This post is a day
late, I realize. Last night, there was a
congregational meeting at our church that ran a little late. So, today, you get 2 for the price of 1.
Day Eleven's reading
comes from Numbers.
READ: Numbers 9:4-5, 9-12. This particular passage begins with Moses
telling the Israelites to celebrate Passover in the wilderness of Sinai, which
they did. Then, it lays out instructions
regarding their cleanliness in regards to the keeping of the Passover.
humans, we are forgetful people, and as forgetful people we need tangible
reminders--symbols--of who God is and what He's done…..Under what circumstances
are you most prone to forget who God is and what He's done for you?"
convicts me. Many times over the course
of the current situation my family is living through I have forgotten God, who
He is and what He's done for us. I've
been so busy being mad over my circumstances, feeling like God had forsaken me,
whining about how He had let this happen, that I had neglected to keep in mind,
and thank Him for all the things that He was doing and had done in my life,
that would prove He hadn't actually forsaken me/us. Sadly, once you start down the road of
"poor, pitiful me," it's easy to just keep going. This is not the first time I've found myself
needing the prompting from these scriptures.
PRAY: "Take a stroll down memory lane. Think about the times when God was evident
and at work. Allow your memories to
guide your prayers of gratitude for all He has done."
This is the one
thing that has been one of my biggest weaknesses, especially over the past
year. How easy it is to forget how good
God has been when He has refused to give me my way. Or when things have gone my way, but because
they were going well, I decided to take the credit for myself.
When I left home, I
mistakenly thought that I could have exactly the life I wanted because I said
so. For most of my life, things went
pretty well like I thought they would.
When I made good choices, things went well. When I didn't choose so well, there were
consequences. Everything was a fair game
of give and take that always seemed to end with my coming out about where I
figured I would, and at least where I aimed for, because I had aimed. That was just the way life was supposed to
be. Right? You make a plan. You work the plan. Just like they say in recovery programs. "It works if you work it, so work
it." Granted, I would slack
sometimes and not get what I thought I wanted, but if I had really wanted
whatever that thing was, then I'd have worked hard enough to get it.
This thinking had
even crept into my walk with the Lord. I
figured if I was obedient, like the Bible says I am to be, then I will be
rewarded. How is it that I had managed
to miss all those pesky little passages about being guaranteed to suffer if I
am identified with Christ? Somewhere
along the way, the messages that said that if they hated Christ, they would
surely hate me, had become just something that I would hear in church every
once in a while, or something that happened in countries where Christians were
really persecuted every day. In China,
of course, this would happen. In Muslim
countries, naturally, people should expect that their obedience to the Word of
God would be met with hatred and disdain and even outright violence. But, this is not China. And this is not a Iraq or Syria. So, I should've been fine.
Then, one day, I
spoke with a lady at church who told me something (2 things, really) that
really stuck with me. The first
thing: God wants us to come to with for
everything and with everything, and if the only way He can get us to do that is
to keep us desperate for Him, because we cannot help ourselves, He will. In fact, during one particularly rough time
in her life, she prayed that she would always be desperate for God. My family's current situation was only in its
infancy and all I could think to say to her is:
"But, I never prayed that prayer." But all I could think was: "Why in the name of all that is holy
would anybody ever pray that prayer?"
Then, about a year
ago, this same woman said to me, "The thing about God is, what He wants is
for our insides to match our outsides."
Look back at that prayer I said people would have to be crazy to pray. What I realized shortly after this precious
woman shared this second thing with me was that I had, in fact, prayed prayers
of desperation. I had sat in the pews at
the church I attended in high school, a church I attended for 5 years and never
once felt like I fit in, begging God to show me what this thing called
Christianity was all about. Surely there
had to be more to being a Christian than just saying some prayer and then
sitting in a church pew for the rest of my life. I mean, if this is it, then why not just take
me now. Otherwise, why else am I here? There has to be more to it than this. Please, show me what it is.
Then, as I got
older, and had kids, and felt like I had kind of stagnated, I would pray that
God would let me make a difference in the world, that He would
"really" use me. I was hung up
on doing something "big" for God.
What I didn't realize, at the time, was that I was more concerned about
doing something for God than I was about having a relationship with Him. I figured that if I could "really do
something for God," - something good enough or big enough or that nobody
else had ever thought of or done - then He would have to accept me. I just couldn't or wouldn't or didn't trust that He would
accept me as I was and then equip me for the position He wanted me to
fill. And even that, He wouldn't do
until I had totally submitted to Him: my
plans, my will, my husband, my kids, my life.
