Flood of Great Waters

This month, I’ve had one crazy phone call after another. The kind of phone calls that threaten stability: one from my boss about a looming contract expiration, one from the school counselor, one from the vice principal, one from a friend. Calls about things that are legitimately uncomfortable and even scary.

Each one of those calls was like an ice cold tidal wave coming to take me out. Thankfully, I was prepared.

I have mentioned “middle parts” before, but I’m not sure I explained them very well. The “middle part” is what I call that time in life where we wander, question what we know, run into God, and choose life with or without him. We all walk through a middle part…some of us walk there much longer than others!

It’s one of the hardest things to watch people you love go through this time. It was for me, anyway, until I learned to see it from God’s perspective. He LOVES this process! It is where we step out of mindless conformity and where we are eventually confronted with truth. With HIM. It’s where we reach the end of ourselves, and realize with joy all that he is. That he is all that matters. Where we come to know in our hearts how much he has always loved us.

And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
so your God is happy with you.
Isaiah 62:5

God taught me about the middle parts last year when I watched another family go through it. Where I would normally fall into hopeless despair watching yet another person choose the wrong path, God showed me the beauty of the season. I know that sounds weird – but he reminded me how much fuller my love for him is because of that time I walked in the middle part. It turned what was once pitiful fear-based religion into true relationship. He taught me this lesson last year for two reasons – to encourage the family going through it, and to tuck it away for the time I would watch my own loved ones walk through it. Ah.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

A miracle is something only God can do. That I not only have peace in these days, but can actually embrace them as stepping stones closer to true joy and awakening for my children, is seriously a miracle.

Today, I realized what a difference being prepared for these waves of life makes. They are coming, but he is here. He is bigger.

I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

When we take the time to press pause and see things from his perspective, they lose the power to overwhelm. He – who didn’t panic when I walked into my 20-year long middle part, who brought me my job and who will protect it until it’s time to move on, who is breathing life into my family, who holds tomorrow in his hands – is my life preserver!

For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him.
You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 32:6-7

The key here is calling out to him before the wave takes us out and under, before we are washed away by fear and the circumstances of today. His peace is astounding.

Smashing Pedestals

This month, Max Lucado spoke at my church. His message spoke to the deepest hurts, the most painful places you can imagine, with such a tenderness you could almost feel the ministering angels surrounding us. Sweet, sweet, sweet!

Before he even started his message, I was in tears at the depth of his sensitivity and compassion. He felt the need to pray, and so he did. The simplest prayer over bodies, minds, relationships.

That act of obedient prayer touched something deep in my heart. I saw myself standing alone, in this position I so ignorantly carved out for myself, trying to shift the atmosphere of my little family. It struck me how different life would have turned out – how sweet it would be – with such a positive, prayerful man standing beside.

SCREECH…There I go again, comparing my life to others and idealizing a man I don’t even know! As tempting as it was to slide into self-pity over the circumstances of my life, there were the hands of the father, tilting my head upwards to face him. He showed me Truth – I am standing, but never alone. I am blessed with the most beautiful and perfect covering.

The other day I read the story of the biblical David’s first wife Michal, how she mocked him for worshipping in the streets. My claws came out…I have a bit of a thing for him and like to think I would understand and treat him better.

And then it hit me… It’s one (sexy) thing to watch a man you don’t really know worship the Lord. But a man you know in real (ugly) life? It broke my heart to realize I would probably be watching David with raised eyebrows, just like Michal did. She knew his flaws, his failures, the areas he lived fraudulently. He was a real live man. He had an amazing heart and some really great days…but he was a man. More than once, the writer makes a point to say Michal loved David – that is such a rare wifely trait in scripture. (I actually haven’t found it anywhere else…but I’m still looking.) I think too many of us have been unfair with her story, and are arrogantly missing the point.

I have a tendency to focus on what I like to see in others, like David’s passion, Michal’s disrespect, Max Lucado’s gentle and sensitive spirit. I freeze them in time, label them, and set them on their pedestals, and then get disappointed when they fall off and shatter. I have done that to everyone in real life, including myself.

STOP IT!! I’m so thankful God shares these painful realities with me so I can shed them, with his help. I’m learning to let us live, breathe, and grow into who he created us to be. Not as stagnant statues on a pedestal, but as living vines – even the scraggly ones – on their way to being robust and thriving.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
Philippians 1:6 (MSG)

Oh for that confidence! It’s shocking how long it takes for these things I’ve known in my head to click in my heart. The process looks different for each of us, but have you noticed it almost always has a messy, scraggly part? And no matter how hard we try, we cannot make anyone’s seed grow faster, or turn into a different kind of plant. It takes a leap of faith, a heap of trust, and in my case, tons of self-control to walk in grace and just love each other. Warts and all. His creations are so much grander than anything I’ve ever imagined – and it’s so fun to watch him work!

A Fine Line

The last couple months, I’ve found the need to revisit a lot of beautiful God-given promises. Promises that I’ve tucked into my life pockets like good luck charms. I’ve had to take out and prayerfully examine each one, grab the hammer and chisel, and chip off the false interpretations and fantasies that I’ve been adding to them.

There is such a fine line between clinging to his promises and clinging to our interpretations of them.

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

That verse is profoundly clear to me right now! His promises are true, and they are spot on. It’s just almost impossible not to decipher them in light of our current circumstances, hopes, and dreams.

Can you see where this is a problem?

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:19

His words are my daily bread, my living water, my life. But seeing them through any lens other than his will lead to confusion and disappointment – it’s like stirring in poison. Anytime I start adding to his words with my natural understanding, I am taking my eyes off him and inadvertently putting my trust in ME. I also risk missing the promise he sent for me!

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
Jeremiah 17:5-6

He goes on to talk about the fruitfulness and protection of those who put their trust and confidence in him alone. So I’m learning to simplify. I’m learning to stop overthinking his promises, or trying to make them fit my agenda and timing, and just hear them as they are given by the Holy Spirit. I’m learning to stop when I feel the temptation to jump to conclusions and read between the lines. I’m learning patience – that his timing is intentional, and sometimes that means it is intentionally slow. Easier said than done, I know! I’ve been struggling to figure out how to reconcile these truths. Today he reminded me that I have been given the mind of Christ and, on top of that, the instruction and revelation of the great interpreter.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13

What another beautiful promise! I don’t have to figure it out myself – in fact, fleshing out his words is not in my job description at all. It’s ok to settle into his words and let them speak for themselves. His promises are promises and will come to pass.

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11