Every time I sit down to write out a testimony I want to share amazing stories of God’s miracles and wonders impacting the lives of the people I come in contact with. Every time. It’s what I hope for and desire. But today I cannot. Truth compels me to be real, open, and honest.
To save face, I could refrain from sharing the testimonies of failed attempts at hearing God. I could keep the times I risked and God seemingly was a no show to myself. I could omit the oopses and only share the inspiring successes.
But what if the mis-steps are just as important as the times I hear Him spot on? What if inspiration can be found in my failures just as much as in the wins? We serve and follow a God of redemption who turns everything around for good, so there must be good found even when risk goes wrong.
In the spirit of transparency, vulnerability, and other equally terrifying and humbling expressions, here is one rousing testimony of what God can accomplish with our close, but not quite moments.
A daring prayer
Recently, I was studying and learning more about how God will sometimes show us pictures of how people look in the spirit realm to give us clues about how best to minister to them. In one case I was learning about, the believer was given the ability to sometimes see what was causing someone’s ailment or sickness.
Sometimes when passing by a person at the store or gas station they would get a visual picture in their minds-eye of objects impaling the person’s body. The startling visualization led them to then ask the person if the specific area was in pain or discomfort. When the person inevitably confirmed, they would pray for them without disclosing what they saw. They would simply pray, command the pain to go in the name of Jesus, and watch God heal them.
Inspired and stirred by the unusual but amazing testimony, I decided to pray and ask God to help me see similar supernatural activity. Later in the week I was volunteering at the elementary school where my younger children attend. While minding my own business copying math pages at the Xerox machine, one of the school secretaries came in to work.
I looked over and thought I saw a spear jammed in her left shoulder. My heart began to pound in my chest. “Oh God,” I thought, “I wanted you to show me, but now I have to actually ask her if her shoulder hurts.” Although I have approached strangers before and asked if I could pray them, this felt different. I had never asked to pray for someone because I thought I saw a sharp object stabbing them.
I spent the next ten minutes clumsily shuffling papers and avoiding eye contact with her. I timidly waited until the last second to say something, needing every moment to muster up courage. My window of opportunity was narrowing as she reached for her coat. Finally I blurted out, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have a sore shoulder would you?” With a confused and startled look on her face, she answered, “No.”
Great, she said no. Now I wanted to slink back into the corner and disappear. “She is leaving, so hopefully that will be the end of it,” I thought. Instead she prodded further, “Why do you ask?” I stuttered clumsily, “Um, well…I am learning to hear God’s voice and heart for people. I thought He told me you were dealing with shoulder pain. I was going to offer to pray for you, but I guess your fine. Sorry.”
With that she quickly exited the room, and I returned to the copier. All I could do was laugh because I actually wanted to cry. Recounting all the times I talk myself out of praying for people, here I actually obeyed, only to find God never told me anything in the first place. “What was that, Lord?” I asked. In a flash, He responded, “I wanted you to see if you would do it. I wanted you to obey and know what it feels like to step out and get a no. It wasn’t so terrible was it?”
Suddenly I realized this whole endeavor was a cleverly crafted pop quiz, and I passed. Fear of the unknown often gets the better of me in moments when I sense the Lord’s leading to pray for someone or share an encouraging thought that comes to mind. I have a lifetime of second guesses leading to missed opportunities trailing behind me like a long toilet paper sheet stuck to the bottom of my shoe.
A harmless sting
God in His kindness and mercy allowed me to feel the temporary and harmless sting of “getting it wrong” to remind me it’s not that big of a deal. I had been on a streak of hearing Him correctly, but I still wondered how I would feel when I discovered I misread or misheard Him. Failing that day reassured me that even if I step out and realize I mistakenly misstepped, I am fine. Being wrong won’t kill me.
To really make the lesson hit home, I failed again two days later. I try to make a habit out of asking God if He has anything He wants to say to encourage my check out cashier at the grocery store. In the past I’ve had some sweet and tender moments with people I just met as God relays hope and comfort to weary hearts. This day however was another awkward bust like the copy machine fiasco.
I thought I heard God tell me she wanted to become a vet and to encourage her in schooling. When I asked her if she desired to pursue veterinary school, she said the thought never occurred to her. Again, just like the school secretary, she too was curious enough to ask why.
Foolishly I hadn’t thought to wait and ask the question at the end of my order. Following another strange explanation about hearing God incorrectly, I was forced to try and maintain a conversation for ten minutes longer. I managed to fumble a blessing over the actual pursuits of her heart anyway, but I walked away laughing again at the blundered conversation.
Relearning a lesson
Have you ever felt as though you knew something and then God takes the lesson so much deeper? I really thought I knew that God counts any attempt to respond to His voice a win, but after two failed attempts I realized I needed that truth to sink in a bit more. I needed assurance once again that God is not sitting up in heaven on His lofty and massive throne keeping tally of all the times I hear Him right or wrong.
The Father delights in me. Period. End of discussion. His delight in me is not based on my performance, so it’s unfair to put myself under scrutiny that God refuses to. Of course I want everyone to encounter God. That desire fuels and propels me to keep listening for God’s heart and boldly (or not so boldly) share what I think I hear. However, being right can never be my aim.
The goal is always relationship with the Father and loving people out of that overflow. If my goal is checking off another cool word given on some sort of spiritual calisthenic to-do list, I missed the mark. Therefore, I will keep sharing what I believe His heart is saying.
The times I mishear will never over ride the times I do. If I never try for fear of messing up, I will never get the chance to work along side God to bless people. But if I risk and speak what I think is on His heart and I am correct, people experience the Father’s love. His love is always worth the risk. Always.
A care-filled conclusion
I could have assessed the weeks experiences and decided that I would stop trying to hear Him for others. I could have made the conclusion that I could not hear him and I should stop putting myself in embarrassing positions. I am so glad I did not allow a few set backs to discourage me from continuing on.
By the end of the week I was in a situation again where I was asking God to show me how He saw an individual. I got a funny picture of the person dressed up like Wonder Woman but with a red tutu on. I heard Him say, “She’s my wonder woman.” After the past week and the silly picture, I think it may have been easy to keep quiet and refrain from sharing.
Instead, I decided to go ahead and risk sounding like a fool again. I shared the picture along with some other things God was showing me. In astonishment she began to relay how much what I was sharing was exactly what she needed to hear. She found God’s words so confirming and encouraging. Then she said, “You aren’t going to believe this, but I was dressed up last night for a party as Wonder Woman. I was wearing a red tutu just like you described.”
God’s sense of humor
Isn’t that so fun? God is a total hoot, and I seriously can’t make this stuff up. Following Him is always an adventure. You know, the picture I saw of the tutu toting wonder woman looked just as clear as the other times I was wrong. I wish we could know better and see more clearly, but then I guess we wouldn’t need faith.
My encouragement and blessing for us all is to keep risking, keep moving, keep listening, and keep speaking up in love. There will come a time when we will know for certain and we will see clearly, but we only have this one life to offer God our gift of worship in faith. Let’s give God our gift of faith freely and boldly, even when we are afraid or unsure. I think those kinds of gifts make Him smile.
Share Your Story
Okay, don’t let me be the only one getting real here. What stories do you all have about stepping out and missing it? I can’t be the only one, right? Do you remember a time you thought God was telling you something and you discovered you heard wrong? What did you learn and process with the Lord after that incident?