What started as a letter to a man named John has now taken somewhat of a turn. I had all this stuff I wanted to say to him as if he has any idea who I am. There are many things that have already been shared. Thoughts on a drum that’s already been beaten. I sat down twice to write it and deleted it each time.
I went outside for some fresh air and sunshine. There’s something therapeutic about working in the garden. It’s mostly been put to sleep, as it is now the end of October. I had saved the Christmas lima beans for last for they have taken over the fence nearby, climbing up and through the nooks and crannies. They weren’t big producers of fruit but sure had a lot of fluff.
That’s when it hit me. This box of beans got so out of hand that it was hard to get in the garden gate but once you did there was a ton of goodness on the other side. The limas got a lot of attention simply because they stood out loud and proud.
You see, Jane, while I don’t agree with his tone or the manner to which he told Beth Moore to “go home” amidst the cackles and snickering of his compadres, nor do I wish to “hock jewelry” or be devalued by his buddies. I really don’t want to give him more attention. His type of argument and arrogance will be around long after I am not.
By giving him an ounce more consideration, I only perpetuate the fanning of his fame. No. That’s not what I want to do at all.
As I was tearing down that loud lima, our Dad reminded me that dear John is not the keeper of the gate and we don’t get our value and worth from the words and commands of a patriarchal group of grouchy men. But rather from a Book He wrote long ago as a reminder of who we are and Whose we are.
Our gifts are determined by Him, a Father who loves us dearly. How we use them (or not) is determined by us. With that said, dear sister, as Paul did for Timothy, I want to use mine to fan into flame, yours!
Where do we begin? What’s the best way to fight back? It’s not by flinging insult for insult. I’d like us to walk through scripture together one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one day at a time. I can’t explain it but our Dad’s words give encouragement and hope, courage and grace, instruction and discipline. The more the world roars, the more we need the whisper of His word.
There is something sacred about keeping it simple. With an expectant heart and mind and ears leaned into listen, pen and paper at the ready, won’t you join me as we walk through the Bible together.
Let me know if you want to join the private Facebook group I started called, Take a Walk With Me. It’s imperative we read a little bit of scripture each and every day. It won’t be hard but it will be beneficial. The invitation is always open! The start date is November 1st but you can join us at any time!
My sister and I are as different as night and day. She’s adventurous. I’m…well…scared of the carwash among other things.
We approach life much like getting in the swimming pool. She cannon balls. I enter slowly, step by chilly step.
I’m more of a thinker. She’s a doer.
Often times when I hear women talking about the sisters Mary, the thinker and Martha, the doer, they will pick one or the other with whom they feel a connection.
Is that a bad thing? Must we choose between doing and thinking?
The first time we meet Martha, she is hosting a party for Jesus as he passed through the town of Bethany. Dinner wasn’t the only thing steaming. So was she.
Her sister Mary (as we’ve already seen) was learning at Jesus’ feet instead of helping in the kitchen. Martha,boldly served up some roasted lamb with a side order of attitude.
Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! (Luke 10:40 NIV)
Boy do I get this. If you’ve been involved in church or ministry work at all, then you know the 80/20 rule that says 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. It’s so easy to serve with some Martha ‘tude. I’ve been her and also been served by her.
Jesus’ response? Martha, Martha, (whenever he says your name twice…oh dear!) you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)
I can get so caught up in the serving part that I forget the sitting part. Without the sitting part, the serving part can become a bitter thing I do, not the better.
The second time we see Martha’s boldness is when her brother Lazarus is sick and Jesus delays coming so long that he dies.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, bu Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been her. My brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:20-22 NIV)
Martha’s daring drives her to the One who can calm her concerns. I love that Jesus doesn’t rebuke her but is ever the Teacher as he reveals a bit more of himself as the Resurrection and Life. He challenges her by asking, do you believe this? (John 11:25-26 NIV)
Some would call Martha brazen and brash, disrespectful. Mary’s response was perhaps much more appropriate. But we don’t have to put a lid on our wants and wonderings. We can be fearless in our asking of questions and laying out of our concerns.
We can therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 CSB)
Theology begins with doubts that make us dig. ‘Tude or not, he can handle us just fine.
