I laid in bed last night listening to the sounds of my son and daughter playing video games together in my son's bedroom. As I quietly laid there listening to their laughter, I tried to soak in the sound of it. All these years I have taken that beautiful sound for granted. I never stopped to think that one day I might not hear it anymore.
We do that as parents. We take things for granted. We celebrate the firsts - the first laugh, first word, first tooth, first step. But we miss the lasts. We don't think about the last time he sleeps in a crib, the last time we rock her to sleep, the last time we tie his shoes, or the last night they stay up late playing video games. As my son prepares to leave the nest and begin a new life of firsts with his future bride, I find myself trying to celebrate each "last". Our last vacation as a family of four. Our last trip to the cabin with just the four of us. I wonder will I know when it's the last time he will sit at my breakfast table? Will I know when we are eating our last dinner with him as a single man? Why is it that we focus on firsts and neglect lasts? Because the truth is, we don't know when something will be our last.
We live our lives in such a hurry. We rush on from day to day under the assumption that nothing will change. We don't consider that when our child leaves for school that he might not come home. We leave for work without thinking we might never hear our spouse's voice again. No thought is given to the fact that this day could be our last. No one dreams that tomorrow might bring news of cancer or death. We just move from day to day numbly assuming that nothing will change.
Although I don't always see it, God has spent the last couple of years teaching me that life is about change. If I was honest, I would tell you that I am broken. The picture I had of what I thought my life would look like is shattered in a million pieces. Nothing in my life looks like what I thought it would. I have lost who I thought I was, what I thought I wanted, and where I thought I was headed.
But sitting in the middle of these shattered pieces, sifting through the ashes left behind from fiery trials, I find what I never expected - beauty. It's funny that even though that beautiful picture of what I thought my life would be like is gone, I can see a different image emerging from the pieces, not a picture that I would have made, but a picture being painted by an Artist with a different perspective.
Broken pieces in the hand of a divine Artist come together in beautiful tapestries of light and life. So God has been hard at work rearranging the picture that I created in my head, so that I can see the picture that He has in mind. Honestly, I liked my picture better, but that picture doesn't reflect who I really am. It's not who I'm wired to be.
For two months I haven't picked up a pen and journal to write. I failed to listen to the voice of the Artist. I listened to the voices of others who caused me to question my calling and fear what might come as a result of it. I listened to Satan whispering in my ear that no one would be interested in hearing my story. What could a woman offer to others when she didn't have her own answers?
But in the noise, I hear another voice that beckons me to walk into the light with Him. He arranges the broken pieces in such a way that they catch the light and reflect beauty. He beckons me to walk with Him along the shore even though the threatening waves are never far away. He teaches me to look at them differently, see the beauty in the depths of the unknown, and trust Him.
And so even though I am learning to celebrate some lasts, I am also looking ahead to some firsts. I have learned that although I was in love with the picture that I created, my Creator is in love with me and wants to show me His picture for my life. And so I leave the remnants of my broken dreams in pieces on the floor and I start to walk over to where He is. I can see Him picking up the pieces and rearranging them in ways I never would have dreamed. And even though the new picture has missing pieces, making it appear to be broken, it is those broken places where His light shines through.
I find that this is what makes His picture the most beautiful. My picture might have looked perfect, but it might have blocked the Light. This new picture lets the Light shine through it, creating rays of color that are capable of catching the attention of others with whom I can share my story of Light. Life is about change. It's also about changing lives...and that creates the most beautiful picture of all.
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her." Hosea 2:14 NKJV
While listening to the testimony of Jefferson Bethke, I was reminded of a verse in Hosea chapter two that I had read before, "Behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness." My mind immediately went to my nights alone outside with God in the darkness. The wilderness can symbolize a place of wondering, a place of darkness, a place of pain. Webster's Dictionary defines it as a region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, an area essentially undisturbed by human activity, an empty or pathless area, or a bewildering situation.
