Some years ago, I felt, out of the blue, that I should write to my middle school English teacher and tell him what a great teacher he was, and what an impact he had on my life. The nagging feeling that I should do so persisted, and I knew it was a good idea, but kept thinking I would do it later. Later never came, as I received word that he had died from cancer. I hadn’t even known he had cancer. I told myself at that time that if I heard that still, quiet voice and knew that I should take action on something that was not sinful, I would do it, not just think about it.
Several months later, I was at church. I attended a different church at the time, and they had a “prayer shawl ministry.” You could go up to the front of the sanctuary and take one of the shawls that were on the front pews and give it to someone who was grieving or going through a hard time. The shawls were made with care by some knitters in the church, and they came with a beautiful tag letting the recipient know that God loved them. One Sunday in church while the pastor was talking about the prayer shawls, I suddenly felt that I needed to give one to “Mary,” a co-worker who was going through a hard time. I don’t remember much else of the service because I spent the rest of it arguing in my head about why it was a bad idea to give Mary a prayer shawl: Mary is not going to want this. You hardly know her; she’s going to think it’s weird for you to give it to her. What are you going to say when you give it to her? What if she thinks it’s stupid? Do you even know her beliefs?
When the service was over, I went up front, where the only shawl left was…yellow. The voices started up again. Yellow? You think Mary is going to want a yellow shawl? Really?
I brought the yellow shawl home and gave it to Mary the next day, along with a hard written card. She was beyond thankful. The following day she gave me a thank you card. She told me that she was starting to lose her eyesight, but the one color she could still see vividly was … yellow.
When I felt the urge to write to my English teacher, I put it off. When I felt the urge to get a prayer shawl for a co-worker, I did it, albeit reluctantly.
Contrast my behavior with the latter part of Acts chapter 8. As you read this, try to picture it in your head. In verses 26-28, an angel told Philip to go to a certain road. Philip went. On this road, Philip saw an Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot reading the prophet Isaiah. Starting in verse 29, we read: The Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Philip, upon being asked about the particular scripture by the eunuch, told him the good news about Jesus. As they saw a body of water, the eunuch asked if there was any reason he could not be baptized. And Philip baptized him! Then Philip was carried away by the Lord, the eunuch went on his way rejoicing, and Philip preached the gospel to all towns.
Philip was told to go to a certain road, and he went. He was told to go join the chariot, and he went. He not only went to the chariot, he RAN.
When I hear that still, quiet voice telling me to do something, do I RUN? Or do I think to myself, oh, that’s crazy, I can’t do that. Or, I’m too busy for that. Or, oh, I must be imaging that.
Lord, please help me to be more like Philip. Help me to listen to that voice. Help me to know what you want me to do by reading and knowing your word and remembering how much you love people. Bring me encounters with people who need to know you. And when these happen, let me run expectantly to them, knowing you are in control. Shut down that voice that holds me back. Lord, I pray this for me, and for all who know you. Amen.