The last time we see Martha, she’s back at it in the kitchen minus the ‘tude towards her sister. There’s another dinner party being given in Jesus’ honor. It’s just six days before Passover and while Mary takes her pint of pure nard to anoint the feet of Jesus as an act of worship, John tells us,
Two little words with a powerful punch. We find Martha using her gifts as a form of worship and not to wage war with her sister. When we each bring our gifts and talents to the table, the church and ministry of Jesus is so much better. The world needs to hear the good news of the gospel and whether that’s washing dishes or feet, both are important.
She’s learning and so am I.
I am just as content teaching a Bible study on even given week or gathering dirty communion cups after Sunday service. Reading a commentary on the book of James or pulling weeds. Planting seeds whether in the garden or over coffee with a distraught woman.
Theology doesn’t disconnect us from life or weaken our willingness to do the next thing. Knowing God, makes us mobile to do the very thing he calls us to. Those of us who know God find sacred in the simple as well as the sensational. As strange as it may seem, theology belongs in the kitchen just as much as it belongs in the classroom at seminary or behind the pulpit or in elder meetings.
I don’t believe we have to choose between Mary and Martha, between being a thinker or a doer. I think we are meant to be a blend of both.
Learning, leaning and loving make for some sound theology.
I’ve never felt very courageous. I scored 0% in the category marked “Adventuresome” on one of those tests everyone takes. Like Walter Mitty in his secret life, I would daydream an awful lot…can you hear me Major Tom?
But then again I have five kids, which takes lionhearted courage and I was the first of my big family to go out of the country to Zimbabwe on a mission trip. My pastor sent a text the day before I was to leave, You can do this Mrs. Mitty. He knew.
After that trip, every time something came up that would take courage (car wash anyone??) I would tell myself I could do this thing. After all, I’d been to Africa!
So maybe bold is a better word. I can speak to big groups but get a bit sweaty palmed small talking with folks I don’t know. I don’t mind being in the spotlight, the center of attention, but like to control when said light is turned on.
I’m a nine on the Ennegram, a Peacemaker, doing almost anything to avoid conflict and choosing the path of least resistance. I like routine. I don’t like to be the center of controversy. Though I can debate and have an opinion different than yours, I need a nap afterwards.
But sometimes you just have to be bold.
The third time we see Mary of Bethany she’s at another dinner party, this one being given in Jesus’ honor. (John 12:2 NIV) It’s just six days before Passover and time is drawing close for Jesus to be arrested, beaten, put on trial and crucified. He knows it.
I wonder if Mary senses it too? I wonder if she picked up something different in his teaching lately, an urgency, a preparedness, a warning of what was coming.
The disciples were jockeying for a pristine position on his right and left in this new kingdom Jesus came to establish. (Mark 10:35-45 NIV) They’ve politicized Jesus’ ministry thinking he would become the new king of the country instead of King of Kings.
Not Mary. While the others are eating Mary takes a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NIV)
This was a bold act for several reasons: 1.) Society expected her to be serving food not wasting time at Jesus’ feet. 2.) Touching someone’s feet was considered degrading (imagine the disciples surprise when Jesus washes their feet!) 3.) A woman was never to take her hair down in public…never. 4.) The perfume she poured out was more than a year’s wages and her dowry that she’d been collecting. It gave her value for a favorable marriage in the future. All poured out, wasted as some of them were saying. (Based on the book Insight’s on John by Charles Swindoll)
The boys in the room didn’t like it. They thought it was a big waste and were vocal in their “concern” but Mary didn’t care. She didn’t just bust open a jar, she broke open the box society had put her in. She lived out the full life Jesus came to give her.
Being a woman of faith can put you in a position to step outside your comfort zone and into the war zone, to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do to take a risk and pour it all out there with a boldness you’ve not known before.
We have to be ready. We can’t walk into battle armed only with what we learn from a person behind the pulpit on Sunday morning. We aren’t meant to fight with the men (they are not our enemy) or even in their shadow but beside them armed with sound theology from our own digging daily in scripture. This war zone is no respecter of gender.
It is on the battlefield that a woman will discover the power and usefulness of her theology. Mary’s third portrait should have a profound impact on how we see ourselves as women, in the home and in the church. When we take this definition of ourselves seriously, the home, the church, and the men will only benefit. Conversely, to walk away from this hurts us all. (From the book When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James)
Mary shows us much about what it takes to be a theologian. She sat at Jesus’ feet and learned. She learned what he was all about and who she was because of who He is. But it’s so much more than learning.
She fell at His feet and leaned. We lean in to what we’ve learned; which enables us to endure those storms that could rock our world otherwise. It puts our faith to the test and helps strengthen and mature our theology.