I can identify with this verse because I know what it feels like to be led into a bewildering situation, my personal wilderness. Here in my wilderness I feel that it s uninhabited by other humans. I know the feeling of aloneness that the wilderness brings. As for a pathless area, the wilderness can definitely engulf you and make you feel as though there is no path that leads out of it.
So why would God purposely lead someone into the wilderness? Well, the rest of the verse says that He will bring her into the wilderness to speak comfort to her. But why would God choose an uncultivated, uninhabited place to bring comfort? Why would He take you to a pathless area to show you comfort?
Well, if you're a girl who carries a backpack instead of a purse, a girl who owns no makeup, and a girl whose idea of fixing her hair involves a ponytail, then you might see the wilderness differently. There is a beauty found only in the wilderness.
There are billions of stars in the sky, and yet many people never see them. They are there all the time, but most people never notice their beauty. During the day the brightness of the sun hides them They're there just like they are at night, but you can't see them. Even at dusk only the brightest ones can be seen. To really see them you have to wait until full darkness had come, and even then you must be still and linger for awhile. Then you start to see them, and the longer you look the more that you will see.
You see, there are some things you can only see in the dark. Light is beautiful. It symbolizes God and all that is good. Light brings sunshine and happiness, clarity and serenity. But if you never experience darkness, you miss the beauty of the stars. There are things you can only see in the dark. Sometimes God brings us to darkness, to the wilderness so that He can show us what we miss in the light. He leads us to an uninhabited area, undisturbed by human activity, so that when we get still and look long enough, He gets to show us His stars.. It is there in the wilderness that He speaks comfort. Even while in the middle of a bewildering situation, He can cause us to be still long enough to catch a glimpse of those glimmering lights strewn against the canvas of a dark sky. The longer we sit quietly with Him in the darkness, the more stars we begin to see and the comfort comes. In the dark stillness of night in the middle of the wilderness, He speaks comfort in a way that we miss in the light. There is an intimacy with God that only comes in the wilderness.
Fear. The kind of fear that sends you straight to the feet of Jesus and even there you can feel its grip. Fear that allows you to read fifteen chapters of Job without thinking to take a break. Fear in the heart of a girl who generally isn't fearful. And before you send the verses I already know them..."perfect love casts out fear", "fear not for I am with thee, be not dismayed", etc. I also know Job 1:12, Job 2:6, and 1 Peter 5:8. It's just like teaching. You don't give the hardest tests first. They get harder as you go.
I've had some difficult tests. Most of the really hard ones have been in the last couple of years. I know the God who promises to never leave us, for I have felt Him when I thought I was alone. I know the Perfect Love personally, for it has cast away my fear and allowed me to walk in paths I could not have walked alone. And my favorite verse is Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." I know Him. I know His love, His strength, and His power.
But I also know 1 Peter 5:8, Job 1:12, and Job 2:6. I know the God who tests us with fiery trials, for I have felt the heat from the fire many times. I know the God who sometimes stays His hand and allows the storm to come in all its fury. I have felt the flame of refining fire, and I have grown to know more and more about my Creator and His love for me. Yet I also know the tests must grow more difficult in order to continue to grow me...and therein lies the fear.
I asked an old friend to pray for me a couple of weeks ago because I knew that I was getting ready to embark on a journey that God had called me to, and that Satan intended to keep me from finishing. It has many facets, some in the near future, and some that seem so very far away and impossible to reach. Some I have dreamed for myself. Some I dare not hardly speak above a whisper because they are from Someone higher than I. The problem is that Satan doesn't like any of them, big or small.
I have grown to learn a lot about who God is. I have also learned a lot about Satan. Our world gets caught up in movies and books that tell them that Heaven is for real. Yes, Heaven is for real....so is Hell. We love that God knows us intimately and knows our every thought and the desires of heart. We don't stop to realize that Satan knows us intimately too. He does his homework. He studies for your test. Not to help you pass, but to ensure your failure.
