Thursday, April 19, 2012

Epiphany

I had an epiphany yesterday.  It was in fact a banner day for me my dear friend Leanne pointed out as we wrapped up our LIFE group meeting last night.  I have been struggling and wrestling with God for a long, long time now. The subject being peace or more precisely a lack there of.  I know from reading the Word of God that God does give peace to his people, a peace that passes understanding and I have experienced that peace many times in my life.  It is a gift that I seek out and bask in whole-heartedly.  Lacking that peace has caused many sleepless nights and frustrated prayers and conversations.

When I first began to pray about whether or not we should move to Gabon God was curiously silent.  I wrestled for about three months asking God to direct and lead us as we sought out answers on moving to Gabon.  Finally one day after listening to a Derek Webb song entitled "New Law" that ends with Webb singing 16 times, "do not be afraid" I cried out to God once more to give me an answer to my prayer.  I was seeking His will and isn't that what I was supposed to do?  God finally spoke to me in a still small voice that said, "Seek me alone, not just my answers."  It was a startling realization that I had been using God as a magic eight ball of sorts, shaking up prayers and wanting a clear answer to appear out of the murky blue liquid that would say to go or stay.  I wanted assurances that I could take to the bank.  Instead God's gentle rebuke revealed my motives and reminded me that I was not seeking Him alone.  I wanted answers more than I wanted to be with Him, more than I wanted to worship Him, more than I wanted to step out in faith with Him.

Don't get me wrong, we are to pray for answers, however, that should not be the ultimate reason to pray and seek God.  He loves us with an everlasting love and wants to dialogue with us, He wants invited into our everyday.  He delights in speaking to us.  But what I was doing for three months was a white-knuckled demand for answers about my concerns.  Once again I find myself seeking after something from God, white-knuckled and demanding.  I want God's gift of peace but not necessarily God Himself.  I want pain medication to mask my pain instead of therapy to heal my brokenness.  God is all about healing not about medicating pain.

I am miserably uncomfortable in this life I live here in Gabon.  The heat and humidity sap my strength and language and cultural differences are formidable.  Homeschooling then sending my kids away to school has been hugely challenging then heartbreaking and the aviation ministry has been fraught with delays and stops and starts.  Friends and teammates have come and gone, organizational changes are afoot.   Divorce and illness has blackened the landscape near to us and rained it's devastation on us until we were thoroughly soaked.  Is it any wonder I haven't felt very peaceful?  Yet I know that God gives peace to his beloved and it is a peace that passes understanding.  I feel I deserve that peace and I have been quite bitter that God has seemingly withheld it from me.  I have questioned the lack of peace and wondered if it means we are not in the center of God's will and how we went wrong if so.

Years ago when we were in youth ministry we took our youth to a ropes course.  It was a beautiful Fall day in PA.  The leaves were brilliantly dying in a dazzling array of flaming colors and the air was crisp.  We were in the midst of a challenge and that challenge was for the kids to climb a tower hooked into ropes that would hold them if they fell.  You know the type.  I can't speak very intelligently about the rope harnesses and the carabiners and belaying.  Yet there I was holding tightly to a rope belaying for a kid climbing ever higher.  Belaying is the simple but very important process of holding the rope and climber in the event of a fall.  There's all this business about a guide hand and a brake hand while holding the rope.  I didn't understand all the technical aspects of it but I did understand that I was to hold the rope to keep the climber from hitting the ground in the event of what could be a deadly fall.  I held the rope with a white-knuckled grip, straining and cramping my hands and arms.  I said to the expert standing nearby that I needed a break as I was shaking with the effort of holding that rope.  He gently explained to me I was holding on too tightly and I could relax my grip.  I remember thinking that it was a classic problem of mine, making things much harder than they need be.  So with some difficultly I relaxed my grip and found that the student was safe and wouldn't fall to the ground in a disastrous manner.  In fact my fear melted away and I enjoyed cheering the student on to the top of the tower.  It was a small victory for me that day as I learned to literally loosen my grip.

As you can imagine many years later in another country on another continent I am having to relearn to loosen my grip.  I am exhausted from nearly four years of straining effort as I have white-knuckledly held on to the "ropes" here in Gabon.  My epiphany yesterday was simply hearing God tell me to loosen my grip.  I was reading Andrew Murray's book, "The Master's Indwelling" when I came across this passage, "The almighty power of God is working in me.  I only need to get down, and be quiet; I need to be more submissive, and surrendered to His will; I need to be more trustful, and allow God to do with me what He will."  Give God His way with you and let God work, and He will work mightily.  The deepest quietness has often been proved to be the inspiration for the highest action."

Wow, I've been at it again... making things harder than they need be.  I've been straining and shaking with exhaustion thinking it all depends upon me, thinking if I loosen my grip disastrous results will surely come.  I've been seeking peace in the midst of this strenuous effort to medicate the pain and suffering and blaming God for not coming through.  He has been with me all along.  He wants only the best for me.  I so appreciate his patience with me and his steadfast resolve to not leave me where I am but to bring me higher and higher.

"Oh, learn to accept God's will in everything!  Come learn to say of every trial, without exception, 'It is my Father who sent it.  I accept it as His messenger' and nothing in earth or hell can separate you from God." - Andrew Murray

Already I feel more at peace than I have in a long time.  May I continue to loosen my grip and accept and surrender to God my everyday.  Tell me stories of where you have found peace that passes understanding.

Lyrics to A New Law :

(vs. 1)
don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

(pre-chorus)
i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

(chorus)
i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

(vs. 2)
don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law

(pre-chorus/chorus)

(bridge)
what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

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