Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jump Off A Cliff

Real life always jolts me out of the dream worlds I create for myself. In my dream world, I am the perfect witness, always going about the Lord's business and always saying just the right thing at the right time.

So I was driving along the highway, heading home from a road trip, and it was just me and the Lord. I was disappointed in myself, because that weekend, I had met with my former piano teacher with the express purpose of giving her the gospel, and I had kept my mouth shut. I KNEW that God had opened the doors for the encounter to take place, and I KNEW that I was supposed to witness to her. In an hour-long conversation, I never once brought up the real issue. I skirted it and evaded it, waiting for "the right moment," telling myself it just "wasn't right yet," and saying, "Just a little more small talk." And then it was time to go, and it was too late.

I was kicking myself. All my pep talks to myself had done no good. I could have had this glorious testimony of how I opened up my mouth to speak, and now I didn't even know when I would see her again. We lived 13 hours apart. Why had I blown it? I was so discouraged I wanted to cry. I felt like God would never be able to use me. With this track record, I thought I would probably never speak up. Going into the meeting with her, I had prayed so hard and wanted it so hard. The fact that I didn't speak made me doubt whether I ever would, since I couldn’t imagine praying harder or desiring more strongly that souls would be saved. Afterwards, the Lord prompted me to call her up and say it on the phone, but I repressed that feeling, too.

All this was going through my mind as my rental car skimmed along the highway. The Lord brought into my mind a picture, a memory, of a day when I was about 12 and we went to a place we called "The Pools." It was a beautiful mountain stream that spilled from one deep, round pool to another. You could slide down little waterfalls into the pools or jump off a high rock into the biggest pool. My 12-year-old self was a little afraid to jump off the rock, but my cousin did it so many times and obviously enjoyed herself so much that I finally worked up the courage to do it. I walked up to the edge and was ready to jump, but I lost my nerve. I backed up and tried again, but stopped myself again at the last moment. I returned to the "safe ground" and felt better, regained my courage, and tried again. When I finally jumped, the feeling was so exhilarating that I burst up out of the water with a shout of pure delight, and then I did it over and over again.

Jumping off the rock is like picking up the phone and calling your piano teacher, the Lord whispered to me.

"Ohhhh!" I thought. The wheels of my mind started turning and things started clicking. "What I really wanted to do was speak to her," I thought. "Soulwinning is the thing above all others that I really want to begin to do. But just like I wanted to jump off the rock and didn't at first, something is keeping me back from soulwinning. What is it, Lord? What gives? I don't think it's fear. I don't think I'm afraid to witness. I know how to share the gospel. I'm not afraid I won't know what to say. So what is keeping me from it?"

And in his most excellent teaching style, perfectly suited and tailored to individual little me, he proposed an exercise which would reveal the answer.

"Ask yourself this question," he proposed. "Ask yourself, 'Would I pick up the phone and call her right now?'"

I asked myself the question, phone in hand. Immediately, an excuse came into my mind. "I don't have free cell phone minutes right now, so it's not a good time."

"Now," the Lord guided me, "weigh that excuse in the balance. Weigh the pennies it will cost you to make the phone call against the value of her eternal soul."

"Oh." I thought. "Right. What will the phone call cost? Not even close to five dollars. So that excuse goes out the window."

"Ask yourself again," the Lord said.

"Okay. The question remains before me. Would I pick up the phone and call my teacher?" Immediately, an excuse came to my mind. "You're driving, and it's not a good idea to talk on the phone while you're driving. Besides, you don't even know if it's legal to drive and talk on the phone in this state."

I weighed that excuse in the balance. I had already talked to Mom twice on the phone. I simply put it on speakerphone on my lap and had no inconvenience at all. I also knew that if the phone rang again, I would not hesitate to answer it and talk to whoever called. So that excuse had to go out the window, too.

Now, Rebekah," I said to myself, "The question still stands. Would you pick up the phone and call your teacher right now?" Immediately, an excuse came to my mind. "She might not pick up."

"Rebekah!" I scolded myself. "It’s shameful how instantly you come up with excuses. I think this one must be the stupidest of all. If she doesn't pick up, then it lets you off the hook from having to talk to her, so what's the point of making an excuse that would accomplish the same objective?" And I tossed that excuse out the window.

"The question, therefore, still stands before you, weightier than ever. Will you call your teacher right now?" Immediately, an excuse came to mind. "She might not listen."

"Notice," I exclaimed to myself, "How readily you come up with excuses! Immediately they spring to your mind. Now this one doesn't even merit much consideration. Long ago I had it settled that there is no such thing as speaking the gospel in vain. Whether she listens is not the point. The point is, WILL YOU call her?"

This process went on for probably 6 or 7 excuses, all of which turned out to be stupid, false fronts, smoke screens, or bluffs. Finally, the excuses stopped coming. I even hunted around for another excuse and couldn't find one. (The scary thing is, up until that day, a single one of those excuses would have sufficed to defeat me. I would have simply accepted it as a good reason without any evaluation at all.)

When the flow of excuses stopped, I faced a sobering reality. "Rebekah, will you call your teacher? Because if the answer is no, you’ll have to face up to the fact that it stems exclusively from fear. You are afraid to do it."

Now, you have to understand my background regarding fear. I prided myself on being fearless. I considered it as repulsive and despicable to be afraid, and "fear" was practically a dirty word in my vocabulary, (except for fear of God, which I allowed). As a kid, I would rack my brain to try to think of anything I was afraid of, and come up empty, and that made me glad. So here, to admit to fear in myself was unthinkable. I could not be afraid—I must prove I was unafraid. Therefore, I had to answer yes, that I would call her. God had cleverly trapped me. He did it so deftly, so elegantly. He had me exactly where he wanted me by playing on his intimate knowledge of me.

Okay, get a grip, Rebekah. You’re going to call her, I thought. It was like walking right up to the edge of that rock at the pools and planning to jump. Suddenly, I was breathing hard, my heart was beating faster, my legs were trembling, my mind was racing. (Wow, I really am afraid, I realized.) I cried out to God for His help. I called on Him for His aid, His strength, words to say to her, calmness in my voice. As I prayed, I started to cry, tears of anguish and love for the state of my piano teacher's soul. And then, when I had finished praying, I took a deep breath, calmly opened my phone, and dialed her number. It rang one, two, three, four, five times. Then the answering machine picked up. I hung up without leaving a message.

I went through all that agony, just to do that. It really wasn’t that hard. And after I was off the phone, even though I hadn't even talked to her, I was filled with overwhelming, amazing joy. I was laughing, crying with joy at the fact that I had been victorious through the power of God. I was thanking God for his good work, for helping me, for guiding me. I was so elated. It was just like the jubilation I experienced after I faced the rock and jumped off into the water.

That experience marked a turning point in my journey—for better—and for worse.

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