It was an awful night, actually. A couple of awful nights. I could feel God putting the slightest bit of pressure on my heart. I couldn’t really define what was going on inside, but I knew that the Lord was beginning to stir the pot. Still, I still wasn’t letting my heart go there. And to fend off a potentially painful journey, I continued to give Pastor Ben a moderately-defiant ‘no.’
The next morning was Sunday, December 20. I was en route from Raleigh, NC to Louisville, KY. AT 8:27am, I got a text from Pastor Ben. It said something to the effect of (not a direct quote):
I’ve been on my prayer bench getting ready to preach three services, praying with a deacon, and God will not release your name from my heart about this calling. Will you please respect the fact that I feel like I’m hearing from God on this, and at least open your heart to pray about it. If you feel like God gives you a ‘no’ still, I promise to leave you alone and will not mention it again.
I realized that although I had said I would at least pray about it (and I did), I knew that I had not opened my heart to it (which is a totally different thing). So on that Sunday, I began to do just that.
Remember when I said it felt like the Lord was beginning to put the slightest bit of pressure on my heart? Well, on December 20th, the pressure increased. A lot.
We were supposed to drive to Boone, NC for Christmas on Monday the 21st, but Lily Kate had the flu, so we waited. I spent that Monday wandering around the house, crying, sleeping, packing, crying some more. And some more. I don’t even know why. I didn’t feel sad; just emotional.
We finally hopped in the car and headed to Boone on Tuesday. And that is when Angela and I began to break down all of this that God was putting on our plate. We had talked about it all that week before…keeping communication open about what each of us was thinking. But really what Angela had been saying was, “Oh, sweetie. You’re turning 40. Bless your heart. It’ll be ok. Do you need a new car or something?”
That all changed on the drive to Boone. On that snowy day driving across Tennessee, my bride of 16 ½ years and I unpacked everything about our lives together…dreams realized…dreams unrealized…our definition of success in ministry…God’s definition of success in ministry…God’s standards for walking uprightly in the kingdom of God in this generation…what we felt like our kids’ destinies might be…how to fit them rightly for their callings…what needs to stay in our lives and what needs to go in terms of continuing to allow God the freedom to use us as equippers in the body of Christ…LISTEN. We unpacked it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. We pulled out every single aspect of our lives and looked at it in the Light. It was AWESOME. There is something about putting on the brakes in life and taking a full-scale emotional, physical and spiritual inventory that is fulfilling beyond measure. We never loved each more than we did in those moments.
So, we began to pray. And pray hard. And I will never forget praying this at the very onset of that day :
“Lord, you know I will go ANYWHERE you call me. And…”
And I heard God interrupt me in my spirit to say, “Now just hold on right there. That’s not true.”