Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


14 Comments

Choosing God over His Promises

Well, so much for getting back to posting several times a week! I miss it so much though. And there are so many things I want to write. And today I realized that we are three days from the next action and there are things I want to write about before that happens. I don’t know if I’ll get to say all the things I’ve been wanting to say in the next few days. The fact is that my to do list before we go to my parents’ house for Christmas is very long and I don’t know where I’m going to find the time. But know that this is where I want to be. And I’ll be here when I can!

I have things I want to write about before the next steps because I know that whatever happens on Thursday is going to affect my perspective. And I want to be clear that I am saying that whatever happens on Thursday, I’m trusting God with this. If it was worth doing or if it wasn’t. If something happens that I can’t or haven’t yet imagined. If anything, in every scenario, I’m trusting God with this.

And this is why: Because I don’t have the answers, but he does. Because my ways are not his ways, but his ways are higher than mine. And because, at the end of the day, I want to know God and give him the glory more than I want anything–and I’m willing to give him the child that I hope for and that I desire. Because if God doesn’t want me to be a parent, I’m sure it’s because that is best for me. BEST. Not an acceptable outcome or something I’ll learn to deal with, but absolutely God’s best, his most excellent for me. Because I trust that he is working all things for my good. And because only he knows what is coming up and where we’re going.

So, God, I’m saying to you right now: Take it. Take all of it. I will not withhold from you even the dream of a child. I don’t have a living child to offer to you, but I give you the dream.

There’s this story in the Bible–a completely heart-wrenching, heart-aching, heart-breaking story in the Bible. God decides to test Abraham. The test he gives Abraham–the exact test–is not replicated in the Bible except by God himself. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. The only other time in scripture that God requires a father to sacrifice his son, God is the Father.

It’s in Genesis 22:1-19. God comes to Abraham and tells him to take Isaac to a place he will show Abraham and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. A few chapters earlier, when God told Abraham that he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham interceded for the towns, asking God to spare them if there were as few as 10 righteous people present. And God agreed to do that. He didn’t show any displeasure with Abraham for asking. But here, when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham doesn’t argue. He doesn’t beg. He doesn’t ask for a reprieve. He just does it.

He wakes early the next morning and takes all that he needs for the sacrifice, including the wood, the boy, and two servants and a donkey to carry his provisions. There are parallels throughout this account to the sacrifice Jesus makes on the cross. I was especially struck by the fact that the Genesis account is largely shown through Abraham’s perspective–giving us a sense, perhaps, for how God himself suffered to see his own son hung on a cross. The parallel of Jesus at Gethsemane and to the crucifixion is more from Jesus’ perspective. I encourage you, if you’re interested, read the scriptures and pay attention to the parallels.*

And Abraham comes so very close to sacrificing his son. He has Isaac on the proper mountain, bound and laying on the wood. As he holds the knife and extends his hand over Isaac to finish the task, he is interrupted by God. The Lord speaks to him and stays his hand. Isaac is, symbolically, resurrected, and God alerts Abraham to a ram trapped in a nearby bush. The ram is sacrificed in Isaac’s place.

Here’s the thing: God promised Abraham he would have Isaac. He promised Abraham that Isaac would have many offspring, and that through Isaac, Abraham would have so many descendants they couldn’t be counted. In other words, without Isaac, there was no promise. There was no heritage. There could not be more descendants than stars in the sky or more descendants than sand on the seashore. To sacrifice Isaac was to say to God, thanks for the promises you offer, but if I need to choose between you or your glory and the promises, I choose YOU.

I think it’s amazing that Abraham takes the test and he doesn’t seem to resent it when it’s over. And I was touched at the idea that God is using this test of Abraham both to refine and strengthen Abraham and to share with him something about himself. Abraham dies long before Jesus’ is born on this earth, of course, but it is as if God is reaching down and including Abraham in this story and giving him a glimpse of the sorrow, the struggle. But as Abraham shows God that he truly does love God more than anything–and that he would choose to have God even if it meant losing the promises God had made him–God showed us through Christ’s sacrifice that he loves us more than anything. He loves us so much that he did not withhold even his son, his only son, from us, but instead gave him as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.

