This is a story about answered prayer. Take it as you will.
Something great and unexpected happened today, and thanks to it I've been inspired to write about prayer, which has been on my mind quite a lot in 2016. But before I can get to what happened today, I need to start with what happened during the first quarter of this year.
Back in December I quit my part-time job and willingly re-entered the danger zone of full-on unemployment. I didn't know what I was going to do and I couldn't be sure when something better would come along, but I knew I needed to quit so I did. Predictably, I overestimated my ability to withstand complete uncertainty and consistent rejection, and December, January, and February had me in a really low place. To my surprise I actually got an interview for a program in Japan, but I was so overwhelmed by how inadequate and inept I felt that after panicking for three days straight I backed out and cancelled. February was probably the worst month, now that I think about it. While I was greatly distressed, however, I was also learning a lot about faith. I'd started going to a new church in the fall, on New Year's Day I started a Bible In One Year reading plan, and then in February I joined my new church's praise and worship team. I've been a Christian my whole life, but since graduating from college I'd become bitter, doubtful, and despondent about many things. So through these habit changes I began to confront how I thought about myself, about life, about what I've been given and what I should do with it, about church, and about the Word itself.
The praise and worship thing was short-lived (maybe I'll go back soon). But before one of the services that I sang in, I heard a prayer that changed my life. During before-service prayer on February 28th, Paster Sewell prayed passionately about people who'd become bitter and cold-hearted due to life's disappointments, and about people who believe in God's power to transform and bring good things to others' lives but don't believe the same for their own. He kept repeating, "Soften our hearts, Lord. Open our eyes. Open our ears." He also prayed for all the unemployed in that sanctuary, encouraging us to ask God to give us jobs and place us where He sees fit. And I hunched over in my seat with head bowed, hands folded, and eyes closed, crying because I'd realized, Oh my goodness. He's talking about me. I am that hard-hearted person. I had plans to sing at the Music Hall Jazz Cafe jam session later that evening, and as usual I contemplated chickening out. But in that moment I prayed harder than I ever remember praying before, asking God to soften my heart, to give me direction, to open me up to what he's trying to say, to give me the courage to use the gifts He's given me as a vessel for all the good things that He wants to bring to people within my reach. After that, service was beautiful and I followed through at the jam session. That was enough for me, and I thought that was the end of it.
The very next day, Monday the 29th, I got an email from a nearby company that I'd applied to work for but then forgot about. The HR rep told me that the position that I applied for was no longer available, but there was a different position that they wanted to consider me for if I was interested. She interviewed me over the phone the next day, March 1st. The following Wednesday, I went in for an in-person interview. They called me the next day, March 10th, to tell me I was hired. And then my first day was on March 28th. For over 9 months I'd been applying and agonizing over finding full-time work, and exactly 1 month after I prayed that prayer, I had a job. Never directly applied for it, didn't submit a cover letter or references, didn't even know it existed until the HR rep contacted me. And now here I am, employed.
I tell this story to say this: Follow through. Seek guidance and follow through. Maybe you'll follow through and all you'll get out of it is being able to say that you did it. Or maybe you'll follow through and something extraordinary will happen, like it did for me. Either way, whatever you've been putting off, whatever might be uncomfortable or painful but that you know in your heart of hearts will be for your own good, pray about it and then do that thing. God is a provider who blesses preparation, but you have to follow through.
(Don't worry, I'm going to bring this back full circle. Got another prayer to write about, and then I'll let you know all about what happened today. Stay tuned!)