I have heard the voice of God in a dream. I will never forget it. It was the most amazing feeling, even though I didn't begin to understand at the time just what it was that He was saying. But last night I heard another voice. A voice that instilled fear, and brought out every Bible verse I could draw on in immediate succession. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts otf wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12 NKJV. I've read that verse at least one hundred times, but never have I felt the presence otf the battle as I did last night. Never have I been so afraid. But they were hidden on my heart. "When I am afraid I will trust in thee." "Perfect Love casteth out fear." "Fear not, for I am with thee." "You will not need to fight this battle, stand still..." And "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death' because He is with me.
I see a journey that I am beckoned to continue on, but I see the battlefields that lie in wait on the path. There is a place where battles move beyond finances and problems at work. There is a place where the weapons of choice change from daggers and arrows to heavy artillery. I have reached that place. It would be easy to quit. It would be easy to tell God that I am tired, and that I am afraid that one day there will be a test that I will fail, even with Him standing there. I could tell Him that my armor is so cracked and battered from the more recent waves of battle, that I fear that it cannot withstand the weaponry that is sure to come. But it is pointless. It is pointless because I have tested Him and found Him faithful. How can I tell Him what I cannot do so long as He is by my side? And so I go on not knowing. I would not if I might. I would rather walk in the dark with God than to go alone in the light.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7 NKJV
A few days ago a friend sent me this verse in a text. As I read those words, I find myself longing to be that person they describe. Someone who is never shaken, not afraid of evil tidings, with a steadfast heart, trusting in the Lord. But I am not her, but I am growing.
Today marks one year since I started this blog. I looked back today at some of my earlier posts, beginning with my grandfather's eulogy. I look back at that girl who started this endeavor last September, and honestly I barely recognize her. I look at her with a mixture of envy and pity. In some ways I envy where she was last September, the naivety of what was transpiring around her. Still filled with an element of trust and joy that she would learn to lose as time went on. In many ways I pity her, knowing what lay ahead of her.
As I read through my posts, I relived so many milestones of the past year. When I started last September 1, I was officially without a church. It was the Sunday between leaving White Oak and starting Pleasant Ridge. As I read on, I traveled the road of letting go of one church home, and becoming part of a new one. I relived the pain of giving up the drive through nativity, and the beginning of the journey to a new job. I also saw glimpses of another struggle that is beyond words.
This year has taught me many things, but there are two that stand above the rest. The first is that you really do not know anyone as well as you think you do. So many of our relationships are superficial, even when we don't think that they are. I have always found such comfort in knowing that I have some of the greatest friends and family members that anyone could ask to have. I never feared dealing with anything alone, yet this year has taught me that there is a place where no one else can join you. I understand the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I understand the need Jesus experienced to bring the small group of disciples with him farther into the garden to pray. He needed them to be close and to support Him in His final hours before facing the cross. Yet there came a point where He had to withdraw alone to be with God. I have found this year that there are places that you must go alone. There isn't anyone who can go with you. You find yourself alone with God. The other thing that I learned this year stems from the first. When you reach the point that you realize there is no one else to cling to, you find that God really is enough...more than enough. Even when you find yourself so very angry with Him for leaving nothing in your life untouched. Even then, in the pain you find He is all you need. And at some point, you realize that He is all you have.
I look in the mirror now, and I don't look the same. I am not the same. I think God had me begin this blog so that I could go back and read between the lines, and remember where I was, where I went, and where I am today. That girl from last September had a rough year. She was broken more than once in more than one way. She stands stronger, but she bears scars. Some of the broken places are healing, and have grown back stronger and more secure. Some of the broken places bear deep scars, but they tell a story of faith in an amazing God. And some of the broken places are raw and open, and truthfully may never really heal.
