God struck me mute last week.
I had just broadcast my plans to launch this new blog series, The Wandering Ones, all over social media. I was full of ideas and excitement. Visions of email campaigns and catchy posts danced in my head. I posted the first blog and promised that others would soon follow. I had every confidence that I could deliver.
But when it came time to sit and write, I picked up my pen and found there were no words waiting inside it. When I pored over my Bible, I found no inspiration lingering. When I prayed for wisdom and racked my brain for ideas, I found only tired and lifeless thoughts.
It felt like God was putting his hands on my shoulders, gently forcing me to sit when I wanted to run. Like he was turning me back towards home before I had even left town.
Having to wait when all you want to do is keep moving forward can feel a lot like withered dreams. Having a goal and watching it pass by without your consent can feel a lot like failure. Sitting when you want to run can feel a lot like torture.
But God has been known to temporarily incapacitate his people before sending them on new journeys.
Take Zechariah, who wanted to have a child with his wife Elizabeth more than anything. They were both well past the point of baby-making, so they'd given up on the dream of growing a family together. One day, however, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to tell him that God had heard his prayers for a child and was going to give him a son. And not only that - this child was going to be the one to prepare the way for the Lord (Luke 1:7).
God wasn't just answering Zechariah's prayers for the future - he was far surpassing them. And as Zechariah stood on the threshold of seeing his dreams realized, what did he do?
He laughed right in the angel's face.
His heart was filled with disbelief.
He stood on the edge of an adventure, a miracle, a promise fulfilled, but his faith wasn't ready yet. His heart wasn't steady yet.
In that moment, God struck him mute. He wouldn't say a single word until the day his son, John the Baptist, was finally born.
And then there was Saul, a murderer and prosecutor of Christians. One day, while he was out looking for Christians to round up and throw in jail, Jesus appeared to him. He was about to change Saul's name, his perspective, his entire life's direction. But before he could do that, he had to change his heart. He struck Saul blind, and when he restored it three days later, Saul was so transformed that he began championing the same gospel he had formerly tried to destroy (Acts 9).
God knew the next leg of the journey for both Zechariah and Saul. He had things planned for them that neither could have imagined themselves.
But before embarking, they needed work. Their faith needed stabilizing. Their souls needs transformation. Their perspectives needed renewal. So God put his hands on their shoulders and forced them to sit.
He quieted Zechariah's questioning mouth.
He closed Saul's singular-focused eyes.
And in the silence and in the dark - that's where God transformed them. That's where he prepared them for what was coming next.
Sometimes God has to incapacitate us to stop us from running at break-neck speed towards our own half-baked dreams. By striking us mute, or deaf, or simply uninspired for a while, he forces us to quiet down and listen up so that we may spend transformative time in his revelatory presence.
So when we are struck mute when we want to speak, when we are made blind when we want to see where we're going, or when we are forced to cool our heels when we'd rather run, we can rest assured that God has a plan for good, even in this frustrating time.
He prepared Zechariah by speaking to him in his silence.
He transformed Saul by making him see when he was blind.
If God has pulled us aside to wait indefinitely, then, we can consider ourselves blessed.
Perhaps we are standing on the edge of an unimaginable adventure, and we are being momentarily detained by a God who loves us too much to send us on a journey without first making sure we are properly equipped.