Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour, that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but rely on thy Spirit to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote o faith,
and give me a desire to show forth thy praise, testify thy love, advance thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year, with thee, O Father, as my harbour,
thee, O Son at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt, my lamp burning, my ear open to thy calls, my heart full of love, my soul free.
Give me thy grace to sanctify me, thy comforts to cheer,
thy wisdom to teach, thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct, thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.
May thy fear by my awe,
thy triumphs my joy.
~ from The Valley of Vision
**photo credit Will Davis
A few months ago we were filling out paperwork to go overseas with TEAM missions. It is a lengthy process and the final steps are pretty grueling. In the midst of our final responsibilities before going before the approval committee we had to go through a pretty rough assessment. In that process God revealed some hefty sins within our marriage. Because of that we halted our application and we’ve been wrestling with it ever since.
I struggle so much with feeling so confident about a path or choice…only to have that path ripped out from under me. Then I wonder if I was ever on the right path to begin with? I am learning to distinguish between fear of the unknown and the fear and anxiety that comes from being out of God’s will. There truly is a difference. For the longest time I felt like God was giving us a choice. Not a wrong or right one, but really just two paths leading to two different places. Both places calling us to a level of dependence we’ve never known of Him. Both calling us out of our comfort zone and calling our family into a different way of life as we know it.
Then the bottom fell out and I began to think that we had stayed on the path to missions only to have God bring to the top these grievous sins. To bring on a redemption and renewal that I’ve been longing an praying for for years.
So I started moving towards path B. But in the midst of it all we’ve started wondering about the original way we were headed. Was it really just to expose that sin? Or did we jump off the path too quickly? While God is being proclaimed greatly through what is going on in our relationship…was it just a precurser to how greatly He will be proclaimed if we follow through?
We so often think that God only gives us one choice that is good. But so many times I wonder if He doesn’t give us a multitude that is good and we search too hard for the right one; consumed with worry that we won’t get it right? Are we, am I, searching too hard in my own strength for fear of failure, when all He wants me to do is just trust in Him? I think I’m trying to solve problems and find solutions that aren’t mine to find.
My verse all along has been Psalm 27
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
And I cling to the promise that no matter what choice I choose…I will see His goodness. Because He is always good.
I’ve recently started running a couple of times a week. While I pretty much hate it, I’m convinced that the purpose of running is mainly to provide great metaphors for life. Today was a perfect example.
Our home is situated right inside an amazing park. My typical running day routine consists of me walking the kids to school and then instead of heading home, heading towards the greenway that runs through the park. It’s about a 2 mile run from where I start back to my house. I started out walking more than running and I’ve gotten a pretty good routine of walking some of the larger hills (of which there are 2) and running all the rest. I know where the smaller hills are and I know exactly how much I have to go before I get to walk again. It’s a battle of pushing myself and also knowing that I’ve done it millions of times already so I know I can do it.
Today was a hard day. I knew starting out that my body was not going to cooperate and it was going to be a good mental battle to keep going. There is one long stretch of running I do at the very end. It’s probably about half a mile (although it feels like 10) and I’ve run it successfully at least half a dozen times. But every time I have to battle those voices telling me to stop running, it’s too much, you need to stop and walk etc. So I have to remind myself that I’ve done this, I’ve run this path, I’ve run as far (and a couple of times farther) and I can make it.
I realized that this is my daily battle in life.
My husband and I are walking through the hardest battle that we’ve ever been in. While some of the hills we are climbing up aren’t new ones, there are some parts of this journey that we haven’t been through before. This is where that running analogy comes in.
We’ve been through some tough stuff. I’ve been through some tough stuff and
every. single. time. God has come through for me and for us.
But it’s a constant, minute by minute battle to stay on the course, to keep going, to stay hopeful and rest in the promise that I’ve walked this (or run this) before and will get through it.
Stronger than I was and full of more and more of His grace.
One of the things that is a constant refrain through much of Much-Afraid’s journey is that when she is headed in the direction of the mountains, and on the path that she thinks she needs to go, she is joyful. When the path turns away from the promise (or so it seems) she is completely disheartened. It is a lesson that the Shepherd repeats for the first part of her journey over and again.