So on this one year anniversary of tiptoeing into accepting a much bigger calling, I can smile. I can count it al joy, because in the darkest places I found a Light. Sometimes it was hidden and dim, but it was always there. I am glad He did not show me where this year would take me, because I couldn't have made the journey. There is something to be said for not knowing where the road will go. I am at a new place with God. A place I have never been before. I am in my early forties, and I have found that God has more plans for me than I would have ever began to dream for myself. A God-sized dream for a broken girl. There's a years worth of blog posts here that outline the story...His story for me.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2 NKJV
Sometimes He lets you sit in it for awhile. Sometimes you find yourself wandering around in the wilderness crying out to God, and wondering how long it will last. Sometimes He lets it hurt. Sometimes He lets you feel the strength of the storm, the wind, the rain, and the hail. Sometimes He prunes you, and the cuts are so deep they are almost unbearable. Sometimes He allows others to hurt you, and He waits until you think you can bear it no longer. You find yourself in the darkness feeling alone and defeated.
And then suddenly there is a light. Faint at first, and then almost so bright you cannot remember the darkness you just were experiencing. You look up into the face of your Father, and you know everything will be okay now.
There are times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed. We don't know what to do next, and it seems like there is nowhere else to turn. It is in those times that we must find ourselves being led to the Rock that is higher than we are. So many people have this perception that God is too big to involve Himself in the everyday lives of people, but they couldn't be more wrong. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation and feel that God has deserted us. Rest assured that the Rock is there, unshakable and unmovable.
You must maintain your trust in the Rock. That is the key. You must hold on to your faith even in the darkness of the deepest pit. You must hold on even when it seems like the storms never end. Eventually you will find that your Father will step in and stop the storms.
Paul and Silas were in jail. They had been beaten and imprisoned for their teaching. They were in stocks, and yet they sang praise to God. They had been preaching the word of God, and yet they found themselves in pain and in prison. Why would they sing and praise God when He allowed this to happen to them? They knew that their work was for Him and that He was in charge. They knew a relationship with the Almighty that was personal. Yes, He had allowed them to suffer, but in the middle of the night amidst their singing and praise, there was an earthquake that loosened their chains and set them free.
We are no different than Paul and Silas. I can testify that if you continually go to the Rock that He will take care of you. It is rarely early, but never too late when He shows up. Sometimes it seems like the forces around you are continually knocking you down. Sometimes it seems as if there is no hope of the situation getting any better. Sometimes you just climb in His arms and tell Him that you are okay with whatever comes as long as He is there. And after the storm beats so long that you can hardly stand, you will find that your Daddy will show up and say, "That's enough. She is Mine." Suddenly you will find that the winds have ceased, the thundering is quieted, and the sun is shining. Even though you are still soaked from the storms, you will find warmth in the love of your Father. You will look up to the Rock that is higher, and He will look down at you and smile.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 KJV
I stand quietly in the doorway of her bedroom. She is reading and hasn't noticed that I am there. I see it on her face and in her eyes. I simply walk away because there isn't anything I can say to make it better.
She didn't say anything when she came in from school today. She just headed to her room to read. I saw it in the way she walked, slow and with her head down. I saw in in her face as she sat slumped on her bed reading. She doesn't have to say a word...I know it all too well. I know what it feels like to have your heart relocate to your stomach on a permanent basis. I know what it feels like to have the tears fall into your cereal. I know the sick feeling you get when you head to bed knowing when you wake up you must face it again. I know what it feels like to not dare look in the mirror while you're brushing your teeth because your tearstained face will make you cry again.
You try to convince yourself that you don't really care, but the hurt screams otherwise. You catch yourself imagining where you could run to and no one would be able to find you just so you can escape for a little while and rest from it. You try to figure out what it was that you did to make her hate you so much, but you just can't put your finger on it. And sometimes if you're lucky, you're able to forget for a minute. You get absorbed in a song or a television show and just for a minute you forget your reality, your darkness, but then it returns to slap you across the face and you find yourself fighting back the tears.
I find myself wanting to take her in my arms and cry with her. I want to tell her that I will protect her. I want to lavish her with compliments and remind her how very special she is and how much she is loved. I want to tell her all the things about her that I find beautiful. I want to give her peace. And yet I know that none of these things will take it away. Nothing I can say or do will remove the darkness she finds herself in or take away the feeling of confusion and hurt. But I know Who can. And I turn from her doorway and I go to a quiet place where I can enter His presence. I beg Him to cover her with His hand. I beg Him to shelter her from this unbearable pain and to calm her fears. And I find peace. This God who created this blessing speaks to this mother's heart and says that He loves her more than I do. He reminds me that I held her in my arms at Pleasant View Baptist Church and we as parents dedicated her to Him and He didn't take that lightly. He reminds me that I am raising an Esther and that much of this bully situation comes from the fact that she belongs to Him.