She worshiped at His feet and loved. When we begin to understand who Jesus is and what he has done (and does) for us we want nothing more than to love him, to pour out our best for him. Worship is never wasted.
Mary is such a great example for us to follow. But…
What if I’m more like Martha? I’m so glad you asked…
I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand.
I’m so sorry.
Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived.
In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?
They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become.
They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)
When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV)
Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you.
The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament.
Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV)
How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?
If only you’d been there, Lord…
…in the darkest days of depression.
…in the emergency room.
…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.
…when abuse was happening.
…in divorce court.
…at the casket of a loved one.
…when my child died.
…in the middle of a panic attack.
…in the wondering and wandering and worry.
…in the confusion of identity.
…in the wilderness
Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?
Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different.
What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring.
True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James)
Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt.
Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)
I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory.
We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only.
I could hear the chug of the church bus rounding the corner at my Mom’s house. It was a rare occasion that I got to spend Saturday night with her and go to the fancy big church in town as my Granny called it. No country church for me, where the wooden pews and people smelled of must and old age and the “facilities” were still outside. Not this weekend.
They were having a contest and my younger sister asked if I could please come with her so she could earn her hat for bringing a guest. The special bonus, if there were X amount of kids that Sunday, the pastor, John Maxwell, would eat a live goldfish. We were all in.
The kids were singing, as kids do, at the tops of their lungs We’re Whirly Birds for Jesus, we live for him each day… I soon caught on and wanted to be a Whirly Bird too. I wasn’t sure about this Jesus but I really wanted the cap these kids were wearing, a red beanie with a little helicopter on top. You could earn pins for it too (!), which filled my people-pleasing-award-winning-accomplishment-doing-soul right up.
I soon learned that being a Christ follower was more than donning a Whirly Bird beanie heavy laden with bling from winning contests. Souls were at stake after all. Mine included.
I discovered a classmate of mine also went to the fancy big church in town and happened to be at movie night. (Movie night? At church! Fancy big church’s meter pegged to the right of cool.) We settled in with some popcorn and candy and sat beside each other ready to watch the 1970’s film called A Thief in the Night.
Our popcorn grew cold, candy uneaten as Micky and I watched the confusion and mayhem of this woman who had been left behind. At the end of the movie the youth pastor got up and explained how Jesus was coming back and how we needed to be ready or else be left here to suffer. He read Matthew 24:36-51 to us.
That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:39-40NIV)
I wasn’t exactly sure what all that meant. We didn’t own a hand mill nor did we have fields but we did have a garden and canned a lot so maybe that counted. What I did know was that I did not want to be without my Granny and left in a place where the people were weeping and gnashing their teeth. (Matthew 24:51NIV) Obviously there were no Whirly Birds there.
So Micky and I went forward to accept Jesus as our Savior whatever all that actually meant. This movie scared the hell out of me but didn’t drive me to a place where I would come to really know Jesus.
For two more decades I would wax and wane between singing with my beanie on and running to escape the fiery flames. Always working to be good enough, missing the mark horribly, feeling the shame of things I’d done and things done to me, asking forgiveness for things that were already tossed as far as east is from west. It was a vicious cycle of rinse and repeat, rededicate, renew, return to old ways.
Until life spun me in a different direction and landed me in a place I’d never been.
Tucked in the Gospel of Luke are five little verses that introduce us to two sisters from Bethany, Mary and Martha who find themselves with a dinner guest by the name of Jesus. While Martha is busy in the kitchen, we find Mary had managed to make her way to where Jesus was and took the posture of a student, a disciple, a learner at his feet.
Whether by invitation or an act of bravery, Mary knew she wanted to understand more than the bits and pieces she put together as she went about her duties or heard secondhand from her brother and those that knew him personally. She wanted and needed to know Jesus herself.
So she sat at his feet, listened and learned.
This first female New Testament theologian will glean much from this meeting. While we don’t know what Jesus was saying, I wonder if she was beginning to understand that this Man brought a different message than the culture of her day.
Jesus tells those who are listening, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42 NIV) In a culture where women are not invited to sit at the table and learn this changes everything.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were going to church every time the doors were open. We served. We sang. We served some more. If a spot needed filled we were there. And yet my marriage was falling apart. My adult version of being a Whirly Bird was crashing fast. Those gnashing teeth were hot on my heels.
