It was the day after Thanksgiving. It was a memorably emotional day. It was the day I completed my pre-surgical physical, taking me one large step closer to surgery.
It had been only 3 weeks since I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Invasive Lobular Carcinoma ( Breast Cancer) and what a 3 weeks it had been. Between doctors appointments, trips to Columbus, and all of the mental wrestling I had endured, it felt more like 3 months, maybe even 3 years that I had been in this process.
Lacking nourishment, I made an impromptu stop at the Twisted Whisk Cafe in Bluffton, OH, and that’s when I saw the photograph with a phrase that spoke the current reality of my life:
The bridge might sway, but the path is straight.
It was unusual for a phrase to strike me so intently, but this one definitely did so.
In my own daily life, I was walking across a lot of swaying bridges. I knew there was an ending point to this path, but getting there required one uneasy walk after another.
Pre surgery – mid surgery – post surgery, and eventually: freedom from strict weight restrictions. Fast forward to the final day of January, 2018. I’d reached 7 weeks post surgery recovery. I was back to work. I was back to life. But why did I not yet feel like I was fully living? It was January 31 and the bridges were still swaying a lot.
And that’s the day God reminded me of the bigger mission. On January 31, I found myself at the Twisted Whisk cafe again. I saw that picture again. The words on the photograph again spoke to my current state of life. The bridge might sway, but the path is straight.
I departed the coffee shop thinking “I need to contact Jamie Nygaard, the person who took that picture, and ask her if I can buy it.” But I didn’t contact her.
Jamie Nygaard is a wonderfully gifted photographer. I met her when our kids shared sports teams. She is my “get together 2 times a year and maybe text each other 8 times a year” friend. She’s my friend, but she’s not in my daily group of communicators.
However, on February 1, one day after I mentally wished I could buy that photo, I realized that Jamie is in God’s daily group of communicators.
Because on February 1 , Jamie unexpectedly sent me this text:
And this text:
We agreed upon a 6pm meeting time at the YMCA. I completely forgot about it. Jamie did not.
At 6:05 on February 1, Jamie found me at the YMCA and handed me a gift. What did she hand me? She handed me the very photo I wanted to buy; the one with the wording that provided such meaning to my life.
I told God I wished for that photo. God told Jamie. And Jamie found me.
Does God still speak? He definitely spoke that day.
Years and years ago, God spoke through a burning bush. He spoke through a cloud. He sometimes spoke through fire. There are accounts in the Bible where it seemed so evident God was speaking: to Moses, to Joshua, to Noah, to Adam.
But how about today? Does God still speak today?
It’s possible to consider those Biblical accounts and believe that God is no longer speaking as He did in the past. It’s also possible to look around at the lives of others and say, “God doesn’t speak to me.”
But I believe God has never stopped speaking. He wants to talk with us. An important question is, are we poised to hear His voice?
Ways to Hear God Speaking:
1. Believe God Speaks
Before it’s possible to hear God, it’s important to believe God will speak to you.
We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this Man really is the Savior of the world. — John 4:42
2. Tune out the other speakers
Commit to time away from social media, cable TV, news sources, and talking with friends. Find time to spend alone with God. If this is something new, start with the biblegateway.com verse of the day and a commitment to 3 minutes of quiet prayer.
3. Watch and listen
God speaks in many ways. It might come through that daily Bible verse, as it speaks to you with new meaning. Maybe the changes in nature will cause you to recognize God’s amazing renewing ability. A conversation with a friend can come at the perfect time; or a song on Christian radio may have lyrics that specifically fit your present need. Don’t discount God’s continual work surrounding you.
4. Live a lifestyle open to hearing His voice
What movies are you watching? What music lyrics are you hearing? What are the pastimes of you and your friends? Do your daily habits honor a lifestyle seeking God’s voice?
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me. — Psalm 101:3
5. Recognize that there are times when God is silent; and be content in those times
When God is silent, that doesn’t mean He is not working. God sees a bigger picture than we can ever understand, and wants to walk with us through every step of it. Times of silence can mean God is molding us, moving us, and preparing us for a deeper understanding of His voice.
Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
6. Strive to hear His voice, in good times and tough times
Years ago, the prophet Elijah was surrounded by people who hated him, and he felt like there was no one left on earth to stand by his side. Fear led Elijah to flee and seek a place of hiding; he was ready to completely give in. Elijah even prayed to die. But God was not done with Elijah, just like God’s not done with you either. In Elijah’s point of desperation, God showed His faithfulness, and then he gave Elijah direction.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. — 1 Kings 19:11
As I write this, I am dealing with a minor surgery recovery set-back. It means more doctors appointments and bouts with personal frustration. I’ll be okay. It’s nothing major. I know the path is straight, but my bridges are still swaying.
Are there any swaying bridges in your life? Or like Elijah, are you going through situations that have you feeling you’re in a rushing wind, or maybe even an earthquake? In these moments, remember, God has not abandoned you, and He wants to speak to you. Now may be a good time to take 3 minutes and just spend some quiet time with Him.
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