My first week in law school, I noticed that this other student seemed pretty down. It wasn't long before I had the sense that I should send him a card or something--just to tell him that was praying for him and hoping that everything was going to turn out ok.
But as soon as I thought about it, I wondered if people here even send each other cards--that would be a weird way to start law school, right? I don't even like greeting cards.... And what if he didn't believe in prayer? What if he felt like I was butting into his business? What if, what if, what if? I just wasn't sure I wanted to have that kind of reputation so early in my school career. So I didn't do anything.
A year or so later, we became good friends, and I learned that those first few months of law school were some of the most difficult of his life. Immediately, I knew that God had been leading me to reach out to him that first week in law school, and that I had missed an opportunity. I'd missed an opportunity to reflect God's love in his life. I'd missed an opportunity to be a part of what God was doing in his heart. And if I was the only Christian in his life at the time, maybe he went without the ministry of the Spirit through God's people because I was afraid of what he (and all my other classmates) would think of me. I had been placed there for such a time as that, but I was too afraid to follow through.
That realization was kind of a turning point for me. I decided that day that I would never again look back and wish that I had responded to the Spirit's prompting. Going forward, I was going to do what God led me to do, even when it was hard or seemed risky or stretched my own image of myself. Because I would rather be wrong once in a while, look foolish, or pursue someone too much than to miss the opportunity to participate with God's work in the world around me.
On our own, both lack of action or too much action can be damaging. If we're not listening to and watching for what God is doing around us, we can jet in and bring "truth" and confrontation where they are not yet appropriate. At the same time, unless we're paying attention, we can fail to act so that something that God is longing to do in the heart of another does not ever get done, or at least is put off until someone else comes along.
In general, we already know the direction God is always leading us--to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and spirit, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But as for how, well, Galatians 5 talks about the importance of walking in step with the Spirit, and Jesus described this process as abiding in him as he talked to the disciples in John 15. One day at a time, we need to be looking to the Spirit to lead and guide us in how we're to be loving God and loving others. And when we sense he's leading, we have to follow.
Have you ever sensed God leading you to do something you didn't want to do? What did you do? How is God leading you to be a part of his mission to the world today? What will you do this time?