God had brought the three of us together, Grace, Kim and I, for the summer quarter of our second year of seminary. I don’t recall exactly how we met, I think it was a Spiritual Formation and Discipleship class. Wherever it was, the three of us just clicked. Kim was married, working in ministry and visiting from Arizona. She was just on the main Southern California campus of our seminary for the summer. Grace was working on her MDiv. She would be an ordained minister in her denomination once she graduated. I had just come to the realization that the passion for youth ministry that had brought me to seminary had been forever quenched. I was committed to finishing my degree but what God would use it for was a question for which I had no answer. Since we were only together for a few short weeks we not only met up to work on class projects, we also met up for prayer.
The final days of the quarter were winding down and we scheduled a final time to meet. We sat in a small lounge just outside of Travis Auditorium. After sharing our burdens with one another we held hands and began an intense time of prayer. It was one of those prayer sessions where time seemed to be held in abeyance. I have no idea how long or short it was. We were all just immersed in prayer.
As Kim was praying, when her prayers were for me she used words like heat and warmth. When she prayed for Grace, she used words like soothing, cooling balm. When we finished praying she said, “Chris, your hand is so hot! I couldn’t help but notice the difference between your hand and Grace’s hand. Does it feel hot to you?”
Until she said that I hadn’t noticed. My right hand was significantly warmer than my left. I remember resting it on my thigh and feeling the heat radiate through my jeans.
“You need to pay attention to that,” she said. “God may be trying to tell you something.”
I didn’t give it much more thought but a few days later Kim called to say her final goodbyes. She was heading back to Arizona. She asked me if I had thought any more about my “hot hand.” I told her the only thing that had come to mind was that maybe it had something to do with writing. I had always liked to write and one of my childhood dreams was to one day write a book. Kim encouraged me again to seek God and ask Him more about it.
A few more days passed as I let her words and encouragement sink in. Finally, one night I asked the Lord if He would give me a verse that would tell me if writing was what He wanted me to do. I was somewhat new to communicating with Him in such an intimate way. I wasn’t sure if I would know how to hear from Him if He was going to give me such a direct answer. But, almost as soon as I asked Him the question, I sensed in my spirit that He wanted me to look up Habakkuk 2:2.
Habakkuk?! I wasn’t sure I even knew exactly where that was in the Bible. Eventually I found it and took a deep breath as I turned the page to chapter 2. I was hoping that what I heard in my spirit was correct. As my finger moved down the page my heart nearly leapt out of my chest as I read, “And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2
Could He have been any clearer? “And the LORD answered me: Write!” I remember slipping down off the couch to my knees. I had no words for Him, only tears.
I called Kim the next morning and told her what God had shown me. I thanked her for her encouragement and for her attention to my “hot hand” that day. Without that, I don’t know when or if I would have been moved to seek the Lord and ask what He had for me to do. But now, I was suddenly on a new course. I felt a new sense of purpose, a renewed energy. Youth ministry was NOT my calling. I was a writer! God was calling me to write.
It wasn’t long after that I submitted my first article to a Christian magazine. I wrote about an experience that I had as a high school basketball player. It was accepted, but part of the agreement was that the publisher could edit the submission as needed. I eagerly waited for that issue to be released. I couldn’t wait to see my words in print. But what was published was almost unrecognizable. It was my story alright, but it was told with someone else’s words. It was a small victory and yet a big disappointment.
It was around that same time that I remember attending a “Women of Faith” conference. It was the first time I had ever been to anything like it. Seeing these Christian women writers on stage in front of thousands, sharing their stories of faith, selling their books, signing autographs during the breaks… I was star struck, absolutely in awe. This was it! This was my calling! I was imagining myself on that stage. I had no idea how I would get there but in my mind I was ready!
It didn’t take long for reality to sink in. I still had to make a living, still had bills and a mortgage to pay. It was clear I couldn’t make a living writing articles. And I hadn’t nearly enough content to even come close to writing a book at that point in my life. So, while the dream was very much alive and well the truth was, no one was calling me up onto a stage anywhere to talk about anything. And so I waited.
I went to writer’s retreats and continued to attend “Women of Faith” conferences. I volunteered to help a couple of Christian women writers/speakers in order to soak up as much knowledge, wisdom and experience from them as I possibly could. I did some writing of my own, but very little. I was beginning to understand that my dream of being on stage was a bit premature. There was a lot I had to learn. And so I waited.
Eventually I got a promotion at work and had less time to volunteer. I had not given up the dream to write but my schedule didn’t allow much time for it. I was doing a whole lot of speaking at work but it was no “Women of Faith.” I was teaching small groups of people how to prevent crime, how to prepare for disasters, and how police officers and city employees needed to be organized during critical events. My ministry time was reduced to leading a small life group in my home, leading Bible studies, and helping fellow believers navigate life. I went on my own journey of spiritual transformation, asking God to help me understand more deeply His love for me. And so the idea of being a writer and sharing those writings with others seemed even further away. I needed to wait some more.
If there was ever a ballot for the patron saint of waiting, my vote would be for Joseph of the Old Testament. Now here was a man who had to wait for his dreams to be fulfilled. Just this week I came across this passage in Psalm 105 about Joseph. It says,
“He (God) called for a famine on the land of Canaan, cutting off its food supply. Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character. Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free; the ruler of the nation opened his prison door. Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household; he became ruler over all the king’s possessions. He could instruct the king’s aides as he pleased and teach the king’s advisers. ” Psalm 105:16-22
If you are unfamiliar with Joseph’s story, I encourage you to read it. (Genesis 37-50) In a nutshell, Joseph was one of Jacob’s youngest sons and his favorite. As a teenager, Joseph had dreams that revealed one day he would be in authority over his whole family. He naively shared those dreams with his father and brothers which just lit a match to the fuel of jealousy his brothers already felt towards him. On one occasion, when Joseph is sent by his father to go out and check on his brothers, they sell him into slavery and lie to their father telling him that he had been eaten by a wild animal.
