Written by Dan LaValla
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 00:00
One of the main characteristics of living a missional lifestyle is discerning where the Holy Spirit is working and how He wants you to participate in His ministry. Paul teaches in Galatians (5:16ff) as Christians we are to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives and we are to follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. But this is often easier said than done. For Jesus explained to Nicodemus (John 3:8), “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
A case in point, last October (2011), our region experienced an early snowfall. Despite the inconvenient weather, my family woke up Sunday morning and attempted to go to church. Although the snow was rather light (only a couple inches) with a modest coating of ice on our vehicles, I experienced greater opposition than the conditions warranted for getting to church. For example, it was difficult to get our car doors open, I busted a heavy-duty ice scraper, and damaged the windshield wipers so that they would not move. By this point, I lost my temper, said a few choice words I wished I could take back, and made a deriding comment about this is what you get for trying to go to church despite the weather. Feeling convicted, I barked at my family saying, “We’re not going to church; I’m obviously not in the frame of mind for it.”
After calming down, I decided to call a mechanically gifted friend to see if he could give me some assistance repairing my wipers. Upon calling, the sound of his voice was filled with discouragement, something I had never seen or heard from him in the 20-plus years of our friendship. Although he is not a Christian, he rolls with the inconveniences of life better than anyone else I know. However, since the leaves were still on the trees, the weight of the snow brought down several large tree limbs (size of small trees) which were leaning against his garage, truck, and one was threatening his house. Despite the situation, he took the time to explain how to repair the wiper blade; it was rather easy once I knew what panel to remove under the hood and what to tighten.
After I repaired my wipers I felt I should drive the 30 minutes to help my friend. However, I was hesitant because he is a very independent person and while he is very generous in helping others, he doesn’t seem to be comfortable receiving help. I communicated this to my wife and after wrestling for a half-hour decided to go. When I arrived, I was greeted with, “What are you doing here?!” I replied, “In all the years I have known you, I have never seen or heard you as discouraged as you were on the phone this morning. I know you don’t understand this, but I really feel God interrupted me this morning so that I could be available to help you.” Four to five hours later, with chain saws and a Bobcat, we were able to eliminate the risk of severe damage to his garage, house, and truck and the relatively minor damage to his garage would be covered by insurance.
Upon leaving, my friend and his teenage son thanked me emphatically with great relief in their voices. In all the years of our friendship and numerous theological conversations, my friend has moved from being an atheist to an agnostic, but I don’t think any conversation expressed my faith to him as much as being there that day and sharing how God wanted me there for him. During the 30-minte drive home, I apologized to God for losing my temper that morning and said that I wished there was an easier way for me to hear Him. A little while later, I felt a conviction that my life is too busy to hear the more subtle means He uses to get my attention. At the dinner table, I apologized to my wife and sons for my behavior that morning and shared what I learned that day and during my drive home.
Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.