Then, our desperate
situation hit. To say that my world was
turned on its head would be an understatement.
I don't know that it's necessarily true to say that I forgot about God,
but I felt like He had forgotten about me.
I felt betrayed because He didn't answer my prayers (and those of MANY
other people) the way I wanted them answered.
I felt like I had entrusted my heart to Him and He had taken it, threw
it on the ground, and stomped on it.
Yet, I am surrounded by people who kept telling me that I could trust
Him. "All things work together for
good for those that love the Lord."
"Yes, I know," I would say.
But, in my head, all I could think was, "Is it gonna happen this
side of Heaven, because, if not, then I don't know if I want this."
Then, I went to
Lynchburg for my intensives. As I
mentioned in previous posts, I went with just one prayer: God, please show up. Please reveal yourself to me. I don't care if it hurts, or if I don't hear
what I want to hear. Just show up and
show me something.
I had faith enough
to pray that and I hoped (probably more than I actually believed) that He would
answer it and not leave me sitting in silence wondering what in the world I was
doing. And some of what He showed me was
painful. There were some ingrained
thought patterns I had come to accept over the years - thoughts about God,
thoughts about myself, thoughts about my self-worth - that were simply not
true, that I am going to have to work to overcome. There were also things God showed me that let
me see that He had not forgotten about me, things that He had done for me
and/or my family over the course of our situation, that could only have come
from Him. THOSE things, I was not
thinking about when I was complaining. I
was too busy being ungrateful and indignant that He had put me in the position
to be thankful for things I had never even wanted. And to top it all off, I kept trying to run
away from the circumstances I found myself in because I just wanted so
desperately to try to regain some semblance of control over my life. But every time I tried, something would
happen, and I would fall flat on my face again or be told "no"
again. I was actively trying to forget
God because I felt like He had just abandoned me.
But the truth
is: God had not abandoned me. No, instead, He was being faithful to answer
the desperate prayers of a teenager, tired of not fitting in, who prayed that
God would show her that there was so much more to being a Christian than just
getting dressed up, playing church, and filling a pew every Sunday for the rest
of my life. Granted, He hasn't answered
the way I wanted, but He has been answering it the way He has for
generations. How is that, you ask? Well,
for example, there is only one disciple (John) who died of old age. ONE.
And even that one was boiled in a huge basin of oil, but survived.
What I have
discovered (or what I have been shown) is that the only way that I can possibly
grasp the gravity of what Christ did for me is to be put in the position to see
how desperately I need Him. If I am
honest, that is a position I have desperately tried to avoid my entire
life. My prayers did not reflect that
though. Come on! Tell me, when was the last time you heard
someone pray that God would make them a mediocre Christian, or that their walk
with the Lord would be mediocre? Don't
most people pray that they would be "on fire" for the Lord? Yet, once the fire's lit, how often do we
start praying for rain? How often do we
start telling God that the fire's too hot, that we can't stand the heat, or
that THIS is not what we actually wanted.
All of a sudden, we forget just how God has blessed us and delivered us
before, and now…we just want out. Or
maybe that's just me.
When God started
answering the prayers I had prayed years ago, I had forgotten that I had prayed
them. Then, over the years, I had
forgotten the scriptures that remind us to count it all joy when we suffer all
kinds of trials because they are testing our faith, which builds our endurance,
with then ensures that we have everything we need, that we are perfected -
complete and lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
Finally, I had forgotten just how God goes about preparing His people to
walk with Him in a world that will grow increasingly more hostile toward
Christians as the world progresses.
So, let me wrap this
up, by sharing the final section with you.
LIVE: "Create a symbol that will remind you of
God's faithfulness in your life. Maybe
it's a photograph of your close friends or a rock you picked up during a hike. Put this symbol in a place where you will see
it often. When you look at it, be
reminded and thank God for his blessings."
I don't have a
symbol yet. I have not created one
yet. But I keep thinking about how so
many Old Testament figures built altars so that future generations would
remember what God had done for them on that particular occasion. I believe that this is definitely something
that would be helpful to me, for the next time that I forget how God has met
all my needs according to His riches in glory.
For now, what I do is write. In a
way, this devotional is my altar. And
every day, I add another stone to remind me of how God is continuing the good
work He began in my nearly 32 years ago, and of how I can be confident that He
will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.