I soon discovered a foundation of theology built on service alone and the things I “do” is like shifting sand that soon crumbles when hard times come. All of my do’s are paltry compared to what has already been done. I needed to know the doer of done. Not just those bits and pieces I heard from the pulpit or Sunday school teacher.
Sound theology starts with sitting and soaking at the feet of the Teacher Himself. Not just on Sunday mornings or even Wednesday nights. But every chance I get.
Knowledge of his character, recognition of his voice, learning about his heart and compassion doesn’t keep us from walking through seasons of difficulty. Life happens and happens hard sometimes. But we weather storms differently when we know who is taking us through them. When we know the One who holds the compass.
Learning is the first step to being a sheologian. We wrestle with texts. We ask questions. We wonder. We wait. And then we are given opportunities to practice. To put feet on our faith. To live out what we’ve soaked up.
There’s more to Mary’s story. And mine. As you’ll soon see.
You could see the battle going on in the woman’s mind that sat across from me. Her husband had coercively, emotionally abused her for many years. While I could see her making strides toward gaining some confidence, she was struggling to answer the question I asked.
What do you want to do?
I really want to leave him….but I can’t.
Because if I leave him, God will leave me. He hates divorce.
While it is written, I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel. (Malachi 2:16NIV) it also says this of God, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5NIV)
My heart broke for her as she shared with me that she was told by “the church” God would rather she stay in the abusive marriage than get a divorce. She now recognized the affront for what it was but what was she to do? We talked, searched scripture and prayed for direction.
Unfortunately her story is all too common. Being duped, damaged and deceived by half-truths and truth twisting is a play by the enemy that is as old as the Garden of Eden. She knew just enough scripture to believe deception but not enough to refute it with truth.
Anybody else been there? We may not be in an abusive relationship but there is a half-truth believed to be the whole truth. A twist to scripture you’ve never untwisted.
Who are these “creeping people”? The Message tells us they look like this:
People who are self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (2Timothy 3:1-5MSG)
That’s quite a list, yes? Instead of women being creeped out and recognizing religious fads that calls itself “truth”(2Timothy 3:7MSG) these people are creeping in and taking every advantage of us and many times we don’t even notice. Does this fire up anybody else?
These people prey on the weakness of women, the guilt of women and the passions of women. (2Timothy 3:6) Listen, it is not God’s desire that women be weak in discernment…theological, Biblical, and moral discernment…so that they are sitting ducks for creeps.
What makes these women (and us) gullible and easy to deceive? Let’s look at the reasons in reverse order:
The Passions of Women. The emphasis here could be sexual in nature but we women can be passionate about a lot of things. We can lust after…the perfect house, job, family, body etc…we are so intense with our passionate pursuits that we leave no space or place for sound Biblical study.
We find our value in the stuff we have or the things we do instead of the One that’s already done it for us. We passionately pursue after our purpose instead of purposely placing our passions in the hands of our Pursuer.
There’s nothing wrong with having goals and dreams, pursuits and passions as long as they don’t have you.
The Guilt of Women. These are women who are loaded down with sin. This isn’t fun to talk about but here we go. We cannot surround ourselves with people who never speak truth to us, who let us do whatever we want. I have a handful of girlfriends who are my biggest cheerleaders, yes, but who also keep me in check if I’m out of line.
This alignment keeps me out of the line of enemy fire and able to recognize his schemes.
Paul warns Timothy about this a bit later when he says, For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3-4NIV)
Don’t circle yourself in with best friends who scratch an itch with a feather. Surround yourself with grace full truth tellers. You’ll grow stronger and keep the creeps out.
The Weakness of Women. The creeping people who are mentioned in Timothy are smooth talkerswho prey on women with every new religious fad that calls itself truth. Oh, it’s subtle and slick most of the time. There’s just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make it sound good and Godly but the underlying message is more like did God really say…as said by the serpent of old.
What do we do so we aren’t misled?
In a word: Theology.
I know, I know. It sounds boring or maybe intimidating or too churchy. But theology isn’t just for the men. We will be judged based on what we ourselves know to be truth not what somebody else did or didn’t tell us to be true. We have a responsibility, as women, to become sheologians.
It really isn’t as tedious or terrifying as it sounds…as I hope to show you over the next few blog posts. Theology isn’t just about reading textbooks like Lectures in Systemic Theology, trying to get a grasp on the knowledge of God. James tells us that even the demons believe that there is one God…and shudder. (James 2:19)
We are in a battle that is fierce. Carolyn Custis James says, Soft theology won’t sustain us on the battlefield. Marching into battle with superficial, false, and flimsy ideas of God is like going to war with a popgun tucked under your arm. (When Life and Beliefs Collide pg 95)
Theology is more than just knowledge.
