Allowing Circumstances to Speak, Part 1

On a long prayerful walk down the beach under a foreboding sky, the Lord impressed me that we were to sell our Florida home. My heart constricted. Bill and I adored our retreat there, but I “saw” a picture of the sales contract in my mind, with the figure we would sell it for. Part of me did not want to believe that this was God, and I pushed the impression away.  Instantly, a memory from several years before flooded me.

I had been spilling over with enthusiasm telling a friend about our new beach house. Patrice had listened, with a mischievous smile playing across her face that seemed to say, “I know better than you.”  Not to dampen my enthusiasm, but to give me fair warning, Patrice gently explained, “Valerie, you are not going to be in that house for very long, you are preparing it for someone else.” At that time I revolted, refusing to believe that what she said was true.

But now I saw the fulfillment of Patrice’s prophetic impression walking through the door. Tears sprang into my eyes. I stopped and looked out at the water wondering how I was going to let go.  But that memory from years before confirmed that God was speaking to me now, telling me to let go and move on.

When I got back to the house and told Bill, he laughed, assuring me that our little home would never sell for that much. “Go ahead and put it on the market, Baby. At that price I’m confident I’ve got nothing to worry about.” When we received a contract days later, for the exact price I had “seen,” Bill was shocked and disappointed — not wanting to give the house up. But, he allowed the circumstances to speak, quietly acknowledging,  “It must be God,” as he let go of the only place in the world that allowed him to really get away.

Even though our house was sold, I was not willing to let go of that little island in the Gulf. At that time the gorgeous new golf course Bill had recently joined was selling residential property, right off the island across the causeway.  I used every skill to persuade my golf-loving husband to buy one of those lots, intent on keeping a stake there. Less than a year later, the golf course went bankrupt. Our hefty membership fee was lost. Unaware of the developer’s financial collapse, we had just flown in the night before to settle into our charming rental for the week. Bill was putting his clubs in the car and heading for the golf course when his cell phone rang, informing him that the club was closed.  I went numb. Bill was stunned and sick inside.

Beside myself, unable to think or pray, I tried to distract myself from my inner turmoil. Throwing myself into a chair I agitatedly paged through  a magazine until a head-line jumped out at me, “Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should.” I shut the magazine, totally getting the message, but not wanting to.  Just because we had been able to afford that membership and piece of property, didn’t mean we were supposed to do it.  I saw how I had maneuvered to get my way, outside of God’s direction, going after what I wanted.

Softly but sternly,  I heard Him warn me, “Whatever you invest in, outside of My will, I will turn to dust.”

Disconsolate, but not yet fully repentant, I rose from my chair, slipping on my sandals to walk to the bakery for some fresh Ciabatta.  As I waited in line, a friend came in, lighting up as he saw me.  With robust humor and a hug, he laughed,  “Did you hear what happened to the golf course?”

Nodding, without a smile, I wasn’t able to answer before Ed drew his finger tips up to his pursed lips, kissing them with a loud smack, flinging them into the air, announcing with self-effacing gusto, “Just like that,  our memberships are nothing but dustballs now!

It is uncomfortable sometimes, and painfully corrective, but I have learned that If I am going to understand what God is saying to me, I have got to allow engineered circumstances to speak to me.

God was not punishing Bill and me, but He was letting us know in strong language that He was not going to condone our unilateral action in contradiction to His will for us.

* * *

Is This Scriptural?

Many Christians firmly believe that God speaks by His Spirit only through Scripture. They become highly uncomfortable with the suggestion of a divine dialogue taking place through the engineered circumstances of their lives. Unwilling to recognize the thousands of ways God is orchestrating even minute circumstances, they miss the intimacy of His sovereign presence permeating their moments.

Scripture is replete with examples of God engineering events in order to confirm a message He wants us to hear — and we will hear Him, if we are willing to acknowledge His orchestration of those events, allowing circumstances to speak.

God had called Gideon to push back the army of Midian, who, for years, had been coming into Israel with every harvest to steal their food — sending the fearful Israelites into hiding. It was night. Gideon had sent home all but a small band of 300 men, and the camp of Midian lay sleeping in the valley below.

Now the same night it came about that the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands. “But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp,  and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened . . .” So he went with Purah his servant down to the outposts of the army that was in the camp.  Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts . . .   When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, “Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down so that the tent lay flat.” His friend replied, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.”

When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands.”

Judg 7:8-16

The Midianite who was able to interpret his friend’s dream was more in touch with the divine dialogue than many Christians today . . . It is remarkable that he was able to receive what he didn’t want to hear . . . but he was allowing circumstances to speak . . . something most of us are not willing.

* * *

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone is an ancient rock inscribed with an Egyptian decree issued in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. What made The Rosetta Stone a spectacular archaeological find was that the same decree was written in three languages on it: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek.  Linguists who had only a smattering of understanding of hieroglyphics were able to recognize the connection between what they knew of Ancient Greek and the two other languages to begin to translate all three languages with confidence. The Rosetta Stone unlocked the hidden meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphs, because it presented the same message three ways.

The Rosetta Stone has now become a term, widely used in other contexts, to describe the essential clue that unlocks a new field of knowledge.

The field of knowledge I pour myself into is the reality of intimate relationship with God.

