects I usually piece together back home. I bring a suitcase full of books and projects and my laptop, and I submerge. For this trip I also brought my day-hiking gear and a book, The Best Durango Hikes. I assume when I go deep into myself, whether in a chair by the Animas River with a book in my hand, or on a trail up the San Juan Mountains carrying trekking poles, I’ll journey deep into God as well.
That’s what usually happens, but I might have been wrong to assume it was the only way. Sunday morning, God found me while I was sitting next to strangers.
About this time in the service I began to notice people on my pew watching me as I scribbled notes on the 3x5 cards I carry in my pocket (a mark of a writer). I imagined them suspecting I was from the home office and taking notes. I know that’s a silly farfetched idea, but some years ago when Cyndi and I were in Karamoja, Uganda, the local leaders introduced me as The Big Man of This Religion. Not only would that title have surprised many in the USA, but I thought it happened because the Karamojong noticed I spent a lot of time scribbling on 3x5 cards.
Of course, I could have been wrong about whether my pewmates were paying attention to me at all. Maybe they were happy to have a stranger taking notes.
The pastor said, “Humility is transformational.” I thought, so is gratitude and generosity. How can I lean into all of those more? I want to be transformed.
Afterward, as I walked back to my car, I stuffed my stack of 3x5 cards into my pocket, happy that I had something to write about, something to give away and give back, a story to tell. Happy that responding to a tiny nudge resulted in hearing from God.
I’ll go hiking on Monday.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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