Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beholding...

(*you might need to take a seat and grab a cup of coffee for this one...it's long.)

It seems of late, everywhere I turned, things in my life were beginning to crumble. One asks herself, "How does life get this way? And so quickly?" In the midst of this crumbling, God met me in a beautiful heart-changing gracefall, which I shared in an earlier post. And although my circumstances haven't changed, I've been filled with a peace and joy ever since. This gracefall gave me strength, perspective, and the mind to reach out to all of those prayer warriors and seed waterers in my life. Through this process, God has showed up in BIG ways...or perhaps it's not about Him showing up- He's always been there- but rather me opening up my eyes to finally see Him in this season. And let me tell you, His handprint has been on everything.

On a whim (a divinely orchestrated one, that is), Darcy and I were given the opportunity to meet up with some old friends of ours, spiritual mentors, this past Tuesday night. This couple was instrumental in our spiritual development and we hadn't seen them in nearly 8 years! We drove an hour to met them at a halfway point and spent hours catching up over steak, salad, burger and outpouring of heart. Darcy and I rarely go out. The fact that he was actually able to have an evening free and all the details of these plans were thrown together in a matter of hours, is nothing short of a miracle. God had us right where He wanted; I'm certain of it.

I'm not a believer in coincidence or luck...this was a heavenly ordained intervention. Isn't that how awesome our God is though? That He'd take two people who played a vital role in spurring us into a new life in Christ, and bring them back into our lives some 8 years later, to speak to us as we faced a crossroads in our journey and were staring with confusion at the road signs of life that have been pulling us in all direction, (mainly urging us to travel south taking Discouragement Drive, Lost Lane, Hopeless Highway and Abandoned Avenue to our miserable and broken destination...OK, I know that was a bit cheesy, but you get my point.)

For two days I've been listening to what God has been trying to say. His voice ringing loud and clear as themes that were covered that Tuesday night have begun to resound in echoed fashion all around me. It's given me a new fear and reverence for Him, (and a permanent state of "glory bumps") as I ponder all that's taken place.

One theme discussed Tuesday night was the fact that we are not alone and the LORD is with us. I know that might sound elementary and obvious to some, but one of the issues Darcy and I have struggled with is the feeling that we've been abandoned and unheard, and that there aren't many out there who fully understand what we've been going through, (as a couple or individually as a husband/father and as a wife/mother). When meeting with our long lost friends, it was unraveled that they too, have been experiencing much of what we have...man to man, woman to woman, spot on. Although the details and the circumstances are completely different, the process, the emotion, and the struggle has been much the same...almost haunting. Do you know the comfort and validation it brings to to feel understood and to know we're not alone? His Word says that Jesus understands and while on this earth faced everything that we face and that this life brings us. But, there is a noteworthy comfort in having brothers and sisters, in the flesh, walk alongside of us in understanding and journey. Kindred connection.

Another theme that emerged Tuesday night with our friends was that of "embracing" the wait, the darkness, the valley, the season that God has you in. So often I find myself struggling to get out of this season, or making sure I look for and soak in all of the joys of this season instead of just resting in it and accepting it for what it is. My focus is either on looking to the future and a way out, or searching and straining to find the joys while in it...both options can be exhausting and have often left me feeling a sense of failure. Neither perspective is necessarily wrong or bad. But how about just embracing the season for what it is, even if you don't like it and still wish there was a way out? I hadn't really explored that option before. I'm finding there's freedom here I hadn't yet experienced.

Our friends we met with the other night are in ministry by the way, he a respected and beloved pastor, she musically gifted, serving on the Worship team with the voice of an angel...both of them wise and seasoned in their walks, filled with a magnetic and contagious passion for Jesus, the church, and God's people. I wasn't sure if I should mention that or not because of confidentiality purposes, but I'm not really sharing anything they wouldn't openly share. So, as we are talking about this idea of embracing, our friend references Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and how Jesus was in anguish over what was about to happen, yet He didn't fight it. He accepted it. And trusted His Father. (Trust and belief...one of the key areas God has been working on me as of late). Jesus wasn't spending all of His energy focusing on finding a way out or seeking out the joys and blessings of the moment, but was rather focused on making sure His will was aligned with His Father's perfect will...even if it meant pain, suffering and injustice. He embraced it.