And it is because he loves us so much, and because he is who he is, that we can trust him with this.

In truth, there is no choosing between God and God’s promises. For when we are faithless, God is faithful, for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13). It goes against his character for God to break a promise. It cannot happen. But what do you choose?

I choose God. And his glory. And I don’t know if he’s promised me children, but I’m willing to give them up. I’ll give it all up. Because I want God’s best for me more than I want my best for me. I just don’t trust my own judgment. I trust God’s.

Whatever happens next–whatever outcome–this is in God’s hands. Thanks be to God for whatever he has planned for us. I can’t wait to live out this excellent life for his glory.

*Look, for example, at the length of the journey, carrying wood, a donkey, the substitute, a crown of thorns . . . There are other things that parallel but that is a good start.

Advertisements


4 Comments

Praising in the Rain

It’s a rainy day here in Houston. I’m something of a critic of Texas, especially the Houston area. It’s not where I would have chosen to live. In fact, it’s a city I would have put pretty high on a short list of places I specifically would not want to live. But this is where we are. And I’m learning to like it. The people are great, but it has taken a while for us to really find a community here. And Houston is a sprawling city. It’s not pretty. It’s flat. It’s almost always hot. And oh, how I miss the seasons and the accompanying change of scenery.

On a rainy day, though, I can appreciate Texas. Instead of moping and complaining when it’s dreary outside, people are raising their hands in praise to God for the rain, grateful for the water that gives life to dry and barren lands.

Texans know what it means to suffer from periods of drought. We moved to Texas in the middle of a long heat wave two years ago. I think something like 29 of 30 days had seen temperatures over 100 degrees. It hadn’t rained in a long time, and no small amount of rain would be able to refill the dried up lakes and ponds or nourish the soil.

Toward the end of summer, wildfires ripped through the areas north and west of Houston. We were in College Station then, and women in my Bible study talked about how it looked like it was snowing on their land because the ash was falling so thick. Cows were being sent to slaughter early because there was no hay for them to eat. The grass was all but gone from the landscape and they were starving. I took a drive with DH’s grandparents to visit their first great-grandchild and we drove through burned out forests, blackened, looking like a set for a horror movie. I wish I had a picture.

And when it rained? People were praising and whooping and hollering in joy. It was a sight to see.

Gradually the lakes refilled, though most have not yet returned to their predrought levels. And on a rainy day people appreciate that sometimes it takes a good hard rain to make things right.

And it’s a good reminder. When it rains, I appreciate Texas a little bit more. And I remember that we need rain to get us out of a drought.

The rain makes mud and slows traffic and leaves streaks on freshly washed cars. It sometimes knocks out power or breaks off tree branches. It makes a mess.

But it’s a good mess. A mess that leads to growing. A mess that brings new life. A mess that helps us appreciate the sunshine.

Can I praise God for the storm I’m in now because I know that it will lead to something better? Can I thank him for the absolute mess because I trust that it will bring something new and right and wonderful?

Somehow it’s easier on a rainy day to lift my hands in praise.


4 Comments

Serving the Lord Best

From my Bible study this morning:

“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” (I Corinthians 7: 32-35)

This is Paul talking. I was reading it and wondering a few things that aren’t relevant to this post (such as, is this a message that applies today or was Paul speaking in the context of persecution or something?). I am so very happy to be married (and married to my wonderful DH–who I wouldn’t trade for anything), so I have always kind of glossed over this part. And Paul states clearly that the notion not to marry is not a commandment, just something that might make things better or simpler for the believers. And, as we see in this passage, not marrying might free a person to better serve the Lord.

I think there is truth in this for the married person as well as the unmarried person. I am sure I have distractions in my life that prevent me from serving God as well as I could. As a Christ-follower, I should strive to eliminate these distractions where I can. Is TV keeping me from serving God? I can turn it off. Am I so caught up in a flurry of activities I don’t have time to get in the Word? I should cut things out. And so on.

