Led to Donate Life, Part 2
In July of 2011, God completely renovated my prayer life. I began taking prayer more seriously and, for the first time, consistently spent significantly more time in prayer—most days at least an hour. Instead of seeing prayer as a duty, I began to really thirst for it. I was growing closer to God, and He was leading me to new heights of joy, peace, and confidence. If my spiritual life had ever been stale—and it had—I was finally seeing what a close, thriving relationship with Jesus was meant to be. Through prayer I was being renewed by the Holy Spirit like never before, and I was hooked.
Until this time, I had experienced very little specific guidance from God. But with a mind that was now open to it, and a newly invigorated prayer life that was drawing me closer to Him, that began to change.
Four significant days
I had moved my family to West Chester, Pennsylvania, in February of 2011. The day we arrived there were seventeen inches of snow on the ground, a bit of a shock for this Texan who had spent all his life in the south. Now it was Sunday, October 30, and we were already seeing the first snow of the season, before Halloween.
We had cancelled worship that night because of the snow, so my wife Janel and I rented a DVD for the evening. It was called The Grace Card, and in the story a Christian policeman donates a kidney to save the life of his partner’s son. I enjoyed the movie, but thought nothing else of it.
Then, for the next three days something strange happened. Each day I was in some way confronted with the issue of kidney failure or kidney transplant. Monday, while Trick-or-Treating with the kids I met a man just down the street from our church building who was on dialysis and waiting for a kidney transplant. Tuesday night, in a phone conversation a friend mentioned she’d been praying for a man who was in kidney failure. And Wednesday, I noticed in our church bulletin a prayer request for a member of a nearby church who would be having a kidney transplant soon.
I thought it was odd that the issue came up four days in a row, since before Sunday it had probably been months since I’d heard about anyone with kidney problems. Did it mean anything?
Most people might have simply dismissed it as coincidence. And I probably would have as well, except I had the distinct feeling that God was trying to tell me something—an impression that led me to begin asking God, “Do You want me to donate a kidney?”
Don’t kick feelings to the curb
Impressions can be important. Sometimes they even come from God. Just ask Nehemiah. As he was serving as cupbearer to the king of Persia in the capitol, some men from Judah came to visit him. He asked them about the condition of the Jews back in Jerusalem, and then he wept as they described a people in distress and a city that lay in ruins.
Nehemiah began fasting and praying, and eventually he concluded that God wanted him to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls. In chapter 2, verse 12, he speaks of “what my God was putting into my mind [literally “heart”] to do for Jerusalem.”
There’s nothing in the book that suggests God spoke audibly to Nehemiah. In fact, the wording above indicates that the communication was purely internal. God put it in his heart. What exactly did he perceive? At least two things: an idea (to rebuild the city walls) and a feeling (this is something I need to do). God gave him a plan, along with a sense of personal obligation to carry it out.
In calling Nehemiah God used both external circumstances and internal impression. The disheartening report from the men of Judah called his attention to a problem and drove him to prayer. In seeking God’s will he was led to feel that he should return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls.
Now obviously, feelings can be misleading. They may come from the flesh; they may be provoked by the devil. That doesn’t mean we dismiss all feelings as unreliable and dangerous. It simply means we approach them with discernment—a subject we’ll explore later. Don’t forget: somehow Nehemiah was able to discern that this impression was divine in origin (cf. also Nehemiah 7:5).
God did something similar with me. He used external circumstances to focus my attention and plant an idea in my mind, and inward impression to produce a feeling of personal duty.
Looking back, it’s interesting that I wasn’t asking a different question. I never thought to myself, “Am I going to experience kidney failure? Is God saying I will need a transplant?” No, from the beginning the impression I had pointed in the other direction.
It was an idea I had never entertained before. But the thought persisted. I eventually told Janel that I believed God was leading me to become a living kidney donor. After she came to, she suggested that I not move forward with the process until I had a better idea of whom I was supposed to donate to. That seemed wise, so I began a period of waiting.
But from that point I was resolved.