Ishmael or Isaac

Most of us know the story that spans Genesis Chapters 18-21.  But, for those of us that don’t, I will attempt a quick summation.  Abraham is visited by an Angel of God.  He is told that he will bear a son and become the father of many nations.  His wife, Sarah (who is barren), laughs at this news.  So Abraham, questioning how this is to happen, decides to impregnate his wife’s maidservant and raise the progeny of that union as his heir.  This ends badly, as Sarah does eventually concieve and the maidservant and her son are sent away.  The histories then seem to show that Abraham’s offspring through Sarah become Israel, and his offspring through Hagar become a nation at Israel’s neck.

Thus, the moral of the story is that we shouldn’t rush God’s calling.  When we rush things, we create Ishmael’s.  We create nations that seek to destroy God’s true work.  If we wait, if we trust, we have Isaacs who give birth to Israel’s- we have God’s true work.

I have seen evidence of this in my own life.  Time and time again I sense a vision being called- and time and time again I want to see it fulfilled immediately.  In my own impatience I wear myself out trying to force it when the timing simply isn’t right.  And time and time again, as I finally release it and stop trying, I see it fulfilled.

We need to learn to sense the current of the waters, the direction of the wind, the time that is coming.  We need to stop trying to make things happen for ourselves and trust that if God’s call is true, his vision will gain fullness in it’s own time.

I think the reason we want to force God’s hand is selfishness.  Like Abraham, we want to see it for our own sake.  We don’t trust that God is truly taking care of us- we think we need to do it for ourselves.

We need to remember that only God can give conception to his true work.  When we try to do the job ourselves, what we create will always be bent and broken, will always be a threat to God’s true glory.

Be More Vulnerable

The second meditation on overcoming obstacles has to do with vulnerability.  This one isn’t based off of a Bible verse, but instead sparked from a recent conversation.  Someone asked me what I thought a local GLBT&Friends group could do to spread equality on their campus.  We talked about a lot of different approaches- but the biggest point, the one that haunted me for the next few days, was that one has to risk being hurt.

You don’t fight a battle, even a spiritual one, without risk of damage.

And the kinds of battles so many of us find ourselves in- battles for hearts and minds- require demonstrations of one’s own heart and faith.  And you can’t lay bare your heart before someone else without risking pain.  If I want to share the depth and wonder of my faith, it means letting people into my past.  It means telling stories that are embarrassing, painful, sometimes nothing short of humiliating.  If I want people to understand why I believe in God, I have to tell them how God has worked in my life.  If I want to tell them how God has worked in my life, it means exposing a point of weakness.  If I have to expose a point of weakness…

True Evangelism does not come from a place of strength, but instead from a place of vulnerability.  It entices people and draws them in.  It is not exhibitionism or flagrancy- it is shy and tender, it is done with love and knowledge of our own fallibility.  One of the greatest impediments to overcoming obstacles is not our weakness- as God makes us sufficient- but misplaced pride.

The need for vulnerability is especially noticeable with Christian homosexuals.  Explaining how they feel their sexuality doesn’t bar them from faith means exposing the wholeness of their being.  This is something that can be incredibly painful to do, as many people attempt this kind of honesty only to be attacked intimately as a result of it.

But yet vulnerability is still required.

Jeremiah 23:9

Concerning the prophets:
My heart is broken within me;
all my bones tremble.
I am like a drunken man,
like a man overcome by wine,
because of the LORD
and his holy words.

Overcoming Obstacles: Think as David Thought

I’ve seen two “interpretations” of King David in the last few days.  The first is the David of the new NBC primetime show, “Kings”.  The second is the tiny squeaky little Dave of Veggie Tale’s “Dave and the Giant Pickle”.  Both of these Davids, different from each other as they may be, have one thing in common:  they see themselves as little in the face of giant obstacles.  They doubt themselves and their call.

In that way they are as different from the David of the Bible as context would make them appear.  Our Biblical David had a tremendous amount of faith.  While the people around him saw him as small and unspectacular,  he did not see himself that way.  While his role was mostly as a court jester cajoling Saul out of his more vicious moods, David himself knew his true potential.  So when Goliath came and no one fought him, David saw this as an insult to Israel’s position as God’s favored people.  And he said, (paraphrasing) “If no one else is going to remove this offense, I will.”

