I was intrigued by the lady who was parked next to us. She was tiny—much smaller than me—and, in my mind, a bit frail-looking. I kept looking for her companion as she moved in and out of her trailer, but as far as I could tell, she was traveling alone. I was perplexed: As much as I’ve adapted to life on the road, I could not imagine living in a trailer alone. Sure, her rig was smaller than our 28ft Airstream and perhaps easier to tow, but still…I wondered how she handled things alone when they went wrong, like a tire blowing out or something. Even more concerning, what did she do when she was desperate for ice cream, but there was nowhere to park, and she had no one to run into the shop for her? My eyes welled up at the thought.😂
When we finally got to speak, I learned that Jen (not her real name) was a former Marine—one of the comparatively few women to enlist and serve in a combat role. I was stunned. While this may have explained her bravery in traveling the country alone, I couldn’t imagine how this waif of a woman coped with living in a platoon of Marine men. I dated a Marine officer once, and I’m here to tell you, he was intense (even if he looked cute in his crisp uniform and “high and tight” haircut.) As Jen recounted her military experience, it became quite clear to me that “cope” was not the right word to describe her time in the Marines. I soon learned that her frail appearance was not due to a lack of regular ice cream stops but rather due to a lack of peace.
As Jen shared stories of the emotional and sexual abuse she suffered from her peers, it became clear that her GI problems and chronic anxiety were symptoms of that trauma. My heart hurt for her. She was doing what she could to cope: she drank various teas for their healing properties and consumed random concoctions of the foods she could tolerate. She also relied on various new-age practices to settle her spirit. Nonetheless, she continued to suffer. I knew we would offer to pray for her healing, but before we did that, I sensed what Jen really needed was an apology.
I nudged Jeff’s foot under the picnic table, and he jumped into action. What happened next was a moving display of repentance and reconciliation between my husband, a retired full-bird colonel in the Air Force, and a battle-bruised Marine corporal. As Jeff stood in the gap to acknowledge the harm caused to Jen and ask for forgiveness on behalf of every military man who hurt her, Jen was equally stunned and moved. She couldn’t get over the fact that she was hanging out with a colonel, never mind having one apologize to her. Tears rolled down her face as Jeff then started to pray that God would wash away her pain and heal her mind and body. This “chance” encounter—one of the most moving interactions I have ever witnessed—led to the profound healing of a frail and hurting woman sitting at a picnic table in an RV park. I see you, God. 👀
…” Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:16-24)
God is always at work, but he uses us to be His hands and feet now that Jesus no longer walks the earth. This was God’s plan all along. Jesus has commissioned His followers to carry on the work He began. This includes healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons (Matt 10:8), but much of the time, it simply means releasing the Kingdom of God wherever they go. When Jesus said His followers would do everything He did and more, He was serious and counting on it. I wonder how many times in prayer we beg God to help other people when God wants to use us to be the answer to that prayer. This is something Jeff and I take seriously, even if we carry it out very imperfectly. This mandate from God is why the Jen story happened in the first place. What would it look like if we all took that mandate seriously? I wonder how many lives would be changed?
Dear readers, as you make your plans for 2024 and start working toward your goals, I encourage you also to make a goal to look for where God is at work and see how you can partner with Him in that work. To do that, we first have to notice what God is doing. Jesus said he could do nothing of his own accord but only what he saw the Father doing. In other words, whatever the Father was doing, he did likewise. This is good news because it means that we aren’t responsible for helping the whole world; we merely need to pause and see where God is working around us and ask how we can partner with him.
Below are a few suggestions for how to make this happen:
- Before you start your day, ask God to give you eyes to see what he is doing and the wisdom and courage to partner with him.
- As you go about your day, pay attention to what you are paying attention to. In other words, notice what you notice. Perhaps you might notice a family member has come home in a slightly depressed state. Or, maybe your attention is drawn to a person in the grocery store or coffee shop, but you aren’t sure why. As a person who spends a lot of time parked in close proximity to other trailers, I can’t help but notice who is parked next to us. However, not everyone gets my attention. Jen was one of those people who I was immediately drawn to. Side note: If you know that you are a terrible noticer, ask God to help you with that. We are not meant to live in our own little worlds, oblivious to what’s going on around us.
- Once you notice your noticing, ask God to show you what he is doing. Ask him for eyes to see and ears to hear. You may need to engage in conversation with the person to get more clues. As I chatted with Jen, it first became obvious that she needed physical healing, but when I leaned in closer, I could see that God wanted to bring deeper healing to her heart. Her pain and trauma needed to be acknowledged (especially by a man in leadership) and repented for. I knew that it was no accident that we were parked next to Jen: the significance of the military connection and the power difference between them became obvious.
- Ask God what he wants you to do. This step needs a warning label on it: Be prepared to be inconvenienced or frightened, or both. God may ask you to interrupt your plans to get in and out of the grocery store as fast as you can. He may prompt you to leave an extra $50 tip for your server—money you don’t feel like you can afford. He may ask you to rub your spouse’s feet when you’d much rather sit in the bath with your book. He may prompt you to pray for someone you don’t know. Or, worse yet, he may ask you to pray for someone you know really well, and it feels weird because you know they are far from God. I completely understand why you might object to any of the above. I’ve been there. However, I assure you that if God asks you to act, he will provide everything you need (including the words to say) to do it.
- Ask God to help you. Here’s the best news: Jesus promised that he would give us his Holy Spirit to help us do his work (John 14:16). You are not doing God’s work on your own. The Holy Spirit is there to help you and teach you all you need to know. God’s gracious like that. 😜
- Step out in faith and watch God work through you. Sure, you may make a mistake or find out that you got it wrong. However, God will be jumping up and down like a parent who watches their baby take their first step and then proceeds to fall. He will be shouting, “That’s my boy! That’s my girl. I am SO proud of you.” With encouragement like that, you will be walking in no time.
I would LOVE to hear from you if you have had an experience of unexpectedly working with God or if you plan to commit to doing so in the future: put a 👍🏻 in the comments.
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