Sound theology brings a bazooka to the battlefield enabling us to keep the creeping people out and our itching ears scratched with the Truth. Sound theology grounds us when life picks us up and spins us around. Sound theology prevents us from believing half-truths. Sound theology helps us recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sound theology engages the intellect, leans in after a loss and warrants us to worship.
You didn’t choose this desert space, this wilderness place.
Or maybe you did.
However you land there doesn’t really matter, it can be horrible yet the most hallowed place you’ll ever be.
In the last blog post, Forcing the Pieces, we met Sarah who desired to have the children God promised her and her husband. But God’s timetable wasn’t hers so she suggested they get the party started with a romp in the hay between her man and her maidservant. Alas, it worked and Hagar (AKA Fertile Myrtle the maidservant) does indeed get pregnant.
Sarah gets angry about the whole thing, blames Abraham. Abraham throws his hands in the air and says you deal with it. So she did.
Sometimes you have no choice but to flee for your own well-being. You choose to take a stand and with such courage and bravado say, Enough! Sometimes you have to leave behind the familiarity of community, a job, a home, drugs, comfort, provision, abuse, friends, tradition, others opinions. Walking away from what you know, all you’re familiar with and what makes you fit in can be one of the toughest and best things you do.
Sometimes it’s simply the season of life you’re in. You run your kids around like you’re an Uber driver at Kentucky speed way and you miss adult conversation. GNO? What’s that? Or you’re an empty nester who gave all your time and energy raising a family and now what do you do? You’re a student who lives, eats and sleeps studying, classes and tests…social life? What social life? Your child has special needs and demands time and energy, doctor appointments and round the clock care. You love them to pieces but could sure use a break.
Dry desert air makes for a thirsty soul. Thirsty souls wander and wonder.
Flip over a few chapters and we’ll see Hagar had gone back (in obedience to an angel), had the child and once again, because of Sarah’s jealousy, got banned, this time….for good.
Sarah said to Abraham, “get rid of that slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10 NIV)
Sometimes the choice is made for you. A husband walks out. Kids rebel. People distance themselves. A diagnosis is made. A death happens. And don’t think for a minute this century doesn’t have “Sarah’s” in it…using you for a means to an end manipulating and mean, then tosses your butt out like a rag doll.
Either way, here you are. According to Brene’ Brown, The wildernessis an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. (Braving the Wilderness)
The wilderness is full of uncertainty and certainly feels like you are the first and last one to blaze this trail. Surely nobody gets it. Or you. Check out my journal entry for January 18th:
Twice Hagar found herself in the wilderness, the unknown, the scary place. The first time she was seen by God; the second He heard her cries. Both times He brought comfort and provision. Wilderness has wild in the word because it’s a crazy time of walking with the One.
Hagar’s time in the wilderness, that time of searching and solitude, allowed her to experience things she never would have otherwise. She is the only woman, a slave woman at that, who names God. You are the God who sees me, for she said I have now seen the One who sees me. That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi, it is still there. (Genesis 16:13-14NIV)
He continues to be the One who sees. Now and forevermore.
Don’t be afraid. Keep moving through.
You’re among good Wilderness walkers. It’s where the prophets and poets live for inspiration. It’s where the risk-takers and trailblazers thrive. It’s where Jesus beat the devil at his own schemes.
He sees you. He hears you. Lean in and listen. Walk in the wild and be free.
What are you up to Lord? Ever asked yourself that question? Ever wondered how he would work all things for the good when all seemed lost? (Romans 8:28NIV)
That’s where I found myself a couple years back when a friendship was severed like an amputated limb. Hacked off. Gone. Replaced with phantom pains and confusion.
From where I stood, I thought for sure God was messing up somehow or angry, trying to isolate me and take away things (and people) I thought was good for me. All I could see was destruction. All I could feel was hurt and heartache.
From where I stood the mountain seemed too steep, too rocky, too unapproachable, too desolate, too lonely. I was in need of too much faith to maneuver. I was all out of mustard seeds.
From where I stood, the trail back to who he would have me be meant an uphill climb. Sometimes the path twisted in ways I didn’t want to go and seemed impossible to walk on. Tree roots tripping, forks on the path, rock-slides, thinner air.