People were incredulous.

So David confidently said, “I’ve been tending my father’s flocks.  And when the bear and the lion came, I delivered my sheep from their mouths.  The God that gave me that strength will give me strength for this as well.”

No, “they’re big, I’m little.”  No, “I’m just not as brave as you think I am.”  No, “I know this sounds ridiculous.”

Just, “God gave me strength enough then, and he’ll give me strength enough now.”

David’s real brilliance was not in his beauty, his grace, or his cleverness.  It was in his absolute faith in who God made him to be.  It was in that trust.  But that trust is not the trust that other media portray it as.  It wasn’t the faith of saying, “I know I’m weak but you make me strong.”  Cross out the first part of that sentence, let it read as only, “I know I’m weak but you make me strong.”

So my first path to overcoming obstacles?  Have absolute faith in who God made me to be.  Strangle the internal editor.  Black out all of the voices that remind me of my weaknesses.  Search for a true vision of who I am: the Lindsey that delivered the sheep from the mouth of the lion and the bear, the Lindsey who has always been sufficient for the task in front of her.  Apply that knowledge of being properly made to every obstacle before me.  So that, like David, when I see an offense to the call of God’s children, I can stand up with confidence and say, “if no one else is going to remove that, I will.”

Is God in Control?

Most Christians have had this experience. They are going through a hard time. Perhaps they’ve just been diagnosed with a chronic illness, or a family member is dying, or they have suddenly lost a job, or they are feeling like their life is in limbo… When another well-meaning Christian puts a hand on their shoulder and says with conviction:

“Take heart. God is in control.”

How true is that statement, really? The Bible seems to tell conflicting tales. The Israelites went through extraordinary periods of being in God’s grace and out of it, from persecution to exile to return to God’s promise to exile to persecution to return, and the Old Testament blames this cycle not on God’s lack of power but the fickle hearts of the Israelites themselves. Thus causing Christians in this day and age to often blame the struggles we face on either our own fickleness or the sins of our forefathers.

Is that fair?

The New Testament also tells the story of the man blind from birth. When asked whose sin resulted in the mans blindness, Christ replied that it was so that God’s glory could be shown. Which causes Christians in this day to ask, “am I being tried for my sins or is this simply to show God’s glory?”

Is THAT fair?

There’s also the fallen nature of our world. In the Old Testament when Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, not only were they and their offspring cursed, but the labor of their hands and the fruit of the earth and even the insects and animals were cursed. Which causes Christians to ask, “am I simply a victim of the fallen nature of this planet?”

What is true? Is God in control, and do we shun his control with our own hard hearts? Is he in control and he allows us to suffer to later demonstrate his glory? Is the world simply still under the curse of sin and death, and we are victims of it?

Wait… there’s Christ, right, so the curse is broken, isn’t it? Well, it may be broken for you and I but not the entire planet- right? God’s Kingdom hasn’t come, has it?

But we are here, we are faithful, we are bringing the Kingdom… so isn’t God in control?

And the logic circles onward, and the logic circles inward, and like at the end of CS Lewis’s The Last Battle we must answer the call to follow further up and further in. All I know is that I trust my own heart and life are in God’s hands, and he is as in control of my own faith as much as I will allow him to be. And I do have hope, as foolish and pointless as it may be, I still have hope. I believe that I will see God’s love in my life, I believe that as bleak and hopeless as it all may seem I will experience joy. I believe it because I have seen God’s faithfulness in my own life. Not that my life has been “blessed” or “fortuitous”, far from it. But has God been there? Without a doubt.

Was God in Control?

I don’t know. But he was there.

So next time you feel the urge to extend a hand of comfort, next time you feel the religious conviction in your voice, pause for a moment and pick your words with care. Perhaps we shouldn’t throw out the words “God is in control” so carelessly. Instead, I choose to say,

God is with you. So am I.

