I didn’t know it, but I was at a crossroads. I’d written a book proposal including three chapters, and an agent had taken on my project. He wanted me to include a sidebar in each chapter of famous people with experience in the subject matter. I asked if he could get me an interview with the author, Carolyn Custis James, who was speaking at a conference I would be attending. He arranged for me to take her to lunch. It would be a day which marked a turning point in my life.
As we left for our luncheon, I spoke with a small group of women who had heard me speak a few months earlier. Carolyn asked me, “How often do you speak?” Not often enough for my taste, I assured her. She advised me, “Well get ready. Because once you publish, your speaking opportunities are going to increase dramatically.”
Get ready. Oh boy. I went back to my hotel room and told my friend Beth about the conversation. What would I do to get ready? Beth tried to get me to think outside the box. “If money was no object, and you could do whatever you wanted, what would you do?”
Go to seminary, of course. But I was working full time, with kids still dependent on my husband’s and my support. And graduate school costs money. Lots of money. But if I had my choice, I would go to seminary.
Beth looked me dead in the eye. “Then do it,” she ordered.
One small lunch, one small piece of advice. The response of a trusted friend. It all had such an impact, I could hardly wait to get home and talk to Steve. He concurred with the plan. A week later I was handing in my resignation and applying to grad school.
I’m reading Nehemiah, in preparation for a series we are doing in October/November at New Hope Chapel. Something struck me as I read the set-up in the beginning. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king. A remnant of Israel had been living in Jerusalem, rebuilding the temple for almost a century. Nehemiah had remained behind in Babylon, in loyal service to the king. One day he had a meeting with his brother, Hanani, and a few fellow Jews fresh in from Judah. Not an extraordinary event. But it would change the course of Nehemiah’s life.
The news wasn’t good. They told him, “The remnant there are in great distress, and the wall of Jerusalem is in shambles.”
Nehemiah was devastated. God’s people were in trouble. The city which once stood in shining glory as a testimony to God’s glory was a mockery. He knew he must do something. So he prayed for and was given an opportunity to approach the king on the matter. And the rest is history.
It is striking how a seemingly insignificant conversation, one that may not have lasted more than a minute or two, could change a person’s life forever. Until that moment, it was just another day.
When I attended that women’s conference featuring Carolyn as the speaker, I came to hear good teaching and to have fun with friends. I left with a life-altering change of plan. You just never know.
There are no accidents with God. He gives ample guidance for the road ahead. The key is to remain open to his leading. He places desires in our hearts. Then he uses people and events to move us forward. When we seek him, he reveals himself to us.
Nehemiah had a soft heart towards the Lord. His response to the happenings in Jerusalem demonstrated his commitment to God and to His people. He was already open and searching for God’s guidance. He was ready. So God moved him forward. And the former cupbearer became the man who rebuilt the wall around the Holy City.
Keep your heart open. You never know.