Recently, Don and I were riding down Redbug Lake Road when we realized we were behind a Toyota FJ Cruiser. Both of us noticed it because this particular one, two-toned pinkish-orange-and-white, had a FL GIRL tag and stood out as cute, cute, cute. We decided it had to be a new vehicle model since we had not ever seen one before. Well, it was not, for by the time we returned home, we had seen at least six, mostly solid black or solid white and, frankly, unremarkable. But we did notice them.
The phenomenon is one I have observed many times. I will learn a new word and then see it everywhere, even in the newspaper, and wonder, How could I not have known that word before? Read a book and then see and hear references to it. Discover an actor and then see him even in advertisements. Discuss a Bible passage and then become aware of its truth in my life over and over again.
That happened with Jonah and our Abel House study of his book on a Wednesday evening. In our gathering, we discussed Jonah’s hearing God’s instructions to go to Nineveh and “cry against it, for their wickedness” and then his deciding to go to Tarshish instead. We talked about his then finding himself in a ship in the middle of a sea storm such as only God can whip up, then in the sea itself before experiencing a sojourn in the belly of a fish, only to decide to pray and do what God wanted in the first place. That decision worked finally for Jonah and for Nineveh.
Following that discussion came Jeremy Penn’s question at Foundry the next Sunday evening: When have you felt God’s immediate presence? All the answers were descriptions of events that took place outside a church (but thankfully none from inside the belly of a fish!) God had been with members of the congregation. They had felt His presence if not heard His words.
Then, the next Sunday morning, Nathan Clark not only brought up Jonah again while teaching the parable of the rich man, but he asked, “What have you given up to follow Christ?” In the roundtable that followed, Nathan talked about God’s determining our path but our deciding to try another way—sometimes several times—before our finally, like Jonah, deciding to go with God’s plan.
Finally, after three times focused on God’s leading us to follow Him and find our identity in Him, I began to see how that had worked in my life. (I can know intellectually before truly knowing completely.)
Following the sudden death of Everett, my first husband, in unending tears, I was engulfed by pain, unable even to think for a while. All I could do was to seek relief from the pain even if by death. Then, when my death did not come, I thought God owed me an explanation, a reason for the tragedy. He was not forthcoming at my command, so I became furious with Him. Enraged and demanding, I blamed and screamed. Finally, like Jonah, I prayed.
I had sought to make the decisions, to question God’s plan for my life, to want things my way, to change that which could not be changed, to bring Everett back. But the only way I could find to recover was to give up and give in and ask God what He had for me to do.
As I prayed, I remembered something I had completely forgotten, something, almost a throwaway remark, that a student had said to me years before: If I had had a teacher like you in high school, I would not be struggling so in college.
The time was 1996 and I had retired. I had taught in high school only one year—1968-69. But I knew as I prayed that I had to go back with God’s help. I knew that the only way to make something good of something so horrible and painful was to pray for God to take over and lead me in whatever direction He had for me to go.
I went back to college and took courses and tests for recertification to teach English and history in South Carolina. I also certified to teach in Georgia and Florida and began applying for positions in all three states. After a semester teaching in Georgia, I faced roadblocks there and to South Carolina but open highway to Florida.
By the fall of 1998, God had led me to Oviedo High School and thirteen years in a job that I loved and in which I feel I had a positive impact. One of the highlights was when a group of students visited the Vatican during winter break and returned with a rosary blessed by the Pope. Presenting it to me, they said, “We didn’t know if you are Catholic, but we know you are a Christian, so this is for you.”
I needed now to be reminded that turning my life over to God, praying for His control of my destiny, allowing Him to make the decisions, following Him and only Him is the path to happiness. Florida is where I am happy; Florida is where I met Don; Florida is where three of my six precious grandchildren and both my sons are. God knew where I must be when I could no longer be where I was. Every day, now that I have been reminded three times at church (slow learner that I am), I see the evidence (as common to me now as are Toyota FJ Cruisers) of the wisdom of following God.