And as I thank HIm and start to leave, He tugs softly at my heart and whispers. He whispers my name and reminds me that I am His baby girl too. He reminds me that His love for me is no different than this love I have for this hurting girl of mine. He whispers in my ear and reminds me that He understands what I feel for her. He has held me in His arms many times when I was hurting. He too has wanted to lavish me with His love and remind me that in His eyes I am beautiful just the way I am. He reminds me that He wants to give me peace and to take away my pain. And so I carry her to Him in prayer and I am reminded what it means to be His. I am reminded that she is His. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that both of us will be fine as long as we find ourselves in the arms of our Father.
Tomorrow is the first day of March. The majority of events that have proved themselves to be life-changing for me have occurred in the month of March. When I was fifteen, my uncle passed away in March at the age of 33. My life was never the same. Years later my aunt, his sister, passed away as well. Last March was no different. Last March my life changed forever. On March 27, 2013, I lost my grandfather. He loved me unlike anyone else. I wasn't prepared for the hole that his absence would leave in my heart.
But perhaps the biggest change in my life occurred on March 18. 2013. I have heard God speak to me in many different ways, but never really audibly in a dream. I dreamed I was with Stephen and the kids in a tall building and there had been an earthquake. Most of the building had fallen away and we were on an upper floor with only a small section of a hallway to walk on or you would fall to your death. All the doors were locked, but there was a hallway a few feet away that led to safety. We found a ladder to stretch across a missing section of hallway and put a board on it, and Stephen got across and then I sent the kids. They ran ahead to get help and I told them I would follow. As they went out of sight, the ladder fell. I was left standing in a locked doorway clinging to the door facing and was praying. In my dream, God told me to let go of the door facing. I was crying and told Him I would fall. He answered, "Yes, for a few minutes, but then I will catch you." I reminded Him that I can ride any roller coaster, but that I hate free fall. He simply stated, " I know that. That's why I need you to trust Me enough to let go." I let go of the door facing and could feel myself falling and then I stopped in midair landing on a mattress. I woke up and my heart was beating out of my chest.
At the time I thought the dream was to tell me not to worry about some issues we were having with some real estate. Little did I know, but that wasn't it at all. God was getting me ready to learn how to let go and trust Him completely. The year that has followed that dream has been more life-changing for me that any other time of my life. God set me on a path to learning that loving Him wasn't safe and following Him wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it. In the last twelve months, I have faced many things. I'm not talking about normal everyday issues like family squabbles and finances. I faced mountains and heart breaking moments that made me forget how to breathe. In the last year, I went from clinging in desperation to door facings, like my positions and my personal strengths to holding absolutely nothing and falling helplessly and fearfully into the hand of God.
As March returns tomorrow, I find myself a new creation. I no longer bother to reach for the door facing or any other person or thing. I have learned not only to let go, but to willingly jump when God calls me to do so. The experiences of the last year brought me pain, sorrow, and extraordinary loss. But let me assure you that the experiences of the last year also brought me unspeakable joy and a stronger desire to truly surrender my life to God. There is no joy that compares to when you find yourself in the deepest darkest of pits surrounded by your worst fears having become your reality, and quietly you hear His voice whispering in the darkness that He hasn't left you, and to lift your head for your Father is waiting to hold your heart and dry your tears.
And so I prepare to march boldly into this month of March, knowing that the God who created everything knows my heart and wishes to heal the broken places. I believe that the experiences that left me broken in the last twelve months, will be the very experiences that prepare me for something beautiful in the next twelve months. God had a lesson for me. He wanted to teach me to free fall. Now that I have learned to trust His hand, I truly believe my next lesson will not be how to fall, but how to soar.
