Have you ever felt prompted or felt an irresistible urge to do something that you know is coming from the Lord? If you are like me, you have felt this many times during the course of your life. If you are like me, you have also followed this prompting—at times—and ignored it—at many other times. This prompting is the Holy Spirit speaking to us, usually because God wants to do something meaningful. Learning to discern the prompting of the Holy Spirit and then obeying God is a discipline in our Christian faith that is as challenging as it is critical. I can say that mastering this discipline is has been one of my greatest struggles in my faith. When I was in high school and again in college, I had opportunities to share my faith with close friends of mine. Perfect opportunities, as if God had placed the baseball on a T-ball post in front of a Major Leaguer, all he or she would have to do is swing and hit the homer. But all too often, I’ve refused to take my turn at bat because of fear: What if I strike out? Will I be ridiculed or embarrassed? Am I really hearing from God? All too often I have ignored that prompting, and have regretted it deeply. Other times, I have obeyed, and obedience has never been a mistake. These are stories for another time, because something amazing happened today. Today, in a Whole Foods parking lot, I experienced one of those moments--when you know that if you ever start to doubt God, you can look back, remember, and restore your faith.
Today, I did not feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but I witnessed someone who did, and I was blessed. Mom and I stopped at Whole Foods for lunch. Mom had noticed a man in a three-piece suit who had been, in her observation, “lingering” near me, as if he wanted to say something. I was oblivious to it, perhaps because I’ve been used to people staring or wanting to talk to me about the wires flowing off my head (I wear a device called Optune which helps obliterate cancer cells). I’ve become used to being stopped by doctors, fellow cancer patients, children, or generally curious people. As mom and I drove away she saw this man walking near us, lets call him Tony (names are changed to protect the innocent), and said she believed he had a “Word” for me. For you who do not understand “Christianese,” a “Word” is means a message from God. I didn’t think much of it, but decided to smile at him, as I often do to people who look at wired-headed-me to make them feel more comfortable. Then, I saw THAT look. I know it well. The look of self-doubt combined with reluctant compliance: “I don’t want to do this, but I can’t resist anymore…Okay, here it goes...” As Tony approached the car, I speculated he was a doctor, or related to a cancer patient, and that he was curious about my Optune device.
Mom rolled down the window. Tony asked if he could pray for us. Of course, I always welcome prayer and consented, but then he said he had a “Word” for me. At this point, I had my doubts about this strange man, because, like many cancer fighters, I’ve been burned at times by the words of others. Instead of encouraging me with a vision and hope for my future, I’ve had people speak unwelcome negativity into my life and cast doubt on my healing or remind me, in one way or another, of the likelihood of death for patients with glioblastoma. Similar to the experience of Jennifer Garner’s character in the 2016 movie “Miracles from Heaven,” I’ve even had Christians tell me that sin or un-forgiveness in my life was preventing my healing. Fortunately, I know scripture and God’s will in my life, which has empowered me to ignore such statements. Still, my trust in others, especially a stranger, has been bruised. Still, I agreed to hear what he had to say, knowing in the back of my head that I might have to chalk it up to another misguided attempt to be helpful. Then he said it plainly and directly: “'You shall not die, but live, and declare the glorious works of the Lord.' Stunned, I stared at my mom and she back at me, with our jaws open. You see, Tony’s Word was the first scripture (Psalm 118:17) on healing we had received, from a close family friend, after my diagnosis. Ever since, this same scripture would come to me in various ways and from time to time, always when I needed to be reminded of God’s strength and provision. And I needed to be reminded again today.
Tony’s prayer continued with confirmation after confirmation of my healing and of promises God had made to me. I knew undoubtedly that God was speaking to me through this man. That very hour, I needed to be reminded of God’s power and promises. Even though yesterday we received great news of another clear MRI and were given a clear end date for chemo and Optune (an end-date I had been agonizing over and praying about for the past several weeks); Satan was still planting those questions of fear and doubt: Is ending chemo in a year really the right thing to do? What if the tumor recurs? How will my family survive if I don’t make it? Will my nieces and nephews be permanently scarred?
I won’t lay out stats, but if you Google glioblastoma grade 4, you can read the statistics for yourself and understand why I would be fearful. But, God reminded me today that, when we are weak, He is strong. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9-11). And that His word is sharper than a two-edged sword (See Hebrews 4:12). And that we can take up the shield of Faith to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (See Ephesians 6:16). And that even when we are weak and faithless, He remains faithful. (See 2 Timothy 2:13).
We learned Tony is a gentleman from Kansas, who was in town for a training with State Farm Insurance. He happened to choose Whole Foods for his lunch, and he felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Tony bravely chose to follow the prompting rather than ignore it. He stopped our car, bent down on the pavement in his suit, and asked to pray for us. That took courage. Boldness. I’m sure Tony questioned what he was feeling, and likely feared how two women might react to this boldness from a stranger. Perhaps he even attempted to excuse his way out of it somehow—it would have been easy to let us drive away; but I’m so grateful he stopped our car. God clearly orchestrated our timing and location, having us both at Whole Foods at the exact same time, and parked close enough to one another that Tony could stop our car.
So where does that leave us? I don’t have all the answers. I certainly don’t know why God chooses to heal some and not others. My family knows this more directly than most. We lost my first nephew to a heart condition when he was just a baby. I had never prayed so hard as I did for my little Elijah, yet God still took him. I’ve resolved that I may never understand this until I am in heaven with him, but I imagine that the reasons won’t matter as much then as they seems to now. But my point today is this, I have seen the power of obedience to God. For us, we should simply pray for the opportunities, and the courage, to share Christ to others. When you feel that prompting to share or pray for another person, remember that Christ went to cross for him/her; Can we not muster the courage to obey God’s prompting and speak to him/her? Knowing that even if we have failed to do this in the past, God has abounding opportunities in the present and future. We only need listen and follow Him. I’m so glad Tony did.