The Rosetta Stone is Scripture — the key, the source of every essential clue that unlocks that field of knowledge — intimacy with God.

The divine dialogue is the science of cross-referencing the confluence of languages that are all saying the same thing.

Symbols and dreams, a memory suddenly welling up to flood you with confirmation, prophetic words given to you, that you resist, until they walk through the door and you recognize them . . .  timing,  words that come from God to bring us from where we are to where we are meant-to-be, the finely tuned orchestration of events that speak . . . from Genesis to Revelation Scripture shows us how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob speaks through such things to men — to bring them into intimate relationship with Himself.

This practice, this science, this linguistic exercise of cross-referencing what God is doing and saying is what I call the divine dialogue.

Our ability to do this depends on our submission to Scripture as the word of God, our Rosetta Stone,  the place where He is going to make sense of all the rest that is taking place in our life.

* * *

The Central Symbol of Scripture

 Scripture’s central message is  redemption: God telling all men that He wants to save us from a danger we cannot see but is all too real, that He has made our redemption possible by a means we can only dimly understand, and that redemption has cosmic implications.

The central symbol of Scripture is Israel.  In creating Israel , by orchestrating the events that have become her history, by making her the central figure of Scripture — God’s message of redemption is being written through her unfolding story — not just on paper with ink, but into human history with blood.

In her history, we are meant to see our history.  Her beginning springs from God’s call to Abraham, to bring him from where he was to where he was meant-to-be. Our history with God begins exactly the same way.

Egypt is the symbol of bondage, that period of time in which Israel served as a slave in a land that was not her own. There is an Egypt in each of our lives. Her dramatic exodus is the picture God is giving to each of us — to tell us that He possesses the same saving power, the same intent to liberate us from whatever is operating in our life that is demeaning and destroying who we are yet meant-to-be.

Once we begin to understand “the message” Scripture is bringing us, applying it to our exact circumstances in the moment — every narrative, every picture, every parable becomes “in real time” part of the communication God is speaking to us right where we are.

Sometimes it is warning. Sometimes it is promise. It is almost always corrective. It is utterly revealing, day by day targeting the hidden source of our real problems. . . because what God is trying to tell in any given moment is always, to some extent, redemptive. His communication with us is always working to move us to a “safer” place, a wiser better place, where His best plan for us has a better chance of coming-to-be.  We resist Him at our own loss.

* * *

Being in submission to His will

The ability to understand what God is saying to us — to interpret the confluence of languages and symbols being brought together before us — becomes easy and automatic when we are in submission to His will.

Bill did not want to let go of that home in Florida, but when that contract came in with those exact numbers, he wanted to submit to God’s will — and so, he was able to understand what God was telling us.

I was only willing to submit to God’s will partially.   I was willing to sell the house, but I was intent on keeping a foot-hold on that island.  In looking back, I can see that was not the place God wanted for us in our future, but I couldn’t understand this then, because I was not willing to fully submit to what God was revealing as His will for us.

The worst part of the story is that because Bill allowed me to tempt him into what he knew we shouldn’t do, he ended up paying the most painful price.  He had to pay off a mortgage on a bare piece of sand no-one wants, and to this day pays taxes and fees. When we come out of submission to God, out of submission to His will, out of submission to Scriptural principles — we come out of that “safe” place where we are covered by the power of God.

With all of this said, I look back and I see love.

Yes, I see the strong stern language of God refusing to condone my way instead of His. But I don’t see punishment.  I see consequences. I see God putting up a wall, putting on the breaks, resisting me in the way I wanted to go.  Why? Because He was pulling up our stake in that community to drive it into the ground someplace else . . .

Years later, in a Montana forest far away from that Florida island, every time I look up into the mountains I am flooded with the sense that — I am home.  THIS was the plan meant-to-unfold.

God loves us enough, and cares enough about the plans He has for us, that He will use the strong language of painful consequences and financial loss to bring us from where we were to where we are meant-to-be.

BUT,

we are only going to understand how God is leading us, IF, we are in submission to His will, in submission to His word,  allowing His orchestrated circumstances to speak.

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  1. Seth Barnes says:

    Great stuff! This is so good and so true. I wonder if you could come up and teach our students at the Center for Global Action this sometime? They would enjoy it.

    • Valerie says:

      Hi Seth!

      You honor me…but your students will learn far more by just reading my blog on their own time-frame than from anything I might prepare. I don’t have the focus you have to be able to concentrate and bring it all down a single lesson or book. Every time I try I become so overwhelmed by the amount of material that I feel like I’m drowning!

      Thank you for reading what I write!!! God bless you, my friend!

      Valerie

  2. Tricia says:

    Hi Valarie
    I moved to mt from New York and have wondered why I am here,always wanting to move to Fl ,loving it every yr we went to visit my Dad. This yr he came to stay with us and passed away here in mt. Watching cowboy movies in his room. He also wanted to go back to Fl. I guess this is where I’m suppose to be. Thank you for your story.

  3. Betty Darr says:

    Another beautiful message, Valerie! Thank you for your honesty, your humility, and your willingness to share how God has worked in your life to show His grace and wisdom. I am also one who tends to see more easily in retrospect how God has been leading. So I am amazed at how God is teaching me to trust and submit to His leading through present circumstances and the wisdom and insight of His people along with His Word.

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