That doesn’t extend to my husband–and I don’t think he’s a distraction in my service to God. He’s there to help spur me on and encourage me to serve the Lord according to my calling. And I hope I am able to encourage him in the same way.

But maybe it can frame where I am now. As I continue to wait for children, are there ways I can serve God that will be more difficult or “impossible” when I do have children?

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of ways infertility has caused me to look at things like health/nutrition in a new way, which should make me a better parent. But I’m also beginning to consider how God might use me now, while I’m waiting.

I’ve talked about going to seminary for a long time. It’s something I feel called to at least apply for, but I’ve been putting it off. I envisioned going to seminary someday in the far off future. Definitely after we had kids. And I think I figured if I put it off long enough I wouldn’t end up going. I was okay with that.

Lately it has been made clear to me that I need to apply to seminary and I need to do it soon. So no more excuses. If I have this time of childlessness and waiting, I need to use it for God’s glory. Wednesday I’m going to talk to my pastor about the process and see if he will be able to write me a recommendation. The application isn’t due until April, and a lot can change between now and then, but I’m doing what I need to do. This is one way to serve the Lord best in the situation I’m in. A way to be fruitful in my year of fruitfulness, even without multiplying.


1 Comment

The Head Knowledge-Gut Faith Disconnect

Yesterday was a wrestling day. I feel like I spent a lot of the day in prayer and half-sleep (which is not to suggest that I think it is good to pray while half sleeping, but hey, it happens). At the end of the day I was doing my homework for my Bible study. (Yes, I should have done a little each day all week. No, I didn’t do that. I did the whole thing last night.) As I was looking at the questions thoughts just kept coming to me and I think some things kind of came together. I tried to explain it all to DH. He listened sympathetically and mostly helped me realize that what I was saying was lacking any continuity. So apologies now if this doesn’t make sense.

At the crux of it all, I think, was the question of joy. In my last post, I wrote:

I know joy is supposed to be unaffected by emotion and that I should be joyful even when I am sad. I’m having trouble with that in practice. I’m working on it.

I guess my subconscious has been mulling that over for the past few days. And I have come to a few conclusions about this. I’ll start here with one epiphany that I think is helping me open the door to true faith in my life.

I have a lot of head knowledge. I know the Bible pretty well and I can quote it to myself. I can’t tell you how many of my recent journal entries have said things like,

“God, I know you say that ‘all things work for the good of those who love you, who are called according to your purpose’ (Romans 8:28) but how is this (our infertility) for good?”

and

“I know you tell me that you have plans ‘to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11) but I am struggling to believe this is true.”

And, my favorite,

“God, I believe. Surely I have faith the size of a mustard seed!! You said, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you’ (Matthew 17:20). So why isn’t this mountain moving yet?

I have head knowledge (which often undermines me by turning to pride, but that’s a story for a different day), but I am coming to see that I am lacking in true faith–gut faith. (It is sad really; at the end of the day all that knowledge is wasted if it keeps me from truly knowing and trusting my savior with my life.) If I stepped out of that boat onto the water to be with Jesus as Peter did (Matthew 14:29), I’d be telling myself all the while that surely I could stand on the water. It wouldn’t matter, though. Because I am lacking this real, honest, gut faith, those empty words would do me no good. I’d almost certainly find myself swimming.

I’m beginning to understand that this head knowledge – gut faith disconnect is a serious problem. It is keeping me from having real joy. It is also keeping me from being able to trust completely in the Lord in this crisis of my life.

So I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to move in me, to give me that gut faith. And my head knowledge says it will happen: God says, “You will seek me and  find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

And I am praying this not in an effort to manipulate God into giving me what I really want (to be a mom to a baby or 5), but in the hopes that he will transform the desires of my heart such that I want him and that I want to be with him and in his presence and to serve him, above all other things–even the things that seem good and fulfilling, like being a mother.

(As an aside: I’ve tried the praying with an eye toward tricking God into giving me what I want. It doesn’t work. I think he’s on to me.)

If knowing is half the battle, is actually believing the other half?