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If you’ve ever spent an extended time with Christians, you’ve probably heard them speak about “hearing God’s voice.” Some people claim to hear Him audibly, others in their dreams or through messages taught by a pastor. For me, hearing God’s voice comes in thoughts. Which, given my head, can be dangerous to trust sometimes. But the thoughts are usually peaceful…and entirely against my nature. My first response is often, “Thanks, but no way.” Because God doesn’t call me to do things I’m comfortable with. Ever.
The best way I can describe hearing His voice is with this story:
When I was 24 and just a few months away from receiving a Bachelor’s degree in writing for Film and Television, I had two very exciting things happen. First, I found out that I was a finalist for an internship with the Academy of Arts and Sciences (The Emmy Awards people) in LA. And second, out of 52 people who had pitched their screenplays during the Philadelphia Film Festival, I was one of handful who had a producer (also from LA) pick up their script.
To say I was high on life was an understatement. I had dreamed of LA for years, wanting a career in writing more than anything else. This was it. I was on my way. That night I felt an urgent thought. “Write a letter to your High School Drama Teacher and thank him.” Simple? Hardly. I was appalled.
My high school drama teacher and I despised each other. We got into a heated fight my freshman year and he told some lies about me and I never forgave him. I spent the remainder of my high school career loathing him with everything I had and he spent that time sticking me in the chorus. I hadn’t thought about him in years, but clearly I hated him still.
I dismissed the ridiculous thought to thank him. I brooded over it, though. Thank him for what? For ruining my dreams of the stage? But the thought was persistent. It popped into my mind as I was falling asleep or walking to class or anytime I was silent. Never accusingly. It felt as light as a feather floating to the ground.
Little by little I entertained the thought. What would I write? My mental drafts started off with variations of, “Hey, thanks for not believing in me! Because you stomped on me when I was 15, I turned to writing and…” But then I started remembering the other things. The way he encouraged me to write. The way he pushed me and other students to use stories I wrote in acting competitions. An exercise, I realized, that taught me how to pitch my own work. And finally I remembered the time he secretly entered a play I wrote in an East Coast Playwriting Contest and it won. How had I forgotten?
I was humbled. My drama teacher saw that I wasn’t an actor long before I did. He knew I was a writer. I started questioning my angsty memory. Had he really lied about me? Or did I filter what happened through the angry eyes of an embarrassed teenager? And did it even matter anymore? I prayed that God would forgive my stubborn heart and help me write the letter. It was pretty easy in the end. Because in the end I was grateful.
A few weeks later he wrote me back.
He congratulated me on my success. He noted that my last name had changed and congratulated me on getting married. And then he told me that my letter reached him on the day he found out he had cancer and was questioning everything in his life. He was especially questioning his legacy as a teacher, as his diagnosis wasn’t good. My letter gave him encouragement when he needed it most.
I cried as I read his letter. God knew just how long it would take me to respond to His calling and His timing was, as it always is, perfect. I was overwhelmed as I sat there. Feeling a closeness to the God who was with all people all the time and KNEW exactly what my drama teacher was going to need at that very moment. And because I responded, I got to experience true forgiveness, which filled an angry void in my life with peace, and unknowingly lift the spirits of a dying man.