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I never thought that one little experiment would go so far. It kind of freaks me out when I think too hard about it.
At age 29, I was living a decent but mediocre life. I was happy in my marriage, happy with my kids, but spiritually a little bored. Dry. Listless. I had experienced wild and wonderful adventures with God before getting married at 21, but a staid and steady married life had somehow sucked the spiritual zeal and passion out of me. Don’t get me wrong – I still attended and served in the church faithfully. I did my “quiet time.” I attended small group.
I was raised to do what was right, even when you didn’t feel like it. And there is a measure of wisdom to living like that. So I went through all the motions. God certainly did meet me in my twenties. He is and was faithful. I believe I did taste true joy in Him. But the clue that showed I wasn’t deeply loving Him with all my heart, soul and mind was buried within my blasé attitude towards musical worship.
Worship had driven me to tears and driven me to my knees so many times between the ages of 18 and 21. But slowly, over the years, it became a bit of a bore. I wrote the boredom off as maturity. I reasoned that back in my early twenties, I had just been young, unstable and excitable. I was a groupie back then. Now, at the ripe old age of 29, I was over music. If I were to listen to any, it would be jazz or secular radio. Now I was a mature adult, a mother of two and a pastor’s wife. There was no need to depend on “spiritual highs.” Those were for adolescents.
Was that ever faulty logic.
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Up to this point, August 2009, I had been having a busy summer. I was growing and being stretched by God in several ways. My elderly (84) year old grandma was staying with us, and I was learning what it meant to be in the sandwich generation, caregiving for generations both above and below me. I had also taken on the superintendence of the children’s ministry at church. It was a small and struggling ministry. I grabbed this project by the horns and applied all my administrative and people-gathering, people-kick-butting skills to the task. Six months later, I experienced some moderate ministry success.
And in the midst of this external growth, God began to subject me to a totally new moulding process. Ministry and responsibility were beginning to awaken in me the need for something deeper. It began with an experiment.
That August, beneath a cheerful front, I was struggling with a few personal issues. God seemed rather uncaring. Doors always seemed to be shutting. His ear seemed deaf. So I decided to test Him. I would start an “answered prayer log.” I was curious if some solid data could prove if He really did answer prayer. Here are the first ten days of that experiment:
Monday, Aug 10 – prayed that Evan would settle into VBS so that I could have a morning of peace and quiet
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Tuesday, Aug 11 – prayer answered
Sunday, Aug 9 – prayed that God would give me someone to talk to about my mental and spiritual turmoil and confusion
Monday Aug 10-Wed Aug 12 – prayer answered through John and Krystal Thwaites
Wednesday, Aug 12 – prayed that God would give us the opportunity to share about Him with non-Christians at the Ultimate Frisbee BBQ and we were able to tell them about Andrew’s Bible Study class
Wednesday Aug 19 – prayed that God would allow me to share with someone about my faith – and was able to tell Katharine, an Ultimate Frisbee team-mate, about Andrew’s job as a Christian minister
Thursday, Aug 20- I had prayed earlier in the week that God would increase my confidence in my ministry abilities because I was feeling very lost and identity-less. Our dinner with Mel and Dave really reaffirmed my strengths and gifts. Thank you God for giving us this friendship.
Little did I know that this seemingly insignificant step of faith would open a floodgate of long-buried, hopes, dreams, desires.
The prayer journal doesn’t show much action. It’s a bit selfish, a bit shallow, and mostly about me getting stuff from God. But underground, God was beginning to work up an earthquake. The prayer log would soon begin to violently expose vestiges of both self and God. Events would happen that would have to be recorded. Tragedy, triumph, hopes, fears, dreams, disappointments, death, new life…it all would tumble together and collide into an explosive kaleidoscope of beauty. God was beginning to shed light on the inner landscape of my soul.
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Musical worship and intercession would return to hit me like a tidal wave. I turned 30 in October that year. And that year was marked by so many tears of both repentance and of joy that I would barely be able to recognize myself at the end of it.
Looking back, I am a bit baffled that was so hard for me to believe that God answers prayer. But that’s what He does. He takes a little mustard seed of faith, and He crafts something utterly spectacular and intensely meaningful out of it.
Julia Cheung is a cultural analyst and journalist of relationships, always on the lookout for stories of beautiful misfits. She lives in Vancouver BC with the loveable motley crew of her pastor husband and two preteen children. She is a bundle of antitheses, a lover of truth, a teller of tales, a too often emotional egoist and a fervently curious anti-narcissist. You can find her online at wifeinredemption.com.