2020: Voices & Choices
Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating, but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending.Francis Chan
She was powerful not because she wasn’t scared but because she went on so strongly, despite the fear.Atticus, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.John 10:10
It was the weekend before Christmas when my husband (the ultimate Star Wars fan) and I were excitedly prepared to watch the “The Rise of Skywalker”. We had many conversations on how we thought the final Star Wars movie would end. Unlike some fans, we were completely satisfied with episodes seven and eight, and we were expecting great things in episode nine.
Disclaimer: I do reveal some details from the movie in the following paragraphs. If you’d like to skip ahead, scroll down to the paragraph that begins with the double star.
In one of the initial scenes of the movie, Kylo Ren is out to find the whereabouts of Palpatine on the planet Exegol. If you’re unfamiliar with the character Palpatine, he’s an evil dude who manipulates the minds of others who are force sensitive. Palpatine often preys on those who are in distress, giving them a false hope that the dark side will somehow set them free or give them the power they need to overcome an obstacle.
As Kylo Ren makes his way to Exegol, he hopes to eliminate Palpatine and become the strongest force in the galaxy. He soon realizes he has underestimated the power and influence that Palpatine possesses. Palpatine has lived a lot longer than Kylo Ren, he’s played the game longer, he’s more manipulative and more powerful.
As the audience watches this scene unfold with Kylo Ren entering Exegol and nearing Palpatine’s lair, he hears Palpatine’s voice booming through his lair. He sees the remains of past Sith lords and quickly realizes he underestimated this guy he’s about to approach.
Palpatine’s voice mightily echoes throughout the lair declaring, “I have been every voice you have ever heard inside your head!” If that wasn’t creepy enough, the audience then hears the echoing voices of Darth Vader and the recently fallen Snoke who had been training Kylo Ren for the dark side.
I’m sure fear immediately set in for Kylo Ren, “What?! This guy? Still, pulling the strings? Every voice inside my head? What’s real and what’s been manipulated by this guy? Have I just been a puppet this whole time?”
It soon becomes clear that by entering into the dark side of the force, Kylo Ren has unknowingly stepped into becoming Palpatine’s next apprentice, or object of manipulation. But Kylo Ren now has a choice. Will he succumb to the will of Palpatine, or will he choose a different path?
I loved how this final trilogy opened up because it highlighted the freedom of choice that lay before Kylo Ren. He had to choose which voice he was going to listen to moving forward.
**Just a few short days after watching “The Rise of Skywalker”, my friend, Cayla, invited me to join her in a devotional study through the YouVersion Bible app titled “Voices and Choices”. I was intrigued by the title and decided to take on the 5-day study with her.
On day 2, we were introduced to the idea that there are 4 voices inside our head. Really, four?! That seemed like a lot to me. As I reflected on this past year, I realized there were a lot of different voices wanting to pull me in different directions.
I am far from perfect when it comes to always listening to the voice of God, but I know the power and peace that comes from following through with not only listening but responding to His Voice.
At the start of 2019, I felt that nudge from God before realizing it was Him.
You need to find a local church.
“What?! I love my church. I could never leave. I have friends here. I’m growing here. We have family here. And now I’m supposed to leave. Are you sure?”
The thought made me feel like a little kid who would be uprooted to a new school in the middle of the year. Our family would be the “new kids”. We would have to make new connections, start fresh with building relationships, learn the ropes of a new church, and adapt to a new environment. It would be different.
Our home church was a 35-minute drive from our home. After five years in our home, the distance became more apparent. We wanted to love others in our community and connect them with Jesus, but we couldn’t connect them with a local church.
I prayed about it. Initially, I didn’t know if this was a voice from God or if this was just some desire for change. Did I have selfish motivations? I had to do a heart check. The voice kept coming back, and so I brought it to my husband.
“I know this sounds crazy, and it scares me a little, but I’ve been praying on this, and I think we need to find a local church.”
His initial reaction was the same as mine. Shock. Questions. Concern. Fear. But he said he would think on it and pray about it. It wasn’t more than a few days later that he came back and said,
“You know what? I think you’re right.”
“What?!” Again, I was shocked. “Really? We’re doing this?”
God was revealing to us that this was the way. Now is the time.
Again, I wanted to make sure that what we were doing was right, so I sought wise counsel. I talked to a couple of mentors about this calling to find a local church. Both confirmed that this was what we were being called to do. The motivations were not selfish, the call was there, and though it would be hard, this was the way.
The other voices now began to set in. Of course, others had opinions and thoughts on this change. We knew some people wouldn’t understand. We knew there would be doubt, questions, and maybe some lack of support, and that was the hardest. But, we continued to listen to God’s voice. This is the way.
And, so we went. The second church we attended was the right fit. I knew it, and my husband agreed as well. We prayed on it, and knew that God was working in this place. We were supposed to be here.
Doubt and fear began to stir inside me. The enemy’s voice was now in my head. This church is different. It’s smaller. He continued to point out all the differences- the greeting time, the music, the lighting, the children’s drop off in the nursery, and so on. This is the way. I knew it, but why was this so hard?
My own selfish voice of wanting what was easier set in, “Where is this going? Why am I supposed to be here? It was easier where I was. I was comfortable. I don’t like walking in these new doors with two young children and not knowing anyone. Help.”
I kept going, and going, and going. Every Sunday. Like clockwork. I am naturally an introvert, so this was difficult in itself.
I prayed hard every time I got in my car and drove up to the church. I felt uncomfortable for so long, but it slowly began to dissipate.
I couldn’t see all God was doing, but I was trusting Him in the midst of waiting. That was the hardest part.
By the late spring, support groups were starting at our new church. There was a specific group for grief and mental health. I didn’t want to go, but I did. I needed it. I was also in therapy, but I needed the support of other people who understood what I was going through with the loss of my father and other circumstances that had since come up.
This is where I am supposed to be. I had the love and support that I needed in a dark place, and this was part of the healing that needed to take place.
I saw God working in that group.
This past fall, my husband and I joined a small group where we began meeting in someone’s home to connect with the same couples twice a month. This was the first time in a long time where my husband and I were able to be in a group together. We had time to safely connect, grow, and relate to others in a similar stage of life. This was the way.
We were also continuing to see our children grow in their understanding of Jesus through the great curriculum and dedicated teaching staff with the children’s ministry. Our kids had special connections with their teachers that I had never seen before. We saw God working, again.
In January of 2020, it will have been a full year since our family began the move to our new church. Our home church is now just 15 minutes away. We’ve seen and invited others in our community to connect with this church, and we’ve seen God doing great things through this gentle nudge to “find a local church”.
God has always been working, and He’s still working. He was working when we didn’t get it, when we didn’t see it, and even when we didn’t feel it. He was there.
We just had to trust His voice.
As 2020 rolls around, I feel more tugging, more nudging. God has shown me time and time again that He is trustworthy. He has my best interest in mind. I need to follow Him wherever that leads. It’s scary, but it is powerful and it is life-changing. He is the Way.
Instead of a “Word of the Year” for 2020, I am choosing a “Verse for the Year”. I did this three years ago, the same year my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, and it was so powerful. I leaned into that verse I had chosen even before I knew about my dad’s health. I’ve been praying on a new verse for 2020, and was led here:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.Proverbs 3:5-6
Let us go into 2020 with not only an ear to hear The Voice of God but a body that listens and moves to His Voice.
Happy New Year!
**A special thank you to my friend, Cayla. I wouldn’t have been able to write this blog post without your encouragement and invitation to read the “Voices and Choices” devotional study through the YouVersion app.