Sunday, May 22, 2016

True Hope is True Rest

The stars in the sky shine. Since time began that is all they do. On a clear night I can see them without any effort. My eyes trace the constellations. I can locate the North Star. They are always in the same place. In a cloud covered sky I can't see them, but I know they are there. During the day I can't see them, but I know they are there. They just "are". I don't judge them for just being. I don't get angry when they're not visible.

How simple to just simply "be"; really? This is not what I have experienced. I have spent my life trying to produce, to work, to be mother, wife, friend, confidante, and team player. I have set my sights on the proverbs 31 woman and at times wanted her story ripped from the Bible. I have identified more with the demon possessed man who Jesus healed and left him standing clothed and in his right mind. Well... I am clothed. Or Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son. who was dropped by his nurse as a baby and left lame. I wonder sometimes if someone dropped me on my head, but never told me. I have identified with the heart of Rahab the prostitute, the wine bibber, the poor widow who could give only out of her poverty. I have sat with scholars amazed at their knowledge only to become Pharisaical. I have tried to say nothing of this life matters, only to find myself begging for the crumbs fallen from the table. I have stood tall and put my best foot forward, only to discover I have no balance. 

Comparison and emulation always result in a false view of identity. 

I remember being small and riding the seesaw, my friend on one end, I on the other. Often when I was at the top my friend would suddenly decide she was done and just get off, leaving me to come down with a bang. I became paranoid. I could no longer rely on her to lower me safely to the ground. When I attempted to do the same to her, she threatened the state of our friendship. Afraid of being left alone, I became almost subservient to her demands and conditions. 
Many years later I see where there were rooted some serious patterns of pleasing people. I started letting other people shape my identity. Learning to be "me" has been an ongoing battle.

A lifetime of being at the top of something and then slammed to the ground has caused a lot of trust issues. Is there anyone I can trust completely? I have decided no, not even myself. How can I trust me when I don't even know who I am? The only one trustworthy is the one who proves himself to be trustworthy. I have yet to find a person who is qualified. So I have to turn my eyes and my faith to Jesus. He came to earth knowing exactly who He was and did exactly what He said He was going to do. He inspired it to be written down and provided His Spirit to teach those who are seeking truth.

How do I find out who I am? I look to His definition of me. He has told me. I am beautiful, I am accepted, I am loved, I am a more than a conquereor and I am forgiven. I am so much more than I see with my eyes or hear with my ears. He literally took the punishment that I deserved for my sin. When I can believe His opinion of me then hope will have substance. I will know and be known for who I truly am. I will be me and being me will be enough. When you are enough, there is rest. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Buried Hope

A child buried beneath the rubble of an earthquake screams, hoping someone can hear from above. He can hear the cries of people, but they cannot detect his voice in the midst of their own cacophony. He feels the weight of wood, metal, glass, dirt coming down upon him. He hears the roaring sound of the earth opening, loosening foundations that once were secure and taken for granted. As the weight increases the sounds become fainter. The light slowly recedes, darkness filling every space. His own voice echos until even that is sucked up into a vacuum. He is alone...alone and afraid.

I remember watching the news of the earthquake that took place in Chile on Feb. 27, 2010. I was working in an environment where I had to hear CNN bringing the stories, repeatedly, day after day, until I was begging for something else in another part of our world to be reported. When I think back on it the most disturbing stories came out later of those thought to be buried alive. A few were eventually found, but many others remained unaccounted for.

Why do these stories resonate more than anything else? We heard of relief efforts, heroic rescues, tireless hours of volunteering, and millions of dollars donated from around the world. We saw pictures of the devastation, hospital victims, and the homeless. What we didn't see were the buried ones. It is the unseen reality that is embedded in my memory. Perhaps something about feeling alone,, neglected, forgotten and invisible is nearer to my own experience of life bringing with it an identification. No, I have never been literally buried alive, but inside I have felt all of those feelings. I believe we all have to some degree.

There is an account recorded in Joshua 6, of the sin of Achan. When Israel defeated Jericho he stole the spoil  which  the Lord had forbidden and he buried it. Therefore the next city they battled, the city of Ai, in turn defeated Israel. Achan was then found out, the spoil recovered and he, all his house and all he owned were completely destroyed. When the sin was dealt with, then God gave Israel Ai and also all the riches of the city.
There are things you bury for nourishment later on. A dog buries a bone to save for later. Squirrels bury acorns in summer to have in winter.  Seeds are buried in the ground in Spring to reap a harvest in Autumn. Our dead are buried as a sign of honoring a life and returning it to the earth when the soul is departed.

