“Count it all joy!
John had wandered into the church on Sunday as much out of curiosity as he had merely followed his feet. The morning had been bright and cool when he decided to take a walk from his hotel, the air still fairly clear and fresh enough to take deep breaths of it. He was surprised at the prompting to go into the church; he was even more surprised that he had stayed to listen to the preacher. ’Must be something here that I want to hear,’ he thought. As the preacher talked, John noticed that he was “translating” what was being said – reinterpreting it as a message to him, by him. ‘That is the way of things.’
“Can you trust that whatever is happening in this world is not God’s doing? God doesn’t want you to suffer affliction – that is just the way of this fallen world. Can you also trust that God can reach you and lift you up from the afflictions of the world? That is the Truth of it.’
‘”Trust” is a big thing,’ thought John, carrying the message to his own personal meaning, ‘I know that I too often think of the world as something that is happening TO me, not just happening in front of me. I know that I put my own meaning, my own spin on everything, seeing and hearing through the eyes and mind of my past patterns of thought, thinking that I understand the world and can control it. I’ve got to relinquish this idea that I can control the world! I can’t even control my own mind!’
“Please turn to Proverbs 3, verses 5 & 6.” The excitement in the preacher’s voice brought John back to the moment. The people sitting around him were frantically flipping their bibles. ‘This preacher is definitely guided by his own inner promptings,’ John mused, ‘there’s no other way that he could have these passages at his fingertips. Even the seminary that he went to, the story that he must’ve made up of studying to become a man of god – this, too, is following his promptings to bring him to this point, where he is now speaking to me for me – out paths crossing when intention reverberates with intention – his intention to be a preacher, to “save souls,” and my intention to get in touch with my soul have crossed paths in this moment, the Voice of Spirit directing my feet and this preacher’s to this meeting in time and space. Now, I seem to experience it, yet I do have this feeling of Déjà vu – that it was always completed and I am following my own bread crumbs “home.” How could it be any other way?’
“Are you with me? Proverbs 3, verses 5 & 6. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.’ Do you think that God is leaving us on our own, here in this fallen world? Can you trust that God is with us always? And in ‘all ways?’ There is nothing to fear in this world, for this world has no power over us! God so loved us that he sent his only begotten Son….”
The preacher’s words continued, but John was carrying the initial thought to his own conclusion. ‘”Perfect Love cast out fear.” I’m surprised that I even recall that passage. I suppose that the memory of it in this moment is also the Voice of Spirit guiding my mind towards an understanding that it wouldn’t have on its own – definitely not if it was busy listening to the world! The world does seem to operate on a “fear factor” – it seems as if most the world’s goals have to do with fear – especially that there is lack – not enough to go around so that there must be a struggle to earn one’s way, to have enough, or to get ahead. Yet, I know that the only thing holding me back is my own limiting ideas, my own limiting belief systems, especially about my self. This new understanding really IS something that my choice to listen to a different voice has brought me to “get” – the time it takes me to “get” it collapsed by my relinquishment of authority over the thoughts in my mind – giving up my own understanding of the world so that it might be replaced with the Voice of Spirit.’
“Verse 6 reads like this: ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.’ Trust in the Lord with all your heart… and all your mind! Do you give your troubles to the Lord, or some of them, anyway, but hold on to some of them for yourself? Will you let God heal your soul, but think that you need to take care of the mortgage? Do you think that this is too much for God to handle? Do you really believe that there is not enough money – that God doesn’t have enough money – to take care of your mortgage, and that you have to be the steward of the small pile that you get each week on your paycheck? Doesn’t your own understanding of ‘money’ limit it, denying the abundance that God would have you know? ‘He will direct your paths’ means all of your paths! Can you push the ‘pause button’ on your thinking long enough to allow spirit to guide you? Can you not acknowledge that God is a much better guide than you? ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and He shall direct your paths.’
John was listening to the prompting of Spirit even in this moment, allowing these words that he seemed to have heard before to sink into his awareness like a pebble dropped into the pool of thoughts in his mind, a nugget of truth rippling the surface of his perception that he might see things differently. ‘There is nothing I have to do,’ he thought, ‘ but to listen to this Voice from within and allow that I am not in control of my life any more than I can control the weather. I can face whatever is in front of me and accept that it is just thoughts giving me the opportunity to choose differently, to see and hear with new eyes and ears, to take back the power that I have given away by giving meaning to the story and calling it “mine.” That is my quest. That is my song. That is my intention!’
The preacher had finished what he was saying, and the choir was getting into place to sing. John’s feet didn’t have a desire to move, so he stood with the rest of the people, and listened.
“I am a friend of God. He holds me in his heart. I am a friend of God. He calls me ‘friend.’”
Joy seemed to well up in John’s being at the idea that God was his friend. It was if many thoughts that he had hidden away in his memory banks, stories of his life when he had thought that God was definitely not on his side were dissolving into the nothingness that they truly were, freeing him to see with new eyes. John noticed that a tear was trickled from the corner of his eye. ‘My very sight is being washed clean.’ He stood, listening to the words, allowing them to wash over him and through him, trusting that there was no other place that he needed to be, and nothing else that needed to be done – just to stay in this moment and experience the joy of friendship with God.
“He calls me ‘friend.’”
The choir had finished, and most of the people had already turned and walked up the aisle and out of the church. John wiped the trail of the tear from his eye, and followed his feet, followed the Voice that led him ever onward.
He pushed open the outer door of the church and stepped into the bright sunshine of the morning, taking a deep breath as his eyes adjusted to the light before turning to walk down the sidewalk that had led him to this place, to this moment, to this new lightness of heart and mind and spirit.
“I am a friend of God,” he sang in a whisper, as he turned to head back to his hotel, not having any particular place to go. “He calls me ‘friend.’”