Hi there, Danny Boice here and I am the CEO of Trustify. In this post, we cover the first part of Chapter 3: The Voice as part of our Journey to Trust book series.
The first time Jen heard God’s voice, it rolled down her spine, into her ears as softly as dandelion fluff blows, and altered the course of her life. Jen was standing in the pew holding her songbook with both hands; swaying, focused, joyful as she sang along to Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord. She remembers the moment like it was yesterday—the way the afternoon sun streamed through the windows and lit up dust in the air, the way her stomach suddenly dropped as if she had fallen off a roller coaster. “You’re not going,” came the words, quiet but as clear as though spoken by someone standing directly behind her. She straightened her spine and froze as butterflies fluttered in her stomach, a sudden and distinct wave of excitement and intensity overcoming her from head to toe. “You’re not going to China,” she heard again, and in an instant, understood the magnitude of what was happening. The rest of the world fell away. Jen sat down and wept.
She was halfway through her time at Bucknell, where she had come specifically for their reputation in the Mandarin program. Jen knew that she could pair it with a degree in international relations and travel to China for a semester to work directly with orphans who were victims of China’s harrowing one-child policy—something that had long been a dream.
But when you have direct experience with the Holy Spirit, it changes you. And suddenly, irrevocably—she was new. The coat of insecurity and uncertainty she had worn growing up now gave way to a distinct sense of strength, of fortitude.
In hindsight, Jen should have seen the fallout at home coming from miles away, but was caught up in the sheer power of the experience she had just had. Jen grew up in a community where the proper greeting upon meeting someone new wasn’t, “where are you from,” but rather, “what parish do you belong to?” I don’t think she even knew anyone who wasn’t Catholic while in grade school. So when Jen gushed that “God spoke to me” to her old-school south Jersey Catholic parents, it went about as well as you’d expect.
“That’s insane!” they told her. “You’ve lost your mind!” they said. Catholics have spent thousands of years building a tradition around the belief that one does not have a direct relationship with God. And here she was, the oldest child and only daughter, filling their ears with blasphemous ideas. Not to mention citing her direct connection to God as her reason for not going to China.
“You literally went to college to study China and to go to China. You’ve been dreaming about this since you were a little girl.” Her mom said this with her lips turned down and her eyes ashamed. She didn’t blame them for thinking she was ruining my future, but for the first time in her life, she knew beyond a doubt that there were larger forces at work.
Despite her confidence, Jen had lived twenty years without making her parents this upset and now they were hurt, disappointed, and angry, and Jen hated to cause them pain. She was a gold-star Good Girl, dedicated to pleasing others. But the experience of the Holy Spirit had anchored itself in her bones, and Jen suddenly had a spine of steel. “I’m telling you right now: I’m not going to China.” Her position was strong. Clear. God told her to not go, and she knew to listen. His message was plain and simple, Jen told her mom.
“You don’t hear from God,” her mom said again in exasperation. In her parents’ minds, Jen was off her rocker and deferring her dreams, a recipe for disaster. She used to call them almost every day, but for months afterward they barely spoke, and it was one of the most painful times in her life. Even in her newfound strength, Jen craved her parents’ love and approval. But anyone who has found true faith knows it always gets harder first before it gets easier. Letting go of old ways of thinking and acting may be right, but it’s not easy. Our human minds and hearts depend on safety, security, predictability. And hers—at least that which she had known since she was little—was slowly slipping away.
Her faith and her settled into a new routine that semester as she watched her schoolmates head off on their postings abroad. Everyone expected Jen to be sad and to regret not going. She didn’t know how to explain her peace with herself beyond acknowledging that the seed of faith had taken root in her heart and that she was living in accordance with God’s plan, even if she didn’t fully understand it.