Friday, July 31, 2009

The Mountain

No worries... I won't quote any part of the song by Steven Curtis Chapman.  At least not intentionally.

This summer has been a really good time of reflection and introspection.  Sometimes introspection is not good, because it can turn into self-absorption, but I really think that God has used my down time this summer to show me some things I haven't been able to see in the past several years.  Over the past 2 weeks specifically God has given me some wonderful mornings (and afternoons) of reading His word.  One particular day this week, I wasn't able to read in the morning, and instead of the nagging guilt I had grown accustomed to experiencing when I don't read the Bible, I felt a real yearning for the comfort and peace that comes with knowing God and spending time with Him.  It was a lovely surprise to realize that I truly felt something was missing because I didn't read that morning.

This is huge for me.  At the age of 16 when God drew me to Himself, I read my Bible, but I was never very disciplined.  I truly wanted to know truth, and I would have pockets of time where I would read voraciously, but I was never good at reading when I didn't "feel like it."  I knew this was an issue, and I had prayed and asked God (and other people) for help, but I never saw much victory.  

Over my Christmas break in 2003, I came home to Port St. Joe, and I had a lot of time to read and just hang out.  God moved in me so miraculously during those 2 weeks.  Although I was already a Christian, and I knew I was a sinner and that God had rescued me through the death and resurrection of Christ, I had not truly realized the depth of my sin and the glories of God. Through the story of Daniel being thrown into a den of lions, God showed me the grossness and vastness of my sin, and the depths of His goodness and mercy.

Let me stop right here and say that I am surrounded by a lot of people who went to seminary, and because of that, over time, I have felt intimidated and unwilling to talk in depth about God for fear that my knowledge was "wrong" or "out of context."  I still fear that, but God is helping me.  Me typing this and putting it on the internet is one step forward in that direction.  Ok, back to what I was saying...

In Daniel 6:22, Daniel says that God "shut the mouths of the lions."  Those same lions, who did not touch Daniel, had a very different response to the men who had falsely accused Daniel. When they were thrown in, "before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones."  As I read this, I became keenly aware of God's wrath, that it is terrible, and that it remains on everyone who does not trust in Christ for salvation.  They will be crushed by it.  God used this mightily in my life to bring me to a realization of what exactly I had been saved from.  I am no longer under the wrath of God!  I will not be overpowered or crushed by His terrible anger, but I have been rescued!  I am safe from the wrath of God as Daniel was safe from the lions.  I am protected by Christ.  He absorbed the wrath on my behalf. This is reason for excitement, praise, and a thankful heart!

The next 2 weeks of my life were the best of my life to that point.  I had never understood the gospel with such clarity, and I was so happy.  This all happened about a month before the worst year I could have imagined.  Within that year (really, it was squished into about 6 months), my parents divorced, my dad remarried, and my mom died.  A really bad year.  I look back on those 2 weeks at Christmas so fondly, because it was such a sweet thing God did for me.  He opened my eyes to see His goodness so that when my life and faith were violently shaken, I would know that He is for me, and that He has saved me, regardless of what life holds.  The following year was awful, and even in the years to come, I have struggled to find joy as I have tried to make sense of it all.  For about 4 years now, I have been asking God for another sweet time of fellowship with Him like I had so long ago.  I don't want to live in the past, but I longed for His presence the way I had experienced it then.  

That is where I was, when 2 weeks ago God opened my eyes once again to see His amazing grace (see the previous post).  I am so thankful.  I know there are times on the mountaintop that God gives us for renewal, and I know that there are valleys that are confusing and difficult.  I wanted to blog about the mountain so that I can look back on it when I'm tempted to rely on my emotions in the valley.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Grace Abounding

Over the weekend, my storage facility called me to let me know there was an air conditioning leak, and I should go check to make sure there was no water damage.  The majority of this blog post will not be about that, but about the way God used it to bring about a big revelation about the patterns of my faithless heart and of His boundless grace.  

When I finally went to check on things, I found that there wasn't really that much damage, but it was still a hassle because I have a ton of stuff in there, stuff that is not easily moved - a piano, a table, a bunch of heavy tubs, etc.  After moving a bunch of stuff out into the hallway and triple checking the important things to make sure they weren't damaged, I moved everything back in so I could close and lock it.  It's important for me to note here that my storage lock is not a padlock - it more of the shape of a roll of pennies, but about 1/4 of the size.  As I go to lock it, I realize that it's no longer connected to my key.  

I pitch a silent fit in my mind at how ridiculous it will be to try to find it, especially since I have moved so many things around, and I have no idea at what point it fell off my key.  I look all around for it, moving tubs and lifting bags of clothes.  At some point of my impatient frustration, it occurs to me to ask God for help.  So, I pray.  As I am praying, I say something like, "God, please please please just let me find the lock.  I don't know how, but just please let me find it."  Even as I say these words, my mind goes somewhere that it hasn't gone in quite a while (consciously anyway).  Full blown anger toward God.  This may sound incredibly ridiculous, seeing as how it was over a lock and key for crying out loud, and I'm the one who lost it anyway... but there are so many more layers than that.  I think to myself, "God isn't going to let me find this lock.  He never answers prayers the way I want him to, and He sure isn't going to start now."  These words were exactly what I have been thinking, and harboring inside for years, ever since my mom died.  Everything points back to that day, it seems.

And then something beautiful happened.  As grace is always found, it certainly wasn't at my most "shining" moment that God decided to bestow his favor on me.  It was at my grossest, most bratty, ugly moment, right after I told God that I was sure he wouldn't help me, that I angrily lifted up a trash bag full of old clothes (that I had already searched once during this process) and out fell the lock that I was so sure God wouldn't let me find.  I sat there stunned for a moment and then quickly repented.  

I have been processing the depths of this seemingly small act of kindness from Him.  In an instant, He showed me that instead of believing that God answers prayer, I believe that He won't.  My issue is not that I believe God can't do something, but that I believe He will not, for whatever reason.  It is a belief that has been detrimental to my faith over the last several years.  He is gracious enough not to let me stay that way.  He granted me one simple request when I didn't deserve it, as a reminder that He is for me, He answers prayers, and I must have faith in Him rather than doubting Him at every turn.  I am really thankful.