Meanwhile, Joseph was taken to Egypt and became a slave of Potiphar, the Captain of Pharoah’s guards. While in his household, Joseph rose up through the ranks eventually becoming the superintendent of the household. Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph and when he denied her sexual advances she framed him for rape and he was sent off to prison.
While in prison, Joseph again excelled in the responsibilities he was given. He was eventually placed in charge of the other prisoners and at one point interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants. Both interpretations came true. He asked the one to remember what he had done for him once he was released so that he too might be released. But more than two years passed before Pharaoh had dreams that no one else could interpret. Only then was Joseph summoned from his prison cell. With the help of God, he interpreted the dreams and gave Pharaoh wise and sound advice as to how to handle the coming famine that the dreams predicted.
Just as it says in Psalm 105, it was when Pharaoh sent for Joseph that he was finally freed. He was made second in command in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. He went from favorite son, to slave, to prisoner, to Egypt’s Vizier. But it didn’t come quickly or easily. It was 13 years from the time he was sold into slavery until he was freed. It was another 9 years before his brothers arrived in Egypt looking for food for their families. As they came to this powerful Egyptian Vizier they had no idea it was the brother they had once sold into slavery. But Joseph recognized them immediately, and finally, that teenage dream of Joseph ruling over his family came true.
The verse that really stood out to me when I read this Psalm was verse 19, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.” (New Living Translation) In the original Hebrew language, it says, “Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of Yahweh tested him.” Theologians have differing views on the first half of the verse. Some believe it is speaking about the interpretations of the two dreams that Joseph gave of his fellow prisoners. Others say it is the dream that Joseph had himself as a young boy. Either interpretation draws the same conclusion. Joseph had to wait. He had to wait to be freed from prison. He had to wait for the dream of being a ruler even over his own family to come true. And while he waited, God was at work testing, proving, and preparing Joseph for precisely the dream that He had given him. Not a moment of Joseph’s journey was wasted. God knew the end goal and He knew what Joseph needed in order to get there.
Theologian and biblical commentator Charles Spurgeon writes regarding this verse, “God has his times, and his children must wait till his ‘until’ is fulfilled. Joseph was tried as in a furnace, until the Lord’s assaying work was fully accomplished. A delayed blessing tests men, and proves their metal, whether their faith is of that precious kind which can endure the fire. …If the vision tarry it is good to wait for it with patience.”
I’m sure Joseph never thought for a moment that being sold into slavery by his own family members was going to be a part of God’s plan for him… but God was sending him to Egypt ahead of the famine. I’m sure he never thought he would live life as a slave… but God used that circumstance to give Joseph responsibility and test his character. I’m sure he never thought he’d be falsely accused of rape by his master’s wife and imprisoned… but God used that experience to deepen Joseph’s capacity for mercy and grace that he would need to help feed starving multitudes, not to mention his very own brothers. Joseph had no idea what he needed to endure to prepare him for what was ahead of him… but God did. Can you imagine if God would have told him the prerequisites? Would Joseph have been as motivated to fulfill that dream knowing what was going to happen?
Looking back now at when God first called me to write my lack of maturity, lack of humility, and lack of spiritual depth are glaringly obvious. I don’t know what I thought I would write and speak about back then. I can see now that I was attracted to those “Women of Faith” type events for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t about sharing God’s love or His Word with people who needed it to hear it. It was about me! I shudder now to even think about my attitude back then.
Now that I’m retired, I’m just beginning to write again and God has given me a few occasions to speak about His amazing work in my life. I am just relishing in the fact that after the many years of waiting I am beginning to experience what I had always dreamed of doing for Him. I would have never believed the path God was taking me on would lead me here, but He knew.
- He knew my ego needed to be put in check by having my first published story told in someone else’s words.
- He knew that I needed amazing, godly women to be my writing and speaking mentors, to teach me how to minister to others through not only my words but my actions.
- He knew I needed to learn and practice my ability to speak to groups of all ages, so he gave me more that 20 years to speak and train thousands of people, one small group at at time.
- He knew I needed a deeper understanding of Him and His love for me, and He gave me the experience, the tools, and yet another godly woman mentor to guide me through the process.
I’m still not sure what God’s entire plan looks like for me. I’m not sure I’ll fully know until I’m with Him in heaven and we’re looking back on my life together. But that verse in Psalm 205:19 just reminded me of how much He knows and how little I know. He truly does know the plans He has for all of His children, and He will prepare and equip us to fulfill them. As Spurgeon said, we just need to wait till His “until.” It won’t happen before then and chances are good it will look nothing like we thought it would.
This whole reflection on waiting made me turn back to Habakkuk 2. I love what the very next verse says, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3) Our dreams may seem slow to us. But from God’s perspective, everything is on time, in His time, once He decides our “until” has arrived.
Lord, how often we forget that you know our future. You know the plans you have for us and the calling on our lives. We have our own grandiose ideas and imagine those plans coming together in a certain way. Lord, remind us of our ignorance. Give us the ability to trust you more and recognize that every circumstance in our life can be used by you to bring about your plan for us. Thank you for your faithfulness, Father. Thank you for your patience. Give us that same patience as we wait to fulfill the dreams you have planted in our hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.