Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC
“Still I wait expectantly for you, O Eternal One - knowing you will answer me in some way, O Lord, my True God.” Psalm 38:15 (The Voice)
How good are you at “waiting expectantly” for God to answer your prayers? I thought I was doing pretty well on this front, but last week, at the gym of all places, I was reminded how forgetful I can be when God doesn’t answer my prayers right away. If you’re anything like me, your prayers cover a wide spectrum: needs of family and friends, our world, health, finances, spiritual growth, and the list could probably go on forever. Some of our prayers need an immediate answer… “Help my friend’s surgery to go well and to be successful; Give me the wisdom to pass my exam today; Help me say the right words in my interview today.” Much of the time, however, our prayers are at the mercy of God’s perfect timing… “Bring my family members to know you; Help me to achieve financial security; Give our world leaders wisdom.” All of these are good prayers, but there is really no definitive deadline and we are left to “wait expectantly” for answers to come. But what does “waiting expectantly” even look like? There is so much to be said on this topic, but for today I want to simply focus on one aspect of “waiting expectantly” – remembering. This one word can change so much, especially when God takes longer than we ever dreamed to answer or when he answers in a way we wouldn’t have chosen. Sitting there on the bench at the gym, in between workouts, the song “Burn the Ships” by For King & Country came over my earbuds. Immediately I was taken back to November 25, 2019. This was the day we signed papers and sold our dream home to follow God to Peoria, IL for me to take a pastoral job. It felt like we were indeed “burning the ships” as my husband gave up his career to follow me and we left our home, friends, family, and the security our life held. It was so like God to have this song playing on the radio as we drove to closing. I can still remember the feeling of tears flowing down my cheeks as we pulled into the parking lot; offering our lives up to God in such an extreme way. You can imagine my questioning heart as I found myself sitting there at the gym in Belleville, IL less than 2 years later. In ways that are really hard to explain, my husband and I know in the depths of our hearts that God has lead us to Belleville. It is where we are supposed to be in this new season. Still, the questions come, “Why the detour to Peoria? Did we miss something or hear God wrong when we were praying?” There is soooo much I could tell you that God taught us in our time in Peoria, but that is for another blog. For now, let me simply say, it wasn’t a mistake; it was God continuing to take us on the wild adventure that life following him was meant to be. Back at the gym that day, I allowed my heart and mind to wander back to that day we left Missouri and the feeling it evoked as I listened to “Burn the Ships” and then I went on with my workout; until God completely hijacked my routine. The next song that came on was “Oceans” by Hillsong United. I think the first time I heard this song was back in 2013 and it spoke so deeply to my soul. I remember actually praying one of the verses…
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger In the presence of my Savior
Sitting there on the workout bench in Belleville, IL God began connecting the dots through the power of music, to this prayer I had prayed more than 8 years ago. He let me know in that moment that I may have forgotten I prayed this prayer, but he had not. He was now answering it. Moving from St. Louis, MO to Peoria, IL was a big deal and felt like we were surrendering everything, but the truth is, we hadn’t really “burned the ships.” We were heading to a job God had provided and a place where people and a church were excited to welcome us. In this move to Belleville, however, we truly “burned the ships” selling our home with no place to go and no jobs. Stupid? Well, not if God’s the one navigating. As I sat there reflecting on all that’s happened these last 2 years I realized that God was answering my prayer from so long ago, “taking me deeper than my feet could ever wander.” I never would have “wandered” into this place I find myself today or willingly chosen it, but it is so good. There is a trust and dependence on God these days I would not give up for anything. I’m so glad God has allowed me to see his hand guiding me and to remember this prayer from so long ago that he is now answering. Remembering the heartfelt desire of that prayer when I prayed it helped me to better understand some of the twists and turns of the past few years and to trust some of the unknowns that are still before us. Remembering is helping. We may forget the prayers we pray, but God does not… ever. For Your Reflection… Words matter. Every word we say to friends, family, and even strangers matters. How much more are the words we say and pray to God? God takes every prayer we pray seriously. If you are going to pray it, be sure you mean it, because he may just answer. Spend some time remembering. What prayers might God be answering right now in your life that you forgot you prayed?