From where I stood I had to learn (again). Rest here. Walk this way. Be still. Listen. Trust me. One step forward. Inhale him. Exhale grace. Don’t look back. Look up child!
You see, God’s view is different. He can see further ahead because he can see from on high the mountaintop. Past the pain, the hurt, the heartache. He sees into the future, my future, and knows exactly what I need (or don’t need.)
He is the Maker and the Shaker of every mountain that’s in front of us. He is the God of impossible climbs when we cling to him for our next step, our next breath, our next direction.
He alone is trustworthy.
And when you get to the top. My, my, my, such a show off.
Sometimes he allows you to see that the purpose in the pain was for your protection. Not to harm you but to help you. Not to isolate you but to draw you closer to him. He showed me that recently on this particular adventure. What a different view than the one I had at the beginning of the climb.
Moses knew a thing or two about climbing and trusting, even when (especially when?) he could not see. One such time, the air was alive with thunder and lightning, the mountain was covered in a thick smoke. Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21) and climbed.
If the mountain before you is clouded over with darkness, maybe it’s to show you things he wants no one else to see. For you to walk by faith with your hand on his shoulder, keeping pace with his pace, trusting each step of the path like never before.
He is there, in the darkest of places. He will teach you what you need to know. Trust him.
I’m still learning.
I can’t help but think that each mountain is a preparation for the next one. As long as there are people involved, there will always be more mountains to climb because we are human. Frail, fallible and forever in need of a Savior.
From where I stood, the mountain seemed un-climbable. From where God stands, the view is spectacular. Trust him on the climb. He’s got this.
This simple prayer is how I’ve started each morning since January 1st. It’s something I’ve never done…reading this ancient script in it’s entirety over the course of one year. Just me and Thee. Bible and heart open. Pen and journal in hand. (I say this with some sarcasm because, while this sounds uber spiritual, I’ve already thrown a couple fits, not liked what he’s shown me, and well, I’m getting ahead of myself…)
I’m 20+ days in and He has yet to disappoint. Granted I’ve not made it as far as Numbers and read those long genealogies but still. Some days there are more questions than answers but that’s okay. I’m finding the joy (?) of trusting that He will show me what I need to see today.
Take for instance the first few verses of Genesis 1….
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4 NIV)
My journal entry looked like this:
January 1, 2019
Read Genesis 1-3 God separated light from darkness right away. *Live as Light*
Rose Bowl win for the Buckeyes
I closed my Bible and my journal satisfied that Day One was in the books. The message was to shine bright…after another cup of coffee of course…because he saw that the light was good. So light=good, darkness=bad. Right?
Not so much. But we often equate it that way. Maybe it’s because we can’t see as well at night. Maybe it’s because as soon as our head hits the pillow our brains have nothing else to occupy the thoughts we’ve been too busy to think about all day. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe it’s because the moment we’re still, grief pours down over us.
He could have made the sun to always shine but instead gave us night with a dimmer light to lead the way. Often times when life is all sunshine I have a tendency to think I know where I’m going and get completely lost. My arrogance leads me down a path I wasn’t meant to take. Once again I’m reliant on the Maker of both day and night to put me back on the right road.
God shows us things at night.
Take Abram for example. He was discouraged in his inability to produce offspring and was talking to the Lord about it. So God took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:1-5NIV)
This offspring thing kept Abram up at night. God didn’t wait to address his concerns until the sun came up the next day. No. He showed Abram the stars so when the darkness of doubt set in again, Abram could simply look up and be reminded that the God who put the stars in the sky does what He says He will do. He was right there with him. And he’s right there with you and me. In the night. When the doubt creeps in like the shadow of death.
God likes to wrestle at night.
In Genesis 32 we see Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau. Esau is the brother from whom Jacob stole his birthright. They haven’t seen each other in years and Jacob is a bit…nervous shall we say. Jacob sends his family on ahead and…
a man wrestled him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Then a few wrestle moves and a name change later the man…blessed him there. (Genesis 32:22-29NIV)
I’m not sure what all Jacob was wrestling with God about but I do know it was night once again. That time when you lay your head on the pillow, exhausted from a full day of running, working, kids, husband, appointments. You can’t wait to fall into the bliss of sweet dreams…
Instead you start thinking about running, working, kids, husband, appointments. Worry, doubts, wonder, fear…
But instead of grappling with God we grab our phones and Crush some Candy or scroll through social media and wonder why everyone else has it better than you do. Other people’s families don’t seem to be falling apart. What will the test come back as? The list goes on and we get angry at God but we don’t engage with him. Our noses get out of joint instead of our hips.