Eventually it has to stop doesn't it? He has to know how tired I am doesn't He? And yet the burdens pile higher and not just imcreasing in steps anymore, but coming in multiple in the same day. It isn't like this is new really. The burdens have become my normal, but just not this overwhelming.
Yet I don't dare ask why, because I know the answer. I was warned. I even wrote it down in October. "The day you step out in faith, put yourself out there, state your opinions, declare yourself for Christ...that day the enemy sets his sights on you with fervor." That's what I had done. I made a decision in August to step out in faith toward something I felt God calling me. Since that time the calling has become stronger and the attack has increased.
The temptation to throw up my hands is always present. I am completely aware of my own insecurities and weaknesses. I am perfectly aware of how impossible the call seems. I am aware of how difficult the journey will be for my family. I realize that the best thing to do seems to be to just try to forget about it....but I can't. The voice is getting louder. The beckoning within my soul is sometimes deafening. As much as I try to fight it, the more I find myself wanting it. Every time I find myself almost letting go, He sends confirmation and usually in a very big and undeniable way.
So I find myself standing on the edge of God's will and what seems realistic. I find myself torn between the dream of a call and the realism of the struggle. I know that choosing to deny the call is to deny a blessing....possibly my true God-given appointment. I hear the thunder, feel the rain, and see the lightning. I feel the doubt and fear start to creep inside. In the noise of the storm I can barely hear His voice saying, "If you want to follow and choose this path, don't be afraid of the battle . I will fight the battle for you. You must simply position yourself, stand still, and see what I will do." (2 Chronicles 20:17) And so I continue with renewed determination knowing that the God who calls me will make the way. . My only hope, my only peace, is that He is working in it all...I am broken and in the hands of the Potter. Even in the pain there is no better place to be.
Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still. Psalm 107:28-29 NKJV
I woke up to the storm. I didn't realize that it had grown into a storm. I had seen the clouds, but clouds seem to always be present. Even the big fluffy cumulus clouds can temporarily hide the sun, but I have grown to accept that the clouds come and go. This year has been particularly cloudy.
I woke up to a tsunami. This wasn't the usual light rain and gray skies. This wasn't even like when I had experienced the earthquakes or tornadoes. This was a full blown tsunami. And as if that wasn't enough, I found that I had been relocated to a tiny island in the middle of an ocean waking up alone to a tsunami. I wasn't sure how or when I had gotten here, but I knew who had brought me. The island was incredibly small. There was no shelter anywhere on the island except for one tall, skinny palm tree that barely had any leaves and not a lot of girth. There are not a lot of things that I truly fear, but I found myself in a place where fear abounded. All I knew was to hold on to that tree.
I'm still here on my little island alone with this tree. At first it didn't look like that much to me. It seemed to be too skinny to hold up during a storm like I am finding around me. It wasn't a tree of great girth really, although it had grown to be quite tall. Turns out it's roots were deep and well grounded which surprised me with it growing on such a tiny island. Turns out that it was made just right for a storm. It could bend to the point of almost breaking, and yet it's roots and strength were able to bounce back meaning it could bend, but not break. And so I hold to the tree. It's size is just right for me to be able to wrap both my arms and legs around it. I have even found that sometimes my head can rest against it in such a way that I find some shelter from the wind and rain even though the leaves are few.
So who brought me to the island? His name is Satan. He knows me better than most. He knows where my strength resides, yet he knows the weak places and it is there that he works. He picked this island just for me. He knew what I feared the most. He left me here with no boat and what appeared to be no shelter. He saw the tree, but he didn't know what it was made of, or Who planted it. At face value, the tree doesn't look like much, but the Maker of the tree knew what He was doing.
