Sometimes I can forget. Sometimes by the mercies of the sweet Lord, I can go about my day to day activities of life and almost forget. Sometimes I can find myself laughing and talking while walking through the woods or sitting on the porch, and I can forget that anything ever happened. Sometimes I find myself just happily walking along, wading in the ocean of life enjoying the beauty of the sunset and the wind blowing on my face without a care in the world.
But sometimes I suddenly find myself under the water again fighting to breathe. Sometimes out of nowhere a wave hits and completely knocks me off my feet and throws me into the depths of the sea of pain. Often I have no idea where the tsunami type wave came from. It just sneaks up and overpowers me, and I find myself fighting to survive again. Suddenly I find myself under murky water entangled with seaweed, with my lungs filling up with water to where I can't remember how to breathe. I sometimes can't even tell which direction the surface is from where I have fallen. Sometimes I just want to give in to it and let it be over. Just once to not try to fight it, and to just let it take over and win.
And then somewhere above the darkening depths, I hear His voice. He saw the wave and He has come to find me among the depths of the sea. Sometimes I can barely hear Him, but He calls to me to look up. From somewhere high above this murky pit, I see a faint hint of Light and it beckons me to swim toward it. Part of me doesn't even want to try to head in the direction of the Light. Part of me is so tired of following His Light and beckoning to His call, and just wants to close my eyes and let the dark shadows have their way. Sometimes it seems that to give in to the seaweed and the water-filled lungs would provide a rest more peaceful than the cost of fighting for the rest that He promises.
But He is insistent. I was bought with a price, and I belong to Him. He created me for a purpose...His purpose. And so he pursues me. The Lover of my soul calls to me even in the deepest of pits and beckons me to come toward Him. Even if I find myself sliding deeper into the murkiness of the water, He continues to call me. The call gradually becomes louder than the roar of the tsunami surrounding me, and my soul longs for His embrace. And so I move toward the Light and the sound of His voice.
As soon as I begin to move in His direction, His strong and mighty hand reaches into the depths and He lifts me out onto the sandy beach. Even though the seaweed still hangs tightly around my legs and arms....even though my lungs are still filled with water...even though my lungs still ache and I can hardly breathe...I am at peace as I rest there on the beach with my head in His hand. He gently rubs my face dry, smile, and reminds me that I have a message....and then He tells me to get up and keep going. Tired as I am and still struggling to figure out how to breathe, I get up and continue walking because I am loved by the Maker of the stars and He has something that He wants me to do for Him.
I had it all planned out when I was younger. I would be just like my mom and marry the only man I had ever dated. We would live in a two story farmhouse, and we would have two or three children. We would have holiday dinners at our house for the whole family. We would have dogs, cats, and other animals. We would go to church every Sunday, and live our lives for God. In a word, everything would be perfect.
Well, I did marry the only man I ever dated. We do live in a two story brick that looks like an old farmhouse. I have two healthy beautiful children, a boy and a girl. Every year since we built the house, we have had a huge Thanksgiving dinner at our house for family. We have three dogs, a cat, three cows, and fourteen goats. We go to church pretty much every time the doors are open, and we live for God. But in a word, it is far from perfect....try imperfect.
Over the course of the past year and six months or so, my life has been a roller coaster ride of imperfection. All the things I identified myself with were taken away. Everything about who I thought I was changed. My world as I knew it was forever shaken and altered. That girl from my early twenties looked at my life and saw nothing but a mess.
In the middle of the mess, I have found my message. You see, God can't do much when you live life in your comfort zone of what you see as perfect. Sure, you can teach a Sunday School class or host a Bible study, but to really get Jesus under your fingernails, it has to be messy.
The lessons have been many, and some have been so hard that I almost forgot how to breathe. Some lessons seemed simple, but were life changing. Take my Bible for instance. In 41 years, I had never made a mark in my Bible. It was worn and falling apart, but it was all black and white...just like how I tended to see things. I was a rule follower. I didn't understand how people get to the point of separating their family, committing suicide, losing interest in life itself, or feeling depressed. My Bible was like everything else....black and white. But in March of 2013, God introduced me to free fall. In the months to follow, I would see what depression could look like. I could see how easy a family could separate. I could understand how heavy life itself can become, and how tempting it is to ask God to just let you come Home. And so the second week of November, I ordered myself a present. A new study Bible and a package of yellow dry highlighters.
