Yesterday, I was reading a book called "Emotions - Can You Trust Them?" by Dr. Dobson. I read a story about a young man that really impacted me. It was so good, that I wanted to share it with you, even though it is kind of long. It also goes along with this whole "listening" theme that God is trying to get through to me.
Personal Story by the Reverend Everett Howard:
I've spent thirty-six years in missionary service - a lifetime that has passed so quickly. About fifty years ago when I was just a young boy I knew that God was calling me, but I was confused. I didn't know just where or when or what he wanted me to do. Years passed and I went on through school and college and into Lincoln and Lee Dental University in Kansas City, Missouri. I was still fighting and battling away, unsure of God's direction for my life.
One day I came to the point of a definite decision. My dad was a Christian and his prayers were inspirational. But that was secondhand, and I wanted something that could be mine - something I could take through life with me. So I went into the little church where my dad was pastoring and locked the doors so I could be alone. I guess I was ashamed for anyone to hear me pray, but that's the way it was. I knelt down at the little altar and took a piece of paper and a pencil and said, "Now this is going to be for life!"
I listed everything on that page. I filled it with promises of what I would do for God, including my willingness to be a missionary, and every possible alternative I could think of. I promised to sing in the choir and give my tithes and read the Bible and do all the things I thought God might want of me. I had a long list of promises and I really meant them.
Then when I had finished that well-written page, I signed my name at the bottom and laid it on the alter. There alone in the church I looked up and waited for "thunder and lightning" or some act of approval from the Lord. I thought I would experience what Saint Paul did on the road to Damascus, or something equally dramatic. I knew that God must be terribly proud of me - a young fellow who would make a consecration like that. But nothing happened. It was quiet, still and I was so disappointed.
I couldn't understand it, so I thought I must have forgotten something. I took out my pencil again and tried to think about what I'd left out. But I couldn't remember anything else. I prayed again and told the Lord that I had put everything possible on that paper. Still nothing happened, though I waited and waited.
Then it came. I felt the voice of God speaking in my heart. He didn't shout or hit me over the head. I just felt in my own soul a voice speak so clearly. It said, "Son, you're going about it wrong. I don't want a consecration like this. Just tear up the paper you've written."
I said, "All right, Lord." And I took the paper I had written so carefully and wadded it up.
Then the voice of God seemed to whisper again, "Son, I want you to take a blank piece of paper and sign your name on the bottom of it, and let Me fill it in."
"Oh! oh! that's different, Lord," I cried. But I did what He said there at the altar in the little church.
It was just a secret between God and me, as I signed the paper. And God has been filling it in for the past thirty-six years.
Maybe I'm glad that I didn't know what was going to be written on the page. Things like... lying sick in the lonely mountains of the Cape Verde Islands, burning up with fever, with no medicine and no doctor, and the closest hospital more than 3,000 miles away. And the famine, when almost a third of the population in our part of the country had starved to death... money wasn't coming through...nine months without one single check or a penny... everything we owned had to be sold in order to live... that wasn't written on the page until the time came. But, you know, there was no depression. Those were the most blessed days, because God was there! And if I could turn around and do it again, I'd go every step of the way that we've traveled for the last thirty-six years.
To those who are listening to me tonight, I hope you will also put your name at the bottom of a blank sheet of paper and let God fill it in. Especially if you're worried about who you should marry or where to go to school or what training you should get, and all those questions which cause young people to struggle. You don't know the answers to such questions and neither do I. If I tried to tell you what to do it would probably be wrong. But God knows. Let Him fill in the page, regardless of where He leads or the difficulties you will experience. And of this I am absolutely confident: the Lord will make his purposes and plans known in plenty of time for you to heed them.
This story prompted me to take my own blank piece of paper and sign it. I know in my head that God will fill it and direct my life in the manner that he chooses, but sometimes it is hard to feel it in my heart. Just the physical act of surrendering, literally surrendering to the plans that God has for you in his time is a scary thing, but oh so rewarding! I know that His plans for me are so much better than the plans that I have for myself. I pray that I would never try to take the pen back from God, but would willingly leave it in his loving hands.