Hurry, But Don’t Speed

My family has dozens of terms and phrases in our quirky tribal lexicon, words like “whomperjawed,” “gaddrief,” and “joobers.” If someone is attractive, he or she is “plum purdy.” If the opposite is the case, the person is “ugly as a mud fence.”  A negative situation causes us to say, “I don’t like this, not none,” and tasty food “slaps our spot.” There are also endless inside jokes and movie quotes without number. Yes, we have an entire love language built from scraps of memories and chatter. It’s a beautiful, mismatched quilt of words we can wrap ourselves up in, something that makes us feel cozy and safe. One of my favorites is the paradox we utter whenever people are coming home for a visit. We tell them, “Hurry, but don’t speed.” In other words, we want to see them as soon as possible—but not if it means risking life and limb (or getting a speeding ticket) to get there a little earlier than expected. We’re impatient to be reunited with the people who understand us better than anyone. But can the same be said of God?

I know He is perfectly patient. Why shouldn’t He be? For Him,  past, present, and future are all wrapped up together; it’s not strung out like a thread the way it is for us. But there are moments in the Bible that make me wonder, and I can’t help but feel that God is eager to reveal Himself to us. Think about Moses’ request: “Please, show me Your glory” in Exodus 33:12-23. Moses is asking to know God, to experience Him so he can better understand Him. God could have easily told His servant, “No.” He had no reason to reveal Himself to a created thing, but that’s exactly what He did. He hides a man whose heart and soul cannot fathom His radiance in the cleft of a rock and covers him until He passes by. What must that have been like? What awe must Moses felt knowing that God’s hand was quite literally on him, protecting him from everything, including his Maker? God stooped to humanity’s level in that moment and showed a favored servant as much of His glory as He knew could be withstood. That is an action taken by a God who wants to be known, One who is just as excited to be fully comprehended by His children as we are by Him.

Image from summerlight.wordpress.com
Image from summerlight.wordpress.com

The same can be said of Jesus sitting at the well in Samaria in John 4:1-42. It was a place the Bible tells us He “needed” to go through for one woman, a lost and hurting soul whose life would be forever changed by encountering Him. I’m sure Christ sat there calmly, sanguine despite the heat, and watched His beautiful world go by. Maybe He swung one sandaled foot or hummed as He waited. Though Jesus knew exactly when the Samaritan woman would come to the place alone to draw her water, I imagine Him being giddy, looking forward to the moment and eager to interact with her. Did Jesus smile when He saw her coming as she walked with her head down, silently praying that no one would mock her for once? Did He rub His wonderful, soon-to-be-nail-scarred hands together in anticipation of the joy that was soon to come? I think so. He was a Savior who wanted to be found and made sure others could experience Him with their eyes and ears as well as their hearts.

Though the Lord’s timing is impeccable and His plan flawless, I believe He’s like we are in the moments before loved ones come home to find the surprises we have in store for them—a meal lovingly prepared, a gift purchased, and everything made ready for their comfort. He understands the anticipation we feel standing at the windows, our breath fogging the panes, because He feels it, too. Yes, He’s as eager for all of us to get there as we are. “Hurry home,” He whispers to our hearts, “but don’t speed.”

May It Pour

If you read my previous blog post about my grandparents, you know they are dealing with a big change in their lives. That change became even more markedly difficult last week when he fell and fractured his left knee on their back patio. Falling led to a three-day stay in the hospital, knee surgery involving eight pins and a plate, and a stay of undetermined length in a rehabilitation facility. Everyone in my family has been pitching in–staying with him at night, dealing with insurance paperwork, and helping keep body and soul together for those who are performing the heavy lifting.

I’m the only one who hasn’t been able to help yet because I’m stuck in another state, six hours away from them. For the last week, I’ve felt useless, guilty, angry, and indigent by turns. As you can imagine, I love my family, and I hate knowing they’re dealing with something this stressful without me there to help in some way.  The one thing I’ve been able to do is offer a friendly ear, a person to whom  everyone can vent or use as a sounding board for plans and ideas.

I’ve also been sending everyone devotions, Scriptures, and hymns to keep their spirits up and their eyes focused on God, who is greater and more powerful than any present circumstance–even if it doesn’t seem so at the moment. Today, I found five unique devotions from men like Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, and F.B. Meyer, and two of them truly spoke to me personally. I was blessed by seeking to be a blessing to others.

The first, from Streams in the Desert, takes its theme from 1 Kings 17:3, the story of Elijah being sent to dwell by the brook of Cherith where God prepared him for the next stage in His plan. The devotion begins with this thought:

God’s servants must be taught the value of the hidden life. The man who is to take a high place before his fellows must take a low place before his God. We must not be surprised if sometimes our Father says, ‘There, child, thou hast had enough of this hurry, and publicity, and excitement; get thee hence, and hide thyself by the brook–hide thyself in the Cherith of the sick chamber, or in the Cherith of bereavement, or in some solitude from which the crowds have ebbed away.’

Take a moment and read the Old Testament passage I linked to above. For as long as was necessary, God provided for Elijah’s every need, and when the stream ran dry, a new situation had already been prepared. Like him, we must seek out and embrace hidden places where we can get alone with God and receive direct instruction from Him that we might be too busy to fully absorb otherwise. We won’t be in want if we are willing to embrace that time alone with Him, no matter how long it might last. That is true for my family and for me.

I found it interesting that God used ravens to feed His servant; they were viewed by Jews to be unclean because they fed upon the dead. However, the raven was also the first bird Noah sent from the arc because it was one of the largest and toughest. I came to realize that God can use anything–even things that seem reprehensible to us–to provide for our needs.

The same is true in the second devotionalOur Daily Homily, written by F.B. Meyer. He references Exodus 15:25 where the recently liberated Jewish slaves drank from the once bitter waters of Marah, which were made sweet by the addition of a specific tree. The tree is a precursor to the cross, the tree that made it possible for us all to avoid the bitter cup of death and eternal separation from God. I realized after reading the entire chapter that whatever “bitterness” we’re dealing with, both individually and as a family,  it pales in comparison to the greater quantity we were spared because of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Once again, God provides using something that is seemingly unpleasant, and if we recognize  the small amount we endure is for our edification rather than our punishment, we will be blessed as a result.

I’ve been asking for God’s direction for months, searching to find His will for my life and what steps He would have me take. This helped me to see my answer. Were I down there, able to help physically, I would not be seeking His face. I would be working in my own limited power instead of relying on His infinite supply. The distance is my brook of Cherith; it’s His way of getting me alone to teach me what I need to learn.

Intercession in prayer is my responsibility rather than service…no matter how much I might long to offer it to my loved ones. This realization also forced my hand on another topic—fasting. I’ve been toying with the idea of it in recent weeks but have not committed to it. One excuse or another always made it “impossible.” Well, I now have the reason and the time to do so. I am now prepared to allow myself a space of days to remove all worldly distractions in order to listen to Him.

I’ve already felt the benefit of it after only fifteen hours, and while I know I will not always feel so optimistic about the process, I can’t help but think it will serve as a watershed moment, a time where I attain a deeper relationship with Him. The plan is to abstain from everything but water for a period of seven days, which means I will not eat until next Monday morning. It is my prayer that I can use the time to discern the mind of my heavenly Father regarding His will for my family and to offer up earnest prayers on their behalf.

James 5:15-18 confirms the rightness of this revelation for me:

The prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

With a singular focus, I am praying with the expectation of spiritual “rain”—both for my family’s strength and deliverance as well as my own increase of faith—because as Jesus Himself promised in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will dit.”

May it pour.