The storm is rough and raging. The tree bends under the pressure of the wind and the tremendous waves that insist on beating it over and over. Sometimes as I hold on to the tree, it bends so close to the ground that I am sure it cannot withstand much longer. But it's roots are deep....apparently deep enough to hold on even in the biggest storm. And it's tall rather than having a large girth which seems like a weakness, but you see it reaches toward Heaven. That tree has grown toward the Light. Beyond the roots and the need for the Light, the Maker used something different when making this tree. Something that Satan couldn't see or understand. This tree that stood vulnerable alone on this island was what he could see, but he didn't understand that the tree isn't made of things that break very easily. The tree consists of years of love, commitment, and learning how to ride out a storm. And so I will continue to hold on to my tree....this tree of faith.
Sometimes I listen to others tell about their life with God and I don't understand. I listen as they talk about not really feeling threatened by Satan and some act as if he doesn't exist at all. I hear them talk about these preachers that they hear on television and how it seems as though they believe that God just sits on His throne in Heaven and waits to hand out rewards and blessings.
A member of my extended family once told me that she wanted to introduce me to God. I was pretty insulted because I've known Him personally for about 34 years now and her introducing me just didn't seem necessary. I wasn't really interested in anything she had to say, but there were times when I was caught in situations where she got a chance to share with me about God. I don't know Him like she does. She knows someone who can be manipulated by the actions of humans. She knows someone who rains down blessings on those who produce magic formulas. She believes that if you do A, B, and C, then God has to follow up with D and E. She believes that if you tithe, read your Bible methodically, go to church, and hand out some tracts from one of her Word of Faith ministers that God owes you rewards for your efforts.
She's right....I don't know him. I have no idea who he is.
I have to be honest. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life is to serve God. What do I mean by that, you ask. You see, the God I know is the God of the Bible. I don't remember ever reading where you could work a formula with God. I know a God who is not controlled by human forces. He is not swayed by our futile attempts to make Him anything less than what He is,
I know the God of Job. I know the God who asked Satan where he had been, knowing the answer was that he was roaming the earth seeking whom he might devour. And what did God do? He pointed out His servant Job, a man who although he wasn't perfect, was an upright man who tried his best to serve God. God basically said, "Have you checked out my boy named Job? Have you seen hid dedication to me?" And Satan said of course he loves you, why wouldn't he? And what did God do? He basically gave Satan power to touch anything Job had except he couldn't take his physical life. God sat back and let Job lose everything he had. Yes, he rewarded him beyond measure, but he let him be tested in ways that most of us could not hope to withstand. He allowed him to be pruned so he could grow and influence those who would study his life.
I know the God of Hosea. Hosea was a man of God. God told him to take a wife....an immoral, promiscuous woman who had no capability to be faithful to him. Hosea followed God and found himself in a relationship with a woman who mothered children for him to father that were not all his. She was restless and unfaithful, and what did God ask Hosea to do again and again? Hosea was to take her back, just like God did for Israel and for us. Hosea represented a picture of God's love for us.
I know the God of David. The God who saw the heart of a simple shepherd boy and chose him to be a king. The God who taught David to trust Him...enough trust to face a giant that no one else was willing to face. The God who loved David through his battles....both the successful ones and the not so great ones. The God who gave him consequences along with blessings.
I know the God of Paul. I know the God who watched a man named Saul who vehemently hated Christians. A man who had such passion and dedication to persecute the people of God. And what did God do with this man? He chose him. He met him one day on a road and changed his name to Paul. He took the same passion and dedication this man possessed to do wrong, and channeled it to make him a great influence on generations of Christians. He used who he was but changed his direction.
I know the God of Michelle. He has given her an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with the Most High God. He has taught her that He is in control and she isn't. He has taught her that sometimes you have to be hurt in order to grow. He has taken someone who had no real story and given her a story that has become her own. He has shown Himself to be a God who loves unconditionally and without reservation. He loves with the love of a parent. Sometimes He applauds from the stands, sometimes He brings out the paddle, sometimes He says no to something she really wants, and always He waits to hold her when she cries. She knows a God who has allowed her to walk through the valley of the shadow, yet never left her alone. She would rather walk in the deepest darkest hell with Him, then to go alone in any glorious light. He is hers, and most importantly, she is His, and nothing else matters.