I remember it so clearly. I was living in Sydney at the time, and had come home to Auckland for my uni break. I was sitting in church, my 'future husband' was on stage playing in the band and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as if God had literally sat down next to me and told me. I was so sure it was one of those 'inner convictions' that people had been telling me about.
So, when faced with the prospect of two years long-distance I didn't baulk. When it came to sacrificing my dream of moving to England after my studies and going home to New Zealand instead, I didn't hesitate. I thought it was a small price to pay to be with the husband God had picked out for me. So I ignored the non-Christians who said I shouldn't move, I embraced the Christians who said "when you know, you know", I made the leap…
And got dumped.
I think it's safe to say my holy-talkie wasn't quite tuned in to the right frequency on that one.
Finding an Explanation
So I tried to rationalise. Clearly my discernment wasn't up to scratch, I should pray for more of that. Maybe I was just too young and stupid. Maybe I just needed to practice more, get a few success stories under my belt before making life-changing decisions based on my 'convictions.' Maybe I should have prayed with people who God actually speaks to.
I tried telling myself that God wanted me in New Zealand and He wanted me to be single. I considered the other things that would have brought me home and thought maybe the heartbreak was actually the least painful option. But painting God as the manipulative puppet-master playing games with my life didn't quite sit right either.
Eventually I landed on the thought that maybe I just got it wrong. Maybe hearing from God wasn't as much of an exact science as I had hoped.
This was the scariest of the options because it shakes the very foundation of our faith. Because how can we build a relationship with God based on communication that we can't be 100% sure about? The reality is, I felt that as strong as I've felt anything that God has ever supposedly told me. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do. Then suddenly I found myself throwing a pity-party with my journal:
"I thought I made the right choice. I thought I felt a conviction from God. Now it's all turned upside down and I'm wondering what else I was wrong about."
A Community of Prayer
Then we get into the tricky area of praying over someone else. I'll be honest, this isn't something I do often. I will pray for someone as encouragement or for something specific that they need prayer for, but I'm not the one that will come to you with a word or a vision for your life.
Maybe I'm a selfish prayer, but underneath it all I'm just scared. Scared of getting it wrong, scared of what impact that might have on someone and scared God won't speak to me at all.
A friend of mine was being prayed for at a healing service, where she was told that her eyesight was healed and she should throw her glasses into the ocean. Being the obedient, trusting Christian she was she did just that. The excitement soon wore off when she crashed her car on the way home and had to explain to the police officer why she couldn't see properly.
I think there is a fine line between confidence and pride. There are people that I know whose discernment I trust completely, but any authority must also be carried with humility. When you're praying over someone you are essentially stepping into their relationship with God and it's a position that needs to be treated with care.
Positive affirmation is one thing, but you start playing a dangerous game when you try to influence someone's life without taking into account what God might be trying to say to them directly.
I love it when someone comes to me with a word and starts with 'this may not resonate with you but I feel God is saying…' To me this simple statement acknowledges my own relationship with God and sets up a dialogue where we can work together to understand what it might actually mean for me.
Turning up my Hearing-Aid
At the end of the day, God speaks to us in all sorts of different ways and it's never going to be black and white. As a cynical, over-analyzing perfectionist this will probably always frustrate me. I hate not being in control, and I hate getting things wrong even more. But I am grateful to be a part of a community that continually encourages me to explore, to take risks and yes, to make mistakes.
I have been learning that God speaks to me more and more through hindsight. In the times when I knew where I was going and the times that I didn't, whether I got it right or wrong, I can still look back and see God working in my life.
From that one story of heartbreak has come so many stories of success, growth, even joy. That alone gives me the courage to keep stepping out, even when I'm not sure I've heard right. I can't let my mistakes hold me back forever.
Sometimes I just want God to come down, whisper in my ear, grant me three wishes and give me a high five on the way out. I wish He could give me a road map to point me in the right direction. But at some point you just have to close your eyes, take that next step and trust that even if you've got it wrong, someone will be there to catch you if you fall.
I guess that's why they call it faith.
Casey Murray works in marketing for a company that sells nail guns, where she eats large amounts of chocolate and wears pretty dresses in an attempt to avoid becoming 'one of the boys.' In her spare time she likes having inappropriate conversations with friends and writes to try and make sense of it all.
Casey Murray's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/casey-murray.html