What about the intangible weight that we bury? The more I look into the Word of God and give myself over to Him, the more I see the burdens that I am encumbered with. What is happening is not that we are burying them, but we are being buried by them. Whatever freedoms we have are being trodden on until we no longer are recognizeable. I wonder why I am depleted of energy and default to "besetting sins" of Heb 12:1. I believe the baggage we carry is one of the reasons we don't experience the fullness of the hope of the gospel. It is often the burdens that block out the light and deafen our ears to hear the truth of who we really are. Thus we feel only defeat and isolation, so much that we even become mute.

Everything brings a harvest. Unresolved matters can eventually produce stress, guilt, blame, anger, and sometimes bitterness, and yes, fear. The longer these issues are not confronted, the wider the gaps become in relationships. Then one day you look and see a berth you cannot cross. What began in hope ends in despair.

How did we get here? Maybe we can retrace our steps. When did trust turn to wariness, or compliments turn to cynisism? When did sight override faith? Paul asked the Christian Church in Galatians 3:1 "Oh foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth...." Paul knew that another gospel was being preached through peop!e by supernatural means.  A supernatural God has a supernatural enemy. Eph 6:12,13 "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

God has provided us with weapons of warfare. Each one is meant for the destruction of our spiritual strongholds. When used correctly, the real enemy will fall and the person will be left standing free. Christ battles to defeat His enemies, only His enemies, all as a means to release the hope within.

The Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years. Why did it take so long? Ravi Zacharias, a known apologist states that the enemies they would have faced if taking the straight route would have overtaken them. They did not have the wisdom that forty years afforded them. They needed the trials. Sometimes I look back and ask " why Lord"? One thing I do know is that the wisdom I have and the relationship I have now with the Lord is because of my trials, not because of a life paved with ease. I am beginning to recognize it's worth.

I don't have answers for the earthquakes of this world, or the people that are buried under them. But I do believe that God never left them alone. In all my aloneness, He is there. Hope is with me hiding under the all the rubble.

Poison ivy and Jewel Weed grow side by side. One is the antidote for the other. Horsetail and dock plant are antidotes for stinging nettles. They too are often growing in the same vicinity. Many don't know these facts. Man has manufactured antidotes.There are a lot of man-made antidotes to diseases and conditions, thank God, but there is only one true antidote to sin and to the burdens we carry, and we hold the antidote very close, but what is buried is the light that reveals it. The effects of sin are sometimes gradual. A quote I heard recently rings true, "What we tolerate now, the next generation will embrace".  We have seen it over and over again. Some continue to call it growth. I see it as a continual breaking down of God's intent and design for mankind.

It is not too late. Rom 8:28 delivers a promise to all who belong to Christ. Every detail of  my life He will work for good. We are all at different places spiritually. There is not one who is finished learning. Some of us are just beginning. Some of us take longer to learn. Some of us have been on this Christian road a long time. For me, 41 years and my wilderness is just beginning to make sense. I still need, however, to allow light to penetrate and reveal the hope inside.

With planting season upon us I always find new analogies of truth. Rototilling is a one-time task. We turn over the ground to reveal what has been underneath since the previous year. We have to break the ground and airate the soil to receive the seeds.

Spiritual digging is much the same and it requires discipline. Sometimes you dig and dig and find nothing that makes sense. Sometimes what you find are those issues you thought were so deep not even you would ever have to deal with them. That can make you stop digging. You think, this is too hard, there is a root here I cannot move. Why do I bother? I can't understand. Everyone is further than me. It's useless.

That's what happens to me. I get far enough down to see the obstacle and I am not strong enough to move it. I put my shovel down. But think about it, the reason it is unearthed is not to hurt you, but to show you it must be rooted out so the light can shine further. So you dig more, and as the light exposes it more and more it begins to satisfy an appetite and create a hunger all at the same time. A hunger for truth, and you find that you can't stay the same because what truth does is expose the lie, and when you know a lie, you can't stay comfortable for long.

As with any living thing light is a necessary ingredient to thrive. We turn our plants toward the light. People need the sunlight for mood boosters and vitamin D for strength and sustainability.

 Why do our enemies defeat us? What so-called treasures are buried that the Lord wants to unearth and give to Him? All of the unresolved issues? Why do we bury them? Are we holding them to use later on? Are they a secret weapon? Are they a defense? Are they a substitute? They are certainly a stronghold. How long? How many years will I do this? What am I afraid of?

Salvation comes to us when Jesus takes His own life, that which once was tainted with all of our sin, yet now put away, buried and resurrected, and indwells ours, making His forgiveness effective and complete in us. And thus, everything being forgiven, past, present and future does not mean that effects of continued sins and burdens cannot affect our daily walk. We can quench the Spirit (1 Thes 5:19), and grieve the Spirit (Eph 4:30), therefore not experiencing the full blessing of our freely given inheritance.

Hope is waiting. Hope is light; Christ's light. Satan knows he can't put it out, but he certainly has many tactics to keep covering it. This is my prayer, that wherever there is darkness in my life Lord, there will light go. Let me not be afraid of true light!