Like Grass

green-grass

Psalm 37:1-2 “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.”

Considering those evil men (and women) in our lives…There is that brand of evil which is not “run-of-the-mill,” but comes from people who were once considered close friends, even those who shared common faith in Jesus Christ. Especially blistering! Like Psalm 55:12-14 says, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.” I fret greatly when Christian friendship erodes or a ministry partnership dissolves. Suppressing the compulsion to return to the past and help everybody get the facts straight (according to me of course), hoping to build consensus on the straight record (again according to me), I have questioned how it is possible not to fret.

And then God has reminded me… After the many afflictions of Job and the “pile on” from his naysaying wife and so-called friends, Job had to ignore their errant counsel to blame himself and/or curse God. Job expressed his fretting in Job 30:15: “Terror overwhelms me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud.” I can imagine Job also saying, “to top it off, my dearest friends and family members have betrayed me in the worst ways so that I am in unending shock!”It is at times like these when the Lord seems very silent – when we believe we have excellent reasons to fret. We experience fretful sleepless nights, self-pity, fatalistic thoughts, emotional stress, and thoughts of would-be retaliation.

When we prayerfully settle down and breathe deeply and are finally silent ourselves, listening… God whispers through His Spirit and written Word and still small voice saying, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him (Job 40:2a)?” When Job has reached the answer to this one question of his many questions, he concludes, “My ears had heard of You (God), but now my eyes have seen You (Job 42:5).” He understands that God can be fully trusted in and through afflictions. His faith has been tested. He has heard God speak. He has peace. He knows Who God really is.

Jacob’s afflictions were different from Job’s, but God similarly walked Jacob through a painful process whereby he (Jacob) stopped his striving and recognized what God was up to. Jacob was afflicted with rebellion and a demanding spirit. He ended up walking with a limp the rest of his life after a strenuous wrestling match with God. Yes, with God. Unlike Job, Jacob had been a cheater all of his life. God chose to use different tactics with Jacob, taking on a human body to struggle with Jacob and displace his hip. A wounding of a different kind was required to get his attention and transform his life. All for God’s glory.

For God to get our attention, does it have to be a severe wounding? I think the answer is mostly yes. The way God Sovereignly reshapes our lives is not usually smooth. The way He leads us to become new creations is by His design and deep pain seems to be a great vehicle for spiritual transformation. Fretting hinders trust in God. In fact, fretting may only feed and prolong the problem we have of doubting that God is even attentive to our perilous circumstances and shenanigans.

Scripture says evil plotters will wither like grass. That’s a good thing. But thankfully, so will our own old natures wither when we encounter and receive the reality of Who God really is. Sometimes we are the evil plotters. Rebelling, trying to fix or control things on our own, wrestling with God repeatedly. Self-centered plans pointed against us come to a natural end – it is only a matter of God’s timing. But this includes our own self-centered plans against ourselves, too. Sometimes we are the enemy. Many times we are the evil plotters against ourselves.

But, God… God makes us a new creation. When we are reshaped by God, like Job and Jacob, through the wrestling, the wrenching, the tossing, the turning, the agonizing, the questioning, the shaking, the shattering – if we will only gaze upward, as Job and Jacob finally did, our eyes will finally see God and His purposes. Sure, we have heard of Him. But now we will truly see Him. We will surrender to Him. We might even lose the use of a hip. We might even have to start over and have a new family or new friends.

Trusting God, I know I cannot ever be the same again. He will transform me. When I really see Him, my dignity and safety can only be tied to His Providence and provision, not the wind. I will depend on Him alone.

Yes, I have heard of God many times. But, in the shattering, I see Him oh so clearly.

 

 

 

 

No Smoke and Mirrors

smoke-and-mirrors

Psalm 37:23-24 “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Just like an earthly father should, the Lord prompts me to grow up so I will stumble less and less. The ground beneath me will stay firm because He is the ultimate loving Father in my life with a very strong hand.

In an honest line from the last novel in the Mitford series by Jan Karon (Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good), character Sharon McCurdy says, “It drives me crazy that God… doesn’t allow Himself to be seen. It seems all smoke and mirrors, a fabrication of the silliest sort. How are we supposed to believe?” Then Father Tim wisely responds, “All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all that I have not seen.”

There are times I agree with the character in the novel… Even knowing that God has spoken to me through His Son and through His infallible Word, and knowing He has given me His model for prayer in scripture, I struggle with His invisibility. In my humanness, I forget all that I have seen. The enemy incessantly whispers the “silly fabrication” notion in my ear. I become easily distracted by persuasive illusions. Falling for the fraud is part of the infant-only experience. Or is it?

Still, I wish that I could visibly pray face-to-face with my Father sitting physically with me in a quiet, living room-like atmosphere. I forget all that I have seen. And many times I wish my Father’s answers to prayers would come to me in skywriting and be simply unmistakeable. At times, I imagine my position before the Father is precarious…

Yet, through faith in My Father, He convinces me that my position is definitely not precarious — it is solid. I am the legitimate child of my Heavenly Father. No deception here. He removes the bursts of smoke. He removes the retracting mirrors. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” (I John 3:1)

The sermon entitled “Praying in the Spirit” by Timothy Keller reinforces a clearer understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. From a very young child’s perspective, the beginning acknowledgement in the prayer is “Abba Father” which translated, means “Daddy,” or more closely “Da Da.” My two-year-old granddaughter knows that, when she plays with her toy cell phone, “texting Da Da” is indicative of her wonder, love, and the instinctive connection that puts her dad at the top of her list. Immature praise offered unabashedly. The beginning of prayer.  The imprint of baby child onto father is pure and irrevocable. It is just simply – “You Daddy (and for course, mommy), are the most important people in my life.”

While we pray privately much of the time, note that Matthew 6:9 says, “This is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in Heaven…’ ” “Our” stresses corporate prayer, the vitality of prayer when believers gather in unity. The communion of saints. The Body of Christ. “Our” reveals the Father’s heart about how believers should pray, together – in community.

I have repeatedly needed the private reminder that I am a child of “our” God, a daughter, completely adopted, no reneging on this reality. And just like any child, when I keep going back to “our” Father, I am assured that He will mature me, grow me up, see me through His Refining fire, and bring me out of the dark and into the light. Just like in a baby’s birth and subsequent development, dark into light. I will always be His daughter. I can never fall out. I can never be fired. I can never be disowned. I am inextricably bound to “our” loving Heavenly Father. His daughter. His child. Always.

He listens. He wants to hear from me. I Peter 3:12a says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer…” No smoke and mirrors here. He makes my steps firm. He upholds me with His hand. He is attentive to my prayer. As my Heavenly Father rears me faithfully, the trajectory of my spiritual rebirth will include some missteps (big and small), but a constant nudge to mature. And a promise to uphold me with His hand. I agree with Father Tim Kavanagh. “All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all that I have not seen.”