Thoughts for the weekend

  1. Part of being an adult is learning to regret.  When I was a child, I didn’t regret.  I always felt justified by what I felt in the moment.  Now that I am an adult, I have learned that my feelings are not a justification.  So now, I learn to regret.
  2. If I were to believe that people are inherently evil I would also have to believe that society is evil, and since society elects government and holds them accountable that would make government evil, and all of that would lead to me never wanting to leave the house.  I’m glad that I believe in the goodness of humanity.  It makes life easier to live.
  3. Not all things are either one or the other, some are both or neither, and that is maddening.  It is maddening when I try to make a rational argument and have to find myself debating both points or none or introducing new arguments just to clarify.  I wish rational debate were as easy as saying, “zero is nothing,” when zero is something.  Damn it.
  4. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  And, when necessary, let your maybe be maybe.  Again: damn it.  Life can be hard sometimes, so whenever possible be clear and hold to your convictions.
  5. Act as you wish others would act, treat others as you wish to be treated, and in all things hold to compassion as the highest ideal of mankind.  I have seen in my life, many times, that all of the love and good I sow around me is returned sevenfold.  Those who live a life exemplary of love as God’s highest calling are never left with empty hands.
  6. Don’t be afraid.  Why should you be afraid?  Life is a transient thing, it comes and it goes, it waxes and wanes, there is pain and there is light.  Like swimming in the ocean, if you clench in fear you will be drowned.  If you surrender control, you will be buoyed.  So swing your arms wide, feel the saltwater at your back and the sun on your face.
  7. Gratitude is a virtue- and a great one.  Those who are able to feel profound gratitude always seem to find things to be grateful for, and their life is full of the knowledge of blessings.  It’s a virtue I don’t always have but one that I pray for, because I want to be the kind of person who never lacks for a card to give or a note to leave or a phone call to make, just to say thank you.

Take some time this weekend to empty yourself, to sit in the sunshine and simply feel the vibrancy of the world around you.  Allow your thoughts to think themselves.

Be grateful.

It’s spring, time to air out the mattresses and the men, so to speak.  😀

Sighted Faith

I get irritated, at times, with the idea that faith is necessarily blind.  While there is rarely certainty in life, that doesn’t mean that things are always undefinable.  Some things, like faith, can be inspired not by a simple hope that there is more to life but by a knowledge that life must have depth, and while that depth is undefined I believe that it’s existence can be known with certainty.

To put it in clearer terms: I do not simply have “faith” that God exists, I believe I know this with absolute surety.  My faith in God comes not from a dewy-eyed hope that there is more to life but from an absolute conviction that I would not be here, alive, breathing and sane, without the existence of a higher power.  While my experiences could never be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to anyone else, they HAVE proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to me myself that God is real.

I won’t go into details.  Some things are simply too personal to be aired in a public forum.  And I am fairly certain that those who tend to agree with me would do so without details, and those who tend to disagree would do so no matter how detailed I became.  After all, I could say, “God spoke to me”, and one might ask, “with a real voice?”.  If I responded, “it was real enough for me,” they might ask, “could anyone else have heard it?”  If I responded, “there was no one else to hear,” then the obvious interjection would be, “then how does one know it to truly be real?”

No one but me does.

I don’t care.

I know it to be real, because I know myself and I know my life, and my life proves to me that there is a God.  Even if that God is one of my own invention, the faith that I have in him has made me kind and generous, tolerant and brave, loving and good.  The faith, even if it is stupid, has helped to mold me into something I certainly never would have become without it.  I take great offense at the implication that such faith is stupid, because how is faith, borne of experience, faith that pushes and convicts and explains and changes, a bad thing?  I don’t ask that anyone else share my faith, because my faith is deeply personal and none could fully share it without sharing my life and my soul, all I ask is that they understand that the faith cannot be separated from the girl, and to mock my faith is to mock my very existence, my deeds and my heart as well as my beliefs.

This week is a holy week, and one that births in me thoughts of my own suffering and temperance, and thoughts of how close and how far I am from the faith and life I feel God wishes to give me.

I think today is as good a day as any, perhaps a better day, to consider the quality of faith and life this year should inspire.

I want my faith to be a sighted and focused one.  I don’t want to stumble in the dark towards an unknown goal.  I have a goal: to be Christ’s bride.  That goal also dictates the path of my life.  For like a bride preparing for her groom, thoughts of how best to please should encompass my every thought, I should wait for his word and touch with bated breath and feel that I would die without him.

And I do- I feel that I would die without him.

Perhaps that is stupid.

I don’t care.