I suppose the most obvious time would be in the year after Hurricane Katrina. Paul was the managing editor of the newspaper and he, along with 4 others from the paper, stayed behind. In the weeks and months that followed, things at the office went sour. Morale fell, mostly because the employees at the paper never got so much as a "thank you" for staying and keeping the newspaper (literally) afloat. They never missed a day of publication, even though in the aftermath of the storm many found that they'd lost virtually everything. The publisher, who couldn't even be found after the storm, took credit where it was not hers to take, and eventually people started a mass exodus from the newsroom. Paul updated his resume and we joined the others in a new job search.
Months passed. Nothing came up. Paul is one of the best writers. Ever. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He has won too many awards to even attempt to count. His columns will send you over the emotional edge. His stories captivate you. He is, in short, amazing.
But nothing. An interview here. An email there. But in the end....nothing.
What was God trying to do? What was He trying to tell us? And were we so incredibly bull-headed that we couldn't hear? We prayed. We really were seeking God and His will for months. We had asked others to pray as well. We desperately needed answers. We needed a plan. (There I go with the planning again...)
We have a friend...I'll call him Ashley. Ashley is not one to mince words or sugar coat anything. He is blunt and to the point. What makes him so great is that he is one of those men that stands up for Jesus and for what is right no matter what. He has the faith of one of the Hebrews 11 guys. Really. Everyone knows that if you want someone to really pray for you, ask Ashley. It was a well known fact that he would get down on his face in his office to pray. Now that is the kind of person I want interceding for me!
Well, Ashley had been
A: "So how is Paul?"
J: "Not good. (start crying. pregnant, hormones, heat...)He can't find anything and he's getting depressed."
A: "What's the status of his seminary application?"
J: "It's still sitting on the kitchen counter. I don't think he's filled it out yet."
A: "So your house is repaired now from the storm. The market is good. You could sell your house for a profit and move to New Orleans and he could go to school full time."
(at this point, I'm wondering if he doesn't notice that I'm 6 months pregnant, or that we have 2 young boys, or that I'm pregnant, or that New Orleans, especially the part that the seminary sits, was under water for weeks growing mold. Or that I'm pregnant.)
J: "Ummm, no. We aren't moving to New Orleans. I'm pregnant
(here's where you'd better hang on...)
A: "OH!!! So this is all about you and what you want....."
A: "I'm just sayin' that you and Paul surrendered to ministry but you guys haven't done anything to pursue that and maybe this is God's way of getting you to it. Think about it."
I went home, emotionally spent. Did I mention that the context of this entire conversation was around a table during our church-wide study of Blackaby's "On Mission with God"?
I called Paul and told him we needed to talk as soon as he got home. We talked and prayed and decided we'd leave it in God's hands. Nothing else was working out. Why not?
Monday morning, the seminary told us we'd have to drive over and hand deliver the application. We did. We toured the campus. We met a wonderful family that was doing the same thing -- uprooting it all in the name of "doing God's will", whatever that meant. Paul found a job teaching journalism at a local high school. Doors opened. Not just opened....they flew open. 24 hours after we knelt with our realtor and prayed that if God really wanted us to move to New Orleans, He'd make a way, our house sold. For a profit. After one showing.
In an instant, we saw our lives through a different lens. Everything had changed. We saw all those jobs that Paul didn't get as prayers that were answered fully, mercifully, and gracefully. We wondered where God was all that time. He was right there with us, guiding us and steering us to what would become such a major turning point in our lives. He was waiting on us all that time....He was waiting on us to submit to Him and His plan.
In an instant, we saw our circumstances as not so dim. No, they actually seemed exciting. It amazed us (and still does) that God wanted to use us to fulfill a portion of His plan....no matter how small our part may be, we had one! Our lives went from one extreme of feeling insignificant and unworthy in the job market to one of honor and privilege -- that the God of the universe would use our family for His glory...
Never underestimate the power of praying for wisdom, discernment, and insight. And never, ever underestimate the power of intercession. God can (and does) use other people -- people that you aren't expecting -- to deliver news, messages, and a glimpse into His heart.
You just have to listen.