This has been a life changing week. I've had a few of those recently, but this one was monumental. It's an amazing thing to feel like you know exactly what you're supposed to do next. And what you're not supposed to do.
That's how God has always communicated with me in my life, when I needed to make an important decision. He doesn't speak audibly, of course. Many times I've wished he would, but then when I read passages in the Bible where God speaks audibly to people, it's not usually a fun experience for the listener. So I'll pass on that for now. I'll wait till I see him face to face.
Often when I'm making an important life decision, God has indicated what he wants me to do either by prospering something I tried, or "checking" me, to use extreme Christianese. Or both. Since I try to avoid the use of Christianese in this blog at all costs, let me try to explain what I mean by that. If you've read my previous post, All Things New, you know what I'm referring to, but you may be unfamiliar with the concept.
In my case, I know what the correct path is by what I have peace about, and what I don't. Right now, I have peace about my decision not to appeal my disability ruling, and I get all tied up in knots when I think about filing an appeal. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that doesn't go away until I think about abandoning it. That's what I mean by a check. Many of you know what I'm talking about.
I don't necessarily think this is an example of being checked by the Holy Spirit, but one story I related to a friend yesterday to illustrate how I feel is from when Colin Powell was being pressured to run for President in 2008.
When Gen. Powell decided not to run, he said that, when he was considering running, every day that he woke up and thought he would run for President, he had a bad day. Every day that he thought he wouldn't run, he had a good day. That's what I mean by following my heart. That's what I mean by a check. When I think about doing what I believe God wants me to do, I have a good day. When I think about appealing, I feel horrible.
Let me give you one brief but extreme example of a very painful check that I received many years ago, and the result. I also shared this with my friend yesterday. This may be a new story to you, even if we're very close. I haven't told this to many people. My parents might not even know about this.
Around 1980, when I was in my early 20's, I was looking for a band. I'm a singer, and I wanted to find a band that was looking for one. A lady at the place I worked at the time told me her son was in a band that was looking for a lead singer. I went and auditioned, and we hit it off. I seemed perfect for them, and they seemed perfect for me. The audition was magic.
A few days later, I went back to them and made my case that I should be their next lead singer. They agreed, and their manager set up a photo shoot for new band promo shots. But as soon as the decision was made, I got the biggest NO from God that I've ever gotten in my life. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. I couldn't think about anything else. I knew what I had to do. I had to go back to this band I had committed to and tell them I couldn't do it.
Do you think what I said made any sense to them at all? No. I might as well have been speaking Martian. "Sorry guys, I know I said I really wanted to be in this band, but now God says I can't." It didn't go well, but after I left, the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I was free. But I still had a hard time understanding why God had said no to that so strongly.
About a year later, the mom of the guitarist who had told me about the opening in the first place came to me in tears at work. Her son, the main guitarist in the band, and my best buddy in the band, the one who believed in me and fought for me to be the singer in the band, had been killed on his motorcycle by a drunk driver. He was in his 20's like me.
His funeral was very sad, as you can imagine. But you can also imagine what was going through my head. I can't say for sure I would have been on that bike with him had I stayed in the band, but it seems all too likely to me, to this day.
That's just one of many examples of how God has spoken to me in that way in my life. My decision on Monday was just the latest. Do you understand now why I pay attention to those checks?
I've also never gone wrong following my heart. As I told one of my beloved sisters in the comments of my CaringBridge journal yesterday, I followed my heart by majoring in music when everyone told me to study something I could fall back on. I followed my heart to Denver from Illinois and Michigan, having no friends or relatives here. I followed my heart quitting my printing job in 1988 and going into music full time. I've never looked back from any of those decisions. I'm at peace with my decision now. There's no way I can go back. Not if I want to be in God's will.
Many have said that I should begin the process of appeal anyway, because if I don't, I'll lose the opportunity to do it later. That may be true, but even by beginning the process, we'd have to live below our means for the entire appeals process. And even typing that sentence brought back that sick feeling.
You might think I'm crazy. You would be correct. But not about this. Crazy would be ignoring God's voice and getting on the back of that motorcycle.
On Monday at dinner, my wife and I had a good discussion of my conclusions from the day. She was the first to tell me that there was no way we could live on what income I'd be limited to if we appealed. When I ran down all of the reasons not to appeal that I laid out in my last post, she agreed. But when I told her that I had realized that I was being checked, that ended the discussion. If God says no, to us, it means no.
So after listening to God, and listening to my heart, not just this past weekend, but since, I still believe in the direction I'm going. I have peace about it. I'm excited to see what God will do.
Have you ever been there? Everyone thinks you should go in one direction, but you strongly feel you should go the less safe route, for reasons you can't explain? If you've ever followed your heart when many others were shaking their head, you know what I mean. But that's how I've lived my life, and I can't stop now.
This approach will also apply to my cancer treatment. I'll listen to all of the smart people, and do my research, but in the end, I must follow my heart. Even if it means going home earlier than you might want. Nobody likes it when their friends leave the party, but we all have to go home sometime.
I said earlier that God speaks to me by checking me, but also by "prospering" something I'm doing. Giving me success at a new pursuit. With this decision, he's doing both. He's telling me no about one direction, but also giving me a big fat yes about this one. I can feel it, but I also see it. It's happening right before my eyes. How can I ignore that?
Since my last post, most have supported my decision, but some have questioned. Some have remained silent. I imagine I'll hear from you when I see you. But as much as I love you and value your opinion, I love God more and trust him more. He's never steered me wrong when I listened to him and followed my heart. That's what I have to keep doing.