This week in church (New Life, Petaluma) was the start of a new series. I was so excited that I was able to attend, as the past few weeks that have gone by I had other commitments, and I had to listen to the message via podcast. I love that I am able to listen to the message via podcast when necessary, but it always feels really good to go and be a part of the service. Sometimes just sitting in the same room with everyone can be an added reminder of how amazing people and life are.
The new series is based on the book of Jonah. The topic: Obedience. I don’t know exactly why, but I found myself slightly antsy, and perhaps a tad bit disappointed... See, thus far, since I started going to church I got really lucky and there were two months of really exciting, fun, topics that were right up my alley. Then came obedience. As I sat through the service listening to Pastor Ron talk about obedience, I had a lot of random thoughts and mixed emotions come up. At the beginning he talked about how if we truly sat there with an open heart then he believed that God would speak to us and let us know where we have fallen off our chosen path. He explained that God doesn’t remind us when we aren’t obedient to be in control or to rub it in, but because he believes that we are better off on this chosen path most of the time, and he attempts to guide us back to that path when we veer off.
So here I was thinking to myself, “Ok, open heart .. I wonder what God is going to say to me...where I am not being obedient in my life?” .... Well one hour later, and I still had no answers. Now a part of me kept thinking through the whole thing, “Oh hmm... maybe there isn’t a thing I do that isn’t obedient...” while still pondering in my head over everything I do and wondering what my message was going to be. Then I thought, “Ha, nothing!” As if I am a saint - yeah - I’ve arrived - oooooooo.k...... OR NOT. But then, how could I sit there for the entire message and not receive the message God was suppose to send me? I mean, surely my heart was open..... wasn’t it? ... Or wasn’t it?
I feel that I have been doing a great job practicing having an open heart since I started going to church, during my daily prayer, and through my gratitude conversations... But the truth is, I still have a lot of practicing to do. As a matter of fact, I can imagine the act of maintaining an open heart is probably a lifetime commitment of ongoing practice. Truthfully, I believe that not having an open heart is exactly what brought me back into a church to begin with. For so many years, I kept my mind sooooo busy, always doing this, doing that, thinking this, thinking that... and never setting time aside to quiet my mind in order to allow myself the opportunity to be guided by something / someone bigger then me. I knew that something in my life was missing, and I knew I needed that something. So I went to church. I wanted to start a relationship with God so I could learn to have an open heart, so I could learn to quiet my mind, so I could learn to be at peace internally, and so I could be open and receptive to what he was offering & through his guidance. So here I am in church, end of service, thinking to myself, “Well how I am I going to know what to fix if I didn’t get the message?”
After coming home and letting it all soak in is when it dawned on me... Maybe I lack in obedience through my inability to hold my heart open and quiet my mind. As much as I thought I have been good at committing to this practice, I actually realize how very difficult it is still for me to just quiet my mind, open my heart and listen, to hear a voice or to sense a sign. And in truth, if I am not doing this, then I am not trusting that he will provide me the strength I need to stay on my chosen path, to make the best decisions, to embark on the journey I was cut out for, to live my true life of purpose. I know there are so many quotes in the bible related to hearing God’s voice, and trusting that he will guide us. One that stood out to me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not
on your own understanding.” —Proverbs 3:5. I don’t know yet how to master this skill, but I do know that I am committed to practicing daily: Creating new habits, one day at a time.