Saturday, September 8, 2012

six words

When You Want to Help, but Don't Even Know Where to Begin

"Man's extremity is God's opportunity." ~ John Flavel

In the middle of our pastor’s message last Sunday, I stepped out of the worship center for a few minutes. As I walked down the hallway, I noticed out of the corner of my eye three people seated on a step. A young man, young woman, and an infant in between. I was walking my usual quick pace, so it didn’t register until after I had passed them with a quick glance that the young man was crying. And crying hard.

It’s not often that you see somebody expressing deep pain through floods of tears in a public setting. Unfortunately, even in church. And I didn’t know him, but my heart was tugging at me, wondering if I should do something. In a matter of my minute or two walk back to the worship center, I toggled back and forth between reservations and the thought of turning around. My main concern was that I didn’t want to impose. Afterall, I didn’t even know the guy. {Okay, so the prospect of walking up to a total stranger in the midst of deep pain was intimidating, too.}

As I approached the doors to the worship center, I turned my attention to my pastor on the lobby monitor so that I could reengage with his message. And the first thing I heard, just steps away from opening the door, was the phrase, “Spirit led awareness.”
And right away, I knew:
I had to turn around and go back.
God had made me aware. And that tugging in my heart was Him.

As I walked back, God brought this thought to mind:
I don’t want to be a person who sees somebody hurting, and keeps on walking.
When I returned to the area, they had just dispersed. The young man was still in the same spot. But the young woman was now walking down the hallway toward the exit. And the infant was in another young woman’s arms several yards from him (in front of a side entry door to the worship center). Realizing that I had just walked up in a particularly tender moment, I parked myself near the woman with child, as if I were waiting for a discreet moment to step through the door of the worship center. But in reality, wondering what in the world to say or do. Again, I didn’t know these people, so the thought of breaking into a raw moment like that was intimidating for a non-assertive type like me. Not to mention the sensitivity that was at stake.

After standing there silently for several minutes, I turned to the young woman and asked, “Do you know if he’s okay?”
And she said, “I know him, so I’ll go talk to him.”

When she went over to him, I stepped closer toward them because I wanted to make myself available. Yet I also wanted to still offer room to breathe. But then I wondered if it may have felt like I was hovering, so I went and stood against the wall on the other side of a column.

I kept asking the Lord, “Do I stay? Do I go? What do you want me to do here?”I sensed Him leading me to go, telling me that I didn’t have to talk to the guy to fulfill His leading. And by a huge dose of grace from God, I was able to hear Him on that one. Because usually, that kind of u-turn direction is incredibly hard for my one-track mind to tune into. I haven’t yet developed an appreciation for life's change of plans, nor the scenic routes in life. I’m a planner, and when I do something, I like to bring it to completion. Because anything else feels incomplete, which I tend to misconstrue as irresponsible. {And if you’ve been hangin’ out with me here since this blog launched last fall, you know how I feel about the prospect of being irresponsible! And how easily I can buy into the lie that my identity is wrapped up in what I do, rather than Who He is.}

Those times when God says, “Go here, but only this far” or even “I want you to go here. Okay, now I want you to leave.” They can really throw me. They can make me question if I’ve heard Him right. Or if I even heard Him right in the first place.

But this time was different. This time, I followed His voice over my inclination. This time, I wrestled less, and listened more.
This time,
I trusted Him.
And it was liberating.

“This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.”
~ John 3:30

I don’t have a fireworks ending to this story. In fact, that’s actually the end of it from my stand-point. I still don’t know who those people are. I don’t have any idea what they were facing at the time (likely still are). I probably won't ever know. And I’m content with that – because that’s not the point.

As far as I know, the Lord wanted me to do an about face and return to that scene simply to utter six words. Six simple words that prompted the friend of a hurting soul to go talk to him. Six words that the Lord uttered from the mouth of a girl that by nature, wouldn’t be assertive {because what will they think?}, and would typically cycle in a paralyzing perfectionist preoccupation with “doing it right.”
Six words that offered my soul the thrill of embracing that He’s not limited by me.

How about you, my friend? . . .Do you get preoccupied with trying to figure out how to reach out to someone in need?
Have you ever had God lead you to an opportunity, then lead you away from it?
Or how about your “six word” story about a time when you said yes to God's still small voice?

(Photo thanks to Matt Gruber)


  1. We never know the effect of our words or actions but if we follow God's tug we can rest in him that we heard his voice and obeyed. I really felt for that young man and for you to trying to do the right thing without imposing. I think you did well.

    1. "if we follow God's tug we can rest in Him that we heard his voice and obeyed" -- you are exactly right, friend. in fact, just this afternoon, i heard that reminder on the radio -- that we're not responsible for impact. that's up to the Lord. we're simply responsible to obey. the impact is up to Him.

      and so we rest, & keep our eyes fixed on Him.

      always a blessing to hear your voice.
      i appreciate your encouraging spirit,

  2. listening to those Spirit-nudges has taken a lot of practice for me too. I'm trying to notice when someone comes to mind seemingly out of the blue and instead of dismissing the thought, taking it ass a prompt to pray and maybe even send a note or a text. I've had some dreams that recurred that prompted me to contact someone to try to reconcile something, too. I am skeptical by nature, but I'm trying to overcome that in this context. i want to hear those nudges!