Could it be that we miss the blessing because we run from the wrestling?
Living a life of faith is not lived in the light but discovered in the dark. While I don’t want to live in utter darkness all the time, I also don’t want to fear it. What can light mean if we never experience dark?
I do want to live as lightlike I wrote in my journal. But that may mean allowing Him to show me things by way of moonlight and stars with just enough light for the step I’m on. My light may shine brighter only after I grapple with God for the blessing in the darkest of night.
There was evening and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:5 NIV)
And what a day it was too!
To be continued…
PS Disclaimer: the darkness I am talking about here is things that trouble or scare you or refers to a trial or hard time you are going through. I am NOT talking about the darkness of depression or other mental illnesses. Please seek professional counseling and take any prescribed medicine to help you. I have and there’s no shame in it.
I have a friend who posted an article from Psychology Today on social media titled Politics and the Catastrophe of Us and Them. I’m giving you the link to the article but that wasn’t what caught my eye. This comment did: This is going to need to start at the top, with our leadership, as the article points out. I hope we can find a leader who sets a tone of unity in 2020.
I agree with the need for unity (or at the very least kindness in our differences). I disagree that it needs to start at the top or that we should have to wait until the next election that is almost two years away. Can you imagine what this nation will be like if everyone waits to see who the next president will be before we treat each other with some manner of dignity? Can you imagine if we all lived our lives based solely on the behavior of those in government? God help us.
So if not from the top, then where?
Got a mirror? Look in it. Right there is where it starts.
Do Your Part
Nehemiah shows us a little about how to rebuild a nation that was in great trouble and disgrace, a nation that was broken down. (Nehemiah 1:3NIV) After weeping, praying and fasting for the city of Jerusalem (there’s a whole lesson just in that) he travels there to help them get back on their feet. In fact, not only did he help them rebuild the entire wall around Jerusalem, he did it in 52 days. (Nehemiah 6:15) What a monumental task to perform and in such a short order!
How did he do it? He had people be responsible to repair the rubble that was immediately in front of them, everyone doing their small part. (Nehemiah 3) While the task of repairing a whole nation in ruins may seem insurmountable, what if we focused on repairing what was in our reach, our scope of vision?
What if we had conversations instead of arguments? Even if we don’t agree. What if we put aside that feud we’ve had with a church member, family member, coworker or friend for the greater good? Even if we think we’re right. What if we truly treated our neighbor as ourselves? Even if our neighbor isn’t like us.
You may not be able to vote on a bill on Capital Hill but you can treat Bill with kindness and respect. Right?
The Blame Game
Finger pointing is the oldest game in the Book, going all the way back to the garden of Eden when God asked Adam if he’d eaten the only tree that was forbidden and his reply was yeah but the woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it. To which Eve responded, yeah but the serpent deceived me and I ate. (Genesis 3).
Yeah but…seems to be our mantra as well.
Maybe we should take a lesson from Rep-elect Dan Crenshaw when he took the high road after being on the butt end of a bad Saturday Night Live joke because of an eye patch he wears due to an injury sustained while in combat. He could have easily started a different kind of war; one no one would win in the end. Yeah but could have been his ammo if questioned about his battle tactic. Instead he accepted an apology from SNL and wants to work towards restoring civility.
I’d say he helped build up what was torn down directly in front of him. He did his part in responding with grace.
What about you? If you find yourself saying yeah but, maybe you are part of the problem.
Worry About Yourself
This leads right into a great story found in John 21:15-23 where Jesus is talking with Peter about the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. (v19). It was going to be a brutal one (v18). Peter, in turn, looks around, spots John and asks, what about him? (v21) Jesus replies, what is that to you? (v22, 23)
In essence, worry ‘bout yo-self!
At the end of the day we are responsible for our own selves. Our actions. Our words. Our responses. Our reparations. Our part in unifying. When we meet our Maker He will not ask us about somebody else’s choices. Only our own.
I don’t know about you but I want to be found on my part of the wall, not in 2020, not waiting for the next election cycle but today, right now, repairing and rebuilding, connecting and correcting, balancing and bettering not just for the good of this nation but for the glory of the God I serve.