I was sixteen that year, finished with high school and praying, “God, what should I do with my life?” It was a natural progression. God had shown up when I was twelve and by the time I was thirteen, I had been dipped down, down into the baptismal waters. Now three years had pasted in quietness and my heart was burning to know something.
My closest friend, Brianna, lived several miles away and many days we would walk and meet partway between our houses, at a little gazebo on the side of the road beside a large golf course.
They were my prayer walks, where I talked to God aloud as I marched along, praising Him, worshiping, asking for His presence in my life. I was nearing a turning point that year, where I could decide to keep seeking Christ, or be discouraged and go my own way.
I had been taught for most of my life to do what was in front of me, so I had finished school, went to tech school and was a nurse’s assistant, and was working diligently at odd jobs around the neighborhood.
Yet, still, I wanted something more. Something I couldn’t even put into words.
So, my prayers of late had been filled to overflowing. “God, I want to hear your voice, clearly. I don’t want to have to guess if what I’m thinking is You or me. I’m so drawn to mission work, ever since our trip to Haiti, but what do You want from me? Where do You want me to go?”
I heard nothing.
I thought of Haiti and the littles at the orphanage where we worked. Jaque, with his sweet smile and the way his chubby brown arms stayed wrapped around my neck. It had been over a year since our trip but the moments were still etched on me.
But as old as I felt, I was still only sixteen and couldn’t just catch the next plane for Haiti.
“Well, God?” I begged, “What should I do? Should I just sit back and wait? Do you want me to stay right here? Or do you want me to go somewhere?”
The silence drove me mad.
So that afternoon, as I walked the side of Sumter Boulevard in North Port, Florida, I paused in my worship song to say, “You know, God, I’m sure you don’t work this way, but if you’d ever just send me a note, to tell me what you want from me, that’d be great.” I thought myself quite clever and laughed a little. For some reason, it almost seemed like God smiled too.
Along the side of the road there were trashcans periodically, and as was my habit, when I saw a can a few yards further, I picked it up to carry to the next garbage disposal. I continued on, singing, feeling more lighthearted after my good-natured banter with God. He would tell me, I was sure. Oh, probably not in a sign dropped down from heaven, but He would tell me. I just needed to trust.
I bent down to pick up another crumbled scrap of paper, and kept walking. When I reached the trashcan, I dumped the can and started to toss the paper in as well. Something stopped me and I thought, “Hm, I wonder if this is God’s note?” I laughed out loud at the thought. But still, I gently smoothed the crumbled paper out and my heart started beating loudly in my ears.
It was someone’s sermon notes. A Bible verse scrawled in cursive handwriting across the notepaper. Matthew 9:36-38.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
I cried. Right there beside a trashcan in a little Florida town. Tears dripped down my cheeks and my heart sped up in excitement and anticipation. I was supposed to go. I didn’t know where, but it didn’t even matter. What mattered was that when I diligently sought God, He could be found. His presence was strong, even there on the side of the road beside an enormous golf course.
I began preparing, and ended up traveling to Alaska the next summer. I visited native villages and helped teach lots of little kids about the love a God who hears us. And it wasn’t just a story that I told, it was something I knew.
There’s no formula to convince God to act in a certain way. If there was, we’d just “formulate” it away. Convince ourselves… Oh, there was a church just down the road, so it’s not completely crazy that someone would have dropped their sermon notes. And those verses are fairly well-known; it’s conceivable that they would be the ones preached on that week. And, I do pick up trash every time I walk that road. It’s just a natural occurrence that one day it would be sermon notes and not a crumbled up receipt.
But I wasn’t twisting God’s arm to give me something I wanted, I was just praying and seeking Him. So, I didn’t need to speculate on how or why the piece of paper I picked up contained a Bible verse that directly answered my questions. Instead, I got to just sit back and laugh with delight. Because God wants relationship with all of His children. And He has, and will continue to, do the miraculous, the beautiful, just to draw us closer to Him.
And maybe it’s not going to be a note on the side of the road, maybe it’ll just be a blog post about His presence or His delight in you. But I promise, if you seek Him— He will show Himself to you. Just come without preconceived notions. Just come with an open heart. If you feel a desire to hear from God, then He’s already calling you. Just come.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29: 12-13
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