    1. i think listening to the Spirit nudges takes a lot of practice for all of us. and i can relate to your skeptical nature b/c i've had to work through a similar challenge of overanalyzing -- was that the Holy Sprit? or not? how do i know? all the while passing time that i could have spent just praying.

  3. Beautiful story sweet friend. I've grown closer to listening to the promptings lately because I love the beauty of our fellowship- mine and the Lord's . I've messed it up before, and I don't want to endanger it by being disobedient in that way again. I don't want to see someone hurting and keep on walking either. Our personalities are so similar! I related to everything you shared!

    1. listening to His still small voice has def. been a process for me. b/c i've had to set aside the people pleaser, the rational side, & frankly the selfish. that being the case, it's been a wonderfully liberating journey.
      not i, but Christ.

  4. I'm inspired by your obedience, and your heart for others. The world needs more Tanyas.

    1. oh how i love hearing that you were inspired, jennifer. the Lord is so gracious to offer us these sacred opportunities in life to be His hands, feet, & voice, isn't He? He certainly doesn't need us to accomplish His purpose here, yet He chooses to use us. what a privilege, what a gift, what an agape Father.

    2. I agree with jennifer - the world needs more tanyas. What a great comment!

    3. Ha! I had to smile at the last comment about needing more Tanyas - amen to that! ;-)

      I LOVE your heart and your compassion and desire to help. So often I am in that situation of 'do i stay? do I go? is it helping? is it intruding?' etc and not knowing what to do. It was a good reminder to me to remember to pray. I'm not very good at hearing the voice of God and feel like he doesn't really speak to me in that way - but that's no excuse for not asking!

      Much love to you. x

    4. jamie, seems like everywhere i turned in the blogosphere yesterday, you were there encouraging me. thank you . . .

    5. haha, tanya -- glad you saw that one!

      and i think we can all relate to not being good at hearing God's still, small voice. in my journey, it's been like a stiff muscle that i needed to stretch & exercise. not too different from other areas that don't come naturally in other relationships. we stumble through it, & make imperfect progress along the way -- remembering that the point isn't our perfection, but rather our dependence.

      i had a powerful experience years ago when the Holy Spirit was compelling me to pray, but i didn't realize it at the time. after discovering later the deep pain that a friend was walking through that night, i told the Lord that i WANT to be a part of that kind of ministry to others through prayer. and i invited Him to call on me again like that. and He has. sometimes i hear Him, & i'm sure there are many times i don't. but i would just encourage you, if you haven't already, to invite Him to open your ears to hear His voice in new & surprising ways.

      because He's not dependent on how "good" we are or aren't at it. He simply wants us to come, trust, & watch what HE can do -- in & *through* our weak spots!

      always a treat to hear your voice, my friend. and i'm grateful for the ministry of your transparency.

  5. Great six words! Isn't that really what we all need -- just for someone to ask if we're okay and truly care about our answer? I'm not assertive either, and I applaud your approach even when you were uncomfortable. Terrific post!

    1. great point, meghan -- that is absolutely what we all long for & crave. thanks so much for taking the time to offer your kind words of encouragement!

  6. Thank you for sharing... I hopped from The Alabaster Jar linkup - So many times I am so busy about what I am doing that I fail to see that God places opportunity after opportunity in my path and most of the time I miss it. A few years ago, I was in a rush (story of my life) and I know because I was feeling quite agitated at having to wait in line(at Wen*y's) and it was going slow .... God had to speak to where I could hear him over my negative thoughts. At that moment I stopped and I began to pay attention to what was causing the line to be so slow. What seemed to be a homeless man was counting out his change for his food. He didn't have enough, so he decided against the Frosty. I knew when my time came that I would have to get him one. I was so nervous that he would take his stuff to go before I could get it to him. I was so afraid I was going to miss the opportunity the Lord laid before my eyes. But, as God would have it, I walked to his table and I gave it to him and said, the Lord wanted you to have this. And out I went. I was so overwhelmed that I could not see to drive for a few moments. God used that to show me that I need to be aware of Him and the opportunities that I may miss. It made me wonder the times that I had missed in my past. He also showed me how He will give us the desires of our heart if only we would delight in Him and not the things of this world. If He provides for the birds of the air, would he not provide for me?? I don't know if you have had those times that God has to show you more than once, before you "get it"? Well, I am pretty stubborn, and sometimes I question things to death... so just in case I didn't get it the first time. The same man was standing outside a different Wen*y's (several miles from the first one) under the sign holding a cup of coffee. And no Frosty. No, I didn't run in and get him one, but I did have some certificates for Free Frostys that had been in my purse for months. Don't discount the little things, because God uses them in BIG ways. Just like today, this post is a huge reminder that God has it all under control!!

    1. piper, am i EVER glad you stopped by. thank you so much for gifting all those who come here by taking the time to share your story, & your heart. what a sacred experience . . .

      and i'm so humbled that what you were afraid of wasn't doing it, but missing out on it. too often i'm concerned about others' approval, & it deters me from even hearing the Lord's nudges like these. so my soul is rejoicing that He who began this good work will be faithful to complete it in me.

      and as for the not "getting it" the first time, oh YEAH. been there, done that. *many* times. i think we all have.

      i truly appreciate your sharing your story. your eyes were opened wide to the opportunity to be His hands & feet, & it was such a blessing to hear.

      "Don't discount the little things, because God uses them in BIG ways" . . . love that!


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