You know how they say, “Be careful what you pray for”? Well, whoever “they” are, they’re right.
Last week was a bit of a crazy week. Let me fill you in…
Years ago, I did quite a little bit of speaking at banquets, seminars, and retreats. But God suddenly (and not pleasantly) changed all of that for me. (Long story!) Since then, I’ve done a banquet here and there when I felt like I had God’s green light. I’ve been praying some in the last several months for Him to use me again, to give me opportunities to speak or preach if He thought that’d be cool. I’ve just been patiently waiting, not wanting to put myself out there publicly. Just trusting in His plan, His timing, His ways if He wanted to use me.
So back to last week…
My next-door neighbor texted me on Monday morning and told me his dad had passed away the evening before. I knew his dad as well and we exchanged a few texts and that was that.
On Tuesday morning, while on my walk, I was listening to a sermon (which is my usual workout routine—I know, it’s weird). For whatever reason (not coincidental as you’ll see later), I decided to walk a route I never take. Pretty soon I see my neighbor’s mom walking toward me with her dog. Yes, my neighbor’s parents live just down the street. So, as I’m approaching her I’m thinking, “Oh boy! I need to extend my sympathies to her, but I look like a hot mess, I’m not in the mood, I really don’t want to talk to her.” But…I did. I knew it was the right thing to do. So, I pushed pause on the sermon, took my headphones out, and we chatted a bit. She was a little teary and I could tell she wasn’t up for a long visit in the middle of the street. As we turned to part ways, I said to her, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” (Which…I meant…sorta…or not.) It was one of those comments that we say all the time. But do we really mean it?
We went our separate ways. But when she got about two driveways down, she hollered back at me, “Beth! Yes, there is! There is something you can do!” At this point I had no idea what that could be. We came back together, and she told me how she had been trying to get ahold of an old chaplain friend to do the funeral for her husband. She explained that they had quit going to church years ago and she simply didn’t know who to ask. I offered to get her in touch with one of the pastors at my church. She went on further to say this gentleman used to attend Antioch Community Church. “Oh,” I said, “that’s a great little church. Wonderful people there. Very warm and inviting. I’ve preached there on the occasions when their pastor has been out of town.” (Now, honestly, my intent in telling her this was to talk up this church thinking maybe she might decide to get back into church when the dust settled for her.)
She did a double take and said, “You’re a preacher?” And before I could say no and explain myself, she said, “Oh Beth, will you do Don’s funeral? You’d be perfect! You know us. It would really mean a lot to us.” And then here came the tears. (At this point, I’m thinking, “Oh my, what have I done?”) In my mind I thought it wouldn’t really happen. I thought she’d get ahold of her chaplain friend. I thought I’d be off the hook. I thought how I’ll never say the words, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you” ever again.
I put back on my headphones, turned on the sermon, and went on the rest of my walk. Totally zoned out to what I was listening to. Totally having a serious conversation with God. “Should I do this funeral? I’ve never done a funeral before. Is this from You? Is this what You want me to do?” And again, the haunting thought revisited me… “Oh my goodness, what have I done?”
I knew I couldn’t sort all of it out on my walk, or make any determination, so I tuned back into the sermon that had been playing in my ears for the last several minutes, but I hadn’t heard a word of. Right then, this is what the preacher said, “365 days a year we get the opportunity to serve and love on people we encounter—those people God places in our midst.”
No joke, that’s what he said.
At that moment I knew I had to say yes to doing the funeral. But oh my! I didn’t know the first thing. All I knew was God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. (Firm believer in that now, by the way.)
As soon as I set foot in my front door from walking, my neighbor called and said, “Beth, thank you so much for agreeing to do dad’s funeral. Bless your heart. That’s awesome.”
I hadn’t agreed to anything, but there it was. I said, “Sure thing. My pleasure.”
I ended up doing the funeral. And when I say I did the funeral, I did the whole thing. Welcome, introduction, obituary reading, scripture reading, message, prayer…everything.
Curiously, a common thing among people who pray (myself included), is to miss the connection between what we pray and what happens next. When I asked God to use me again, to give me opportunities to speak or preach if He thought that’d be cool, I failed to connect these dots initially.
Here’s the thing…Prayer isn’t intended for us to convince God of what we think He should do for us. (Although we’d like to have it this way.) No, prayer is the method God uses to lay His heart over ours.
That’s it. That’s the deal. God moves, He orchestrates, He uniquely lets His desire be known to us. We just need to get ourselves clued in.
I guess we have two choices. Either be careful what we pray for or pray big, mighty things and make the connection between what we pray and what happens next.
And if you ever say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you” pay attention, because God may be at work preparing you for the unexpected.