I still haven't written a word in my Bible, but it has yellow running through it. I have started this blog and it portrays my life as anything but perfect. It shows the real me.....a mess. In the first verse of "Glorious Unfolding" by Steven Curtis Chapman, it tells the story of what God whispers in my ear daily.
"Lay your head down tonight, take a rest from the fight.
Don't try to figure it out. Just listen to what I'm whispering to your heart.
'Cause I know this is not anything like you thought the story of your life was gonna be.
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you, but it's just not true.
There's so much of the story that's still yet to unfold.
And this is going to be a glorious unfolding,
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed.
You've just got to believe the story is so far from over.
So hold on to every promise God has made to us and watch this glorious unfolding."
And so I look at the past almost two years and I see a mess. But out of that mess...out of that mess has come a message. Out of that mess has come a stronger daughter of God. Out of that mess has come dreams that this girl would never have dreamed for herself. Out of the mess has come a boldness and a hunger I never would have known had I not experienced the mess. And no, it isn't what I had planned, but it was His plan. And so I am stepping out on this journey with Him, awaiting my own glorious unfolding.
The presence of a great wind, an earthquake, or a fire could and had been known to signal the presence of God. After reading the stories of Noah, Moses and the burning bush, the parting of the Red Sea, and Elijah going up against the prophets of Baal, one might come to believe that God is only seen in the spectacular. Often in our lives we expect God to show up in dramatic ways. We feel that there's no way that God can use ordinary people like us because we see Him as a God who shows up in great and mighty ways.
But God doesn't always make His presence known in the spectacular. In fact, more often than not, God makes Himself known in a still small voice. God had shown Himself to Elijah in many ways. He called him to go in boldness before King Ahab. He provided him water from a brook and food from ravens. He had shown him continued provision through the widow's endless supply of flour and oil. God had shown him His power through raising the widow's son from death. He had even granted Elijah victory on Mount Carmel by causing fire to fall upon the altar defeating the prophets of Baal.
No doubt Elijah knew that God was real, and had faith in what God could do. But even after a mighty victory on Mount Carmel after boldly going up against 850 prophets, Elijah found himself feeling alone and afraid because of the threat of a woman. He has ran to Horeb, better known as Mount Sinai, the "mountain of God", and hid in a cave. This man who had so much passion for serving God found himself hiding in fear and feeling alone.
How many times are we just like Elijah? We have witnessed miracles, seen God's power displayed in our lives, or stood in victory through following Him in a tough time. Suddenly we get bad news or something happens out of our control and we immediately forget everything we know to be true and run to hide? While we are cowered in fear, we pray that God will provide a miracle or show up in a big way to defeat the giant that we are facing. How many times do we feel like we are the only ones hurting and that we are alone in our pain?
This great prophet who had stood boldly for God risking everything, including his life, still had a lesson to learn. God was teaching him that He is not just in the spectacular. Often God works quietly. He doesn't have to speak through thunder or an earthquake, but can more often be experienced through a still small voice. God also would show Elijah that he wasn't the only person who was at work for Him. Elijah could only see himself and the situation he now found himself facing. He felt like he was alone on this mission for God. But God would show Elijah that He still had 7,000 in Israel who served Him.
So many times in the last year of my life, I have found myself feeling alone and afraid. I have seen God work in mighty ways, even with miracles. I have even witnessed His still small voice many times in my life, and yet I get so absorbed in the sounds of the storm that I fail to listen for it. Sometimes I wait for God to move with a great earthquake, or a fire in my life, and almost miss it when He speaks in that same still small voice that Elijah heard.
We all are like Elijah. We all need to be reminded that God wants a personal relationship. He isn't about putting on shows for big crowds of people, although He can and He has. He is not far away and only active in the spectacular. He is a God who wants a personal relationship with each of His children.
I am amazed when I see God act through a miracle or allow he unexplainable to happen. I enjoy seeing Him move in a church service. But my favorite experiences with God is when I hear that still small voice. The knowledge that the God who created everything wants an intimate relationship with me. The feeling that He takes the time to see my tears and hear my prayers, and that He leans in close to whisper sweet peace to me. To me, that is spectacular.