Friday, August 31, 2007

“N” is for Nudge: “Grace Happening People” Know the Nudge of God

This is the eleventh installment of a twelve-week summer series based on the anagram “GRACE HAPPENS,” each letter representing a quality that equips us to be “Grace Happening People.”

I’m the kind of person who needs nudges. When I need to be nudged, God often taps me on the shoulder through books. I used to be a cover-to-cover reader, believing I had to read a book in its entirety before moving on to another. Silly me! Experience has taught me that if I abandon a book midway and move on to another, it is often because God has a gift for me between a different set of covers. This was a wonderful discovery, but even better is the realization that God leads me back to unfinished books—and I open to a page where the words are exactly what I need at that very moment!

I remember my very first eye-opening, awe-inspiring experience of recognizing God’s directing hand in my reading. At the lowest point in my life—in the aftermath of the death of our first child shortly after he was born—God brought hope and healing to me through a book by Joyce Landorf entitled Mourning Song. I had purchased the book in a small Christian bookstore in Marquette, Michigan. I was a novice therapist at the time, in my very first counseling position at Northern Michigan University, and Joyce’s book was one of the first books in my ”professional” library. I bought Mourning Song thinking it would be good to have on hand if I ever work with a client who was in the throes of grief. Little did I know the plans God had for this book.

Mourning Song sat on my shelf collecting dust. I only had enough books to fill three small shelves back then and this one was relegated to the top shelf, awaiting its call to service. One day, following Jason David’s death, I was home alone, feeling overwhelmed with grief, when I suddenly remembered this book—the one I’d purchased in the event that someone else was grieving. I felt God’s nudge to climb up on a chair (probably not the best thing to do, given that I was healing from a C-section!) and retrieve the book, hoping that it would offer some consolation.

When I bought Mourning Song, I knew that it was about grief, but I had no idea Joyce had also experienced the death of her infant son, David. The aching heart she splayed out on the pages of her book was the twin sister of my aching heart. The initial gifts in Joyce’s words were that I was not alone and that my overwhelming feelings were normal. In the midst of my grief, my shattered heart felt enormous relief and a speck of hope that I could somehow survive.
Mourning Song is one of my most prized possessions, as is the personal note from Joyce that I have tucked in its pages—a response to a letter of gratitude I sent her and in which I poured out my grieving heart to an understanding, uplifting, newfound friend.

God continues to surprise and delight me by showing up in books where I least expect the visitation of grace. My hubby and kids tease me because I am never without my yellow highlighter when I read. “What are you highlighting, Mom? Isn’t that a novel?” Yep! God turns up in every genre!

I love the story of Samuel in the Bible. As a young boy, he lived with the priest, Eli, serving in God’s temple. One evening, he heard someone call his name. Thinking it was Eli, he went to him and said,

“Here I am. You called me.”

“I did not call you,” responded Eli. “Go back and lie down.”

Three times Samuel was certain that Eli had called him and he went to him. Then Eli recognized the nudge of God and told Samuel, that it was the Lord calling him and the next time God called, to respond, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3)

I encourage you to have your heart’s highlighter ready for when God’s nudges turn up in the pages of your life. Listen. Listen for the still, small voice of God.

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