Those times that the path seems to move away are the times that she is overcome by her enemies. Craven Fear, Bitterness, Pride, Resentment and Self-Pity move in like a pack of lions and try to devour her spirit. The Shepherd has reminded her to call out to him when these enemies show their faces and it’s a lesson that takes time for her to learn. By the second or third time these Fearlings have shown their faces she begins to realize that she does have power over them. She can call out to the Shepherd and she can also sing. In chapter six as they start over the Great Sea Wall and her enemies are surrounding her she lifts up her voice and declares Psalm 27:6
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. As she sings these words aloud her enemies are distracted and their taunts are drowned out.
But even after this great success over her enemies, her hope continues to rest upon her circumstances. The direction she is moving or the scenery around here – even the way of the path in front of her. After the Sea Wall she comes to a great wall in front of her. Not only has the Shepherd led her away from the direction she desired to go, he has now led her to what seems an impasse. Craven Fear shows up as she watches the deer bounce along this great precipice. And instead of calling out to the Shepherd she listens to Fear. She opens up her imagination to all the things that are impossible about this way. She fears calling out to the Shepherd because she knows what he will ask her to do and she is terrified.
But she does call and he responds. “I love doing preposterous things…turning weakness to strength, fear to faith and something marred into perfection.” He brings her to the absolute point where in her own strength she could never do it. Like Sarah and Abraham having a baby. Like Mary being the Mother of God. Places where there is no way but to say “it is of the Lord.”
As she starts to climb with the Shepherd beside her she realizes that it is not as scary as she thought. They edges are not as small as they seemed. The way not as hard to overcome as it looked. But her imagination must remain closed; for what she imagines is often much more unnerving and terrible than what actually is.
She mounts this horrible precipice with great joy and satisfaction. And then again is led away from the mountains. And again she is disheartened at the way she is to go. What patience the Great Shepherd has to repeatedly teach her (and us) the same lesson over and again until we finally submit! He leads her to a place where she abandons her will. She makes another alter and sacrifices another part of her will. And the Shepherd gently reminds her:
“don’t ever allow yourself to begin to try and picture what the path ahead will be like – when you get the places you dread (or the direction that seems opposite) they will be as different as possible than what you imagined.”
Trust. It’s about trust. And we lost trust in the Garden and all of us this side of Eden will continue to build alters of our wills. Like Much-Afraid, our Shepherd continues to lead us and remind us that He does have our best interest at heart. He who began a good work in us is faithful to finish it. It’s the finishing that is so terribly hard.
One of the reasons why I think the word “unrelenting” spoke to me is because I feel as if I’ve been stuck.
I’ve been on this Emmaus Road walking. Sometimes maybe seeing the Lord walking with me, but most of the time with my head down pondering everything that has happened but not really looking up and moving on. Like the disciples walking, I feel like I’ve lost heart and that the things that have happened really can’t be overcome. I’ve listened to the Scriptures and the words Jesus has spoken, but I still haven’t really seen Him and heard him.
So, there I am on the road and at the table nodding my head yes, but not really letting it all sink in…soak in.
That’s why I declare 2013 to be a unrelenting.
I’m not giving up this year.
I’m persisting through my disappointment, fear, worry, anxiousness, frustration and even joy to put aside and move towards Him.
Moving into this longing in my heart to know His scriptures and actually knowing His scriptures.
Refusing to stay stuck in this place that is keeping me from knowing – and moving – into His goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 29:13).
Even when moving in the shadowlands of sadness or worry or frustration, knowing that He is there with me and choosing JOY even when everything else seems crazy.
It’s funny to write all this about being stuck and choosing joy because I’m walking into 2013 feeling so much freer than I have in years. I’m not depressed. I’m not in this place of great fear like I’ve been before. I’m not in a horrible place in my marriage. My children are healthy. I’m not facing illness. My bills are paid.
Yet even in the midst of all this, I know that there is so much more than I’m missing.
I’m still on that road with my head down.
We can be moving in the shadows even when things seem to be going just fine.
But yet God has so much more for us than just being fine.
And that comes with an unrelenting pursuit.
Soaking my daily minutes into His scripture.
Refusing to listen to the whispers in my head and around me and going to His word.
Fully giving over my heart into forgiveness
Choosing to be healed and moving into that healing.
Walking into 2013 with my head up and eyes on Him.