For those not “in the know”, PostSecret is this amazing website where people from all over the world anonymously send in their secrets to share with the world. There are PostSecret events, too, where people are invited to put their secrets in a box to be shared – again, anonymously – with the audience. There are books. There are people who are alive today because of PostSecret. PostSecret helped raise money to keep a suicide prevention hotline open. Some of the secrets are funny. Some are heartbreaking. A lot revolve around sex. Today, however, this secret appeared.
I wish I could talk to this person. I’d deal with the easiest question first: “What do I do with this information?” Whatever you want. You can forget about it. You can spend your life secretly puzzling over its meaning. You can deny the event ever took place. You can make a macrame of whatever it was God said and hang it on your wall. Because of that whole free-will thing, you can do or not as you see fit, and the truth is, it doesn’t matter.
We might as well go in reverse order: “Why ME and not a really religious person.” If you pick up your Bible, there is a little book in the Old Testament, an old old story called Jonah. It’s about a very religious man who had the same experience: God told Jonah to do something. And this very righteous, religious man did the exact opposite, ending up tied up and tossed overboard, eaten by a fish to be vomited on a beach where he ended up doing what God wanted him to do anyway (although in hardly a good humor; if you read to the end, after following God’s instructions to a “t”, he sits on a mountain above the city and waits for God to smite the Ninevites. When it doesn’t, he actually pouts! So much for your “really religious person” getting a message from God. God tends to use nonreligious people because they don’t have a whole lot of crap cluttering up their brains telling them what the best way to understand such a call might be.
The only question that really matters, then, is “Now what?” Because this is the first question you asked, you recognize, even if only subconsciously, that the moment was real, an event that happened in your life about which you have to do . . . something. I often wonder how many people hear such messages and ignore them. Or perhaps explain them away in one way or another. Then there are those to whom such moments occur for whom they are just too much. I wonder how many of our mental health facilities have people inside for whom the fact God spoke to them – regardless of content – is just too much to handle. Doesn’t seem quite fair, right? Shouldn’t God know whether or not people are or are not strong enough to deal with such things? Finally, there might be people who accept it as a rel event in their life, a real thing. Then they go on with their lives as if it doesn’t matter in the least.
You, however, asked the most important question first: “Now what?” I could have you running off to one institutional church or another, and I will confess I believe that most ordained clergy in most mainline, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches would be able to help you; they might even enjoy helping someone who is wise enough to ask, “Now what?” All the same, I think you need to turn to people you trust. It doesn’t matter if they’re religious, atheists, choir members, or whatever. Shoot, they don’t have to share the same religious beliefs you do at all! They should, however, be people in whom you place tremendous trust and faith. Talk with them.
The thing is, what comes next is up to you. It’s totally, completely, utterly, and irrevocably your decision. Just as the message is completely yours, so how you choose to integrate this particular event into your life is your choice. God doesn’t demand. God doesn’t give orders. In fact, God just speaks to particular people at particular times and those particular people are then free to do as they wish.
One word of caution, however. God doesn’t usually stop with just one such event. I’m not saying you’re going to hear God’s voice for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel that little tug, the occasional nudge. It’s never a bludgeon. It is also never a demand. It is what it is. There’s something God wants done and God wants you to do it. You can run away, like Jonah; just remember what happened to him. My recommendation – and that’s all it is – is that, now, you find one or two people you can trust and talk about it. Hear what they have to say.
Or you could choose to find some official from some organized body and have them help you work through it. That’s certainly an option, and one as I said such clergy might welcome (despite what the popular media might say, the fact is most clergy accept the reality of such moments, if for no other reason than they have usually experienced the same kind of thing in their own lives.
The important thing, however, is that you’ve asked that question, “Now what?” first. You want not only to know how to move forward with this event a part of your life; you’re going to move forward with this event a part of your life. All the other stuff, the “Why me?” question, the question of the practical usefulness of such a moment, that’s the stuff other people tell us we should ask. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t important questions; it just means they aren’t as important as that first question: “Now what?”
Everything else hinges on how you choose to answer that question. But just know, God knows you, sees you, and most of all God wants you to do something. Perhaps it’s a small thing. Perhaps it will change the world. Whatever it is, it’s yours.
Now what? I suggest you figure out how to get to Nineveh, pack enough supplies, and head on out. The rest, well, it’ll take care of itself.