Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, fear, grace, Trust

“Though the doors were locked…”

By now, some of you have read enough of my blogs to understand my unique daily reading plan. I could market said plan as “Rabbit Trail Reading Plan” or “ADD Reading Plan”, both catering to busy, scattered, impatient and focus-challenged individuals who are doing the best they can to grow up mentally, spiritually and emotionally. At any rate, here’s how it looks for me. I read approximately 4 different books each morning. Each one has a daily entry that is shorter than most of my blog posts I write. While I am reading I underline like crazy. I look up words I don’t understand or intrigue me. And I look up any references to bible verses that are highlighted. When I look those verses up, I truly love it if I have already underlined them in my bible (as if I were going to receive a prize or somthing).  I also read what comes before and after those verses  and occasionally end up reading a few chapters or other verses I have underlined around it. All that to segway into telling you about what I read the other day. And I couldn’t stop crying.

Just a brief description of what’s going on in John 20:26; You have probably heard the descriptor of someone who is skeptical or leary about something as being a “doubting Thomas”. This passage is where that phrase comes from. After Jesus was killed and came back from the dead, he appeared to a few of his disciples. Poor Thomas. He wasn’t there. So they told him about it and a paraphrase of what he said went something like “What-ever dudes. I’ll tell you what; I have heard these rumors already and seen the posts on Instagram. You know they can make anything look real with photoshop, right? But until I see him with my own eyes and touch the holes where they nailed him to that cross, I’m not buying it.” A week goes by and the disciples, including Thomas this time, are chillin’ in someone’s living room.

“And though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.”

And though the doors were locked…”. That’s the part that made me stop. Made me sob, actually. Because that is the God I believe in. Too often we picture Jesus as standing at the door of our hearts and knocking patiently. Wondering if we are home, hating to bother us with his measly gift of, um, forgiveness of sin and eternal life. This image probably comes from frequently abused verse about “behold, I stand at the door and knock” that is often used to entice someone to turn their life over to the care of God. Spoiler alert, that verse was writtent to a church full of Christians that needed to get it’s act together. It wasn’t about the heart of an individual who hadn’t met up with the wonder of God yet.

The God I believe in and am abandoned to, is not like a door to door salesman or a person who walks and knocks on neighborhood doors getting signatures to support his political agenda. He isn’t politely tapping while I hide behind the curtain, peaking out the window, hoping he gives up soon and moves on.

He’s a God who pursues. He knows we are home and He isn’t leaving until we open the door. He knows what He offers is not only free (to us, not at all to Him) but the best gift we could ever receive. His grace and love and mercy are indeed priceless. Too often we are resistant to letting Him in. Sometimes it’s because we are afraid. Sometimes it’s because we are selfish and want to live by our own Will. Sometimes, I think much of the time, it’s because we think we are not worthy of the gift. That we have screwed up too often and in ways that seem irreparable.

The God I believe in, not to frighten you, is one who will find a way in even though the doors are locked. He will go through a window or jimmy the dead-bolt or come down the chimney. He is what the English poet Francis Thompson called “The Hound of Heaven”. “As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so God follows the fleeing soul by His Divine grace.” And even though, for a plethora of reasons, we try to hide and run and lose this Hound, He follows after, “unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.” (J.F.X. O’Conor)

You see, like a lover who knows without a doubt that you are destined to be together, God will passionately and fervently pursue you. You can run and hide and curse and reject, but those are hurdles He can handle. He is not hunting you down to punish or shame you. He is coming to bring the love, acceptance, peace and joy your have been looking for in other things or other people.

Dear friend-I hope you can feel my two hands on your cheeks as I hold your face close to mine and tell you with a tender and emphatic whisper-“though your doors are locked, He will find a way in. And that’s not a threat, it’s a beautiful promise.”

 

Addiction, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

God knows and sees: Good news or bad?

I love it when a good blog comes together. Well, whether or not it’s good is yet to be seen, but the topic itself is solid. Believe it or not, every once in a while I am at a loss about what to write. If there’s anything I have learned in this writing journey is that forcing a solution is a bad idea. If it doesn’t flow out of me in about 40 minutes from beginning to end with divine inspiration kicking it off, it ain’t gonna happen. I have actually had a Psalm in my head for a week or so and this morning, something else I read gave me a nugget of truth to help me integrate it into everyday living in a way I didn’t expect. First, Let’s take a look at Psalm 139.

Are you familiar with it? I think you might be. It contains that very popular verse that says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” But those verses are at the very end of another 22 verses in which David, the author, is expressing his gratitude and awe of how intimately God knows him. Knows us. It begins by listing all the ways in which God is familiar and involved with us. God searches us and knows us. He knows when we sit and rise. He understands our thoughts and scrutinizes us while awake and asleep. He nows what we will say before it comes out of our mouth. Whether I walk in the light of heaven or dwell in the depths of hell, He is there. Always there. Seems like good news, right?

The reading I was referring to is from Oswald Chambers and it acted as a springboard to talk a bit about the verses above: “Is it not penetrating to realize that God knows where we live, and the kennels we crawl into! He will hunt us up like a lightning flash! No human being knows human beings as God does.”

My first reaction to Psalm 139 when I read it a couple of weeks ago, was “Amazing. I love that I serve a God who knows me through and through and loves every single part of me.” But that was on a good day. Or a good moment. When my thoughts were somewhat God-focused and I was sitting on the couch in an empty house. I was glad He could sense my love and appreciation for all He is in my life. But what about when my kids and husband come home and start requiring things from me? Or when the lady at the grocery store is rude? Or when someone challenges me or insults me or, God forbid, doesn’t appreciate me?! Do I really want a God who knows all my thoughts or words that are getting ready to spill out of my mouth? That makes me squirm a bit.

And that’s when it hit me; our level of comfort about having a God who knows what we are thinking and how we are behaving at all times depends on the our understanding of God. I have been re-working this for a few years now. I used to get worked up about AA calling God “the God of our understanding”, until I realized that we all worship the God of our understanding. We all have influences and life experiences that we have allowed to shape our interpretation of God. And if we have  somehow concluded that God loves us Best when we behave or that He is keeping an eye on us so He can catch us being bad, then the idea of Him knowing every part of us is not a gift; it’s a threat.

I have had to come to a new understanding of God over the past few years. One that fits into the God presented in scripture as loving, serving, kind, patient, merciful, gracious, forgiving and understanding of humans because He once was one. I didn’t redefine who He actually is, I redefined my understanding of who I had imagined He was. My understanding at that time was based on flawed thinking and emotional reactions to formative relationships and events that had taken place throughout my life. I had to come to a place of understanding God as One who knows when I sit and stand and where I walk and sleep and what I think and feel and what I am about to say…and loves me anyway. All the time. No matter what.

If your God, the God of your understanding is anything outside the realm of pure love and grace, from Him and for others, I encourage you to search for a new god. Somewhere along the line you have lost sight of this Being that formed you and knows you and cherishes you to your core.

“I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Thy works, And this my soul knows very well.”

Psalm 139:14