By Jenna Ebener
Have you ever had one of those days where things just do not seem to go right? I remember one evening when I could not seem to catch a break. It was getting late and I had to turn around on my way home after forgetting something at a friend’s house. Then, every stoplight was red. At some point, I realized I really should stop for gas so I needed to take a detour. By this time, I was so ready to be home and in bed, but God had other plans.
As I was about to leave, a trucker walked over and asked if I could take him through the drive-through that was next to the gas station. The COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning and fast food restaurants did not allow any patrons inside. Having only a semi-truck, the man could not use the drive-through and was having a hard time getting meals. After hearing his story, praying and listening to my gut, noting the availability of other people nearby to assess safety and receiving his instant agreement to wear a mask, I took the few minutes to take him through the drive-through.
Many things could have happened to prevent that small act of kindness. I could have ignored some of the detours, such as not returning to my friend’s house or not stopping for gas. I could have been so irritated by the constant delays and solely focused on getting to bed. I could have given into fear even though I was as confident as I could be about my safety.
Over the past couple of years, I have noted this repeated pattern of unintended paths paired with initial resistance and fear. Each time I have noticed it for what it is, God directing me to a different path and me saying yes and not regretting the decision.
I have made difficult decisions, such as leaving a church group I was highly involved in due to disagreement around COVID safety measures. I have also made what seemed like even braver decisions, turning towards vulnerability by sharing difficult experiences with trusted friends.
Each time I have followed God’s redirection, I have gained a form of freedom and peace. By leaving the church group, I was able to model how to stand up for your values and then discovered a chance to form an even closer bond with some of the youth participants in that group. After opening up to friends, I found it easier to be my authentic self around them and others.
Following God’s nudges is not always easy. It may take courage to view a situation from God’s eyes. Sometimes the nudges lead us to help others in need. Other times, the nudges may lead us to help ourselves by being vulnerable. Depending on the circumstances, one path may be easier to follow than the other path.
The devil likes to place barriers in our way, especially fear. It can be difficult to sort out rational versus irrational fear at times and to weigh the risk, for there is always some risk. However, the more we follow God’s voice, the easier it is to know when he is calling. When you take that step, when you follow that nudge, God will give you the tools you need to be who he means for you to be.
“‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’ As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, ‘Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me’” (Daniel 10.19).
(Jenna Ebener, a graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with a combination of medical, cognitive and behavior disabilities. She relies on God every day to aid her on this wonderful, yet intense journey.)