We also discussed that sometimes these dark seasons in life come, not necessarily out of punishment or the testing of our faith, but for growth AND out of His love for us. We can consider it a promotion from God. Perhaps, He has grown us and taken us as for as He can in blessing, and the only way to grow us upward and into His heart furthermore is through these seasons. Embrace. I feel the need to spiritually exhale, do you?

I left Tuesday night feeling refreshed, not alone, and that God had just wrapped us in a big warm hug. Hopeful.

And then Wednesday rolled around, and I spent the day marinating in pleasant, yet hazy thought...feeling as if there was more to the picture that God was trying to tell me. Or that He was trying to make sure I heard His voice clearly. Right after I put Berlyn down for a nap, I decided to listen to a CD that a friend lent to me a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't really even sure what it was about, but knew it was Priscilla Shirer speaking and it came recommended. And would you believe these exact two themes were echoed in her words? A.) God is with us and B.) We need to "behold" (embrace) the season in life He has us in. Wow! I have glory bumps right now just thinking about it! Could His message get any clearer? Stirring of heart accomplished.

She pointed out that there are several places in scripture where God is with people and because they aren't fully present and aware, they have completely missed out on Him. In Genesis 28:16 Jacob awoke after having conversation with God and said,"Surely the Lord was here, and I missed it." She then talked about how Mary Magdalene went to Jesus' tomb looking for Him and didn't realize that the man standing behind her talking to her (supposing it was the gardener) was Jesus Himself...that in her distraught state, she didn't recognize Him or realize that that was the Jesus she had been looking for. When we are disillusioned and discouraged or when life is interrupted and has been derailed from our plan, our goals, and our ambitions, and when it doesn't turn out the way we had hoped, we can fail to recognize that in our present circumstance God is right there with us.

Luke 24, talks about how Jesus appeared to His disciples while traveling on the road to Emmaus and how they too didn't even recognize Him. He was WITH them and they didn't even realize it. This moved me to tears. How many times in this season of life have I felt alone, unheard, and unrecognized? Too caught up in my own little mess that I failed to recognize Him right there beside me while traveling on my own little road to Emmaus? He was telling me that He has always been with me. I still get moved to tears when I think about His effort and movement to make sure that not only did I know this, but that I believed this. Relentless pursuit of my heart. Thank you Jesus.

How often are we with Him but unaware because we are disappointed, discouraged or feel like this life of ours has been interrupted? Priscilla touched upon how we can sleep or race through one season waiting for the next season...we can essentially sleepwalk through whole seasons of our lives (saying and thinking "I can't wait until......"I'm married," "I have children," "I am this size," "I have this promotion" or "this status,"" or "I'm at this point in my spiritual walk"...you fill in the blank. When we live our lives waiting for the next season in life to come, we risk missing out on God's presence, gifts, and the blessings offered in the right now because we are wanting what is yet to come.

She further discussed a secret in preventing "sleepwalking" and in keeping ourselves fully engaged, awake, invested, and present during interrupted seasons of life. Take a look at the word "BEHOLD." It is used all over in scripture and is an important word to take note of. Often meaning "look!" or "suddenly!" or "right now!" or used as an indicator to "call attention to detail...that something was about to take a change." This happened in Luke 24 beginning with verse 13 (KJV). With all of the disappointment and hardship that the disciples had faced, and even though their circumstances were not necessarily getting ready to change, God was getting ready to do something to invade their circumstances. They were in the midst of a "behold" moment even though they were frustrated and discouraged and disheartened. Their story was about to change.

Priscilla shares that the secret to beholding lies in "knowing that our eyes as believers can be opened to God's activity even in the midst of our discouragement." That often we are completely blinded to His activity, the change that He is trying to make in our hearts, our minds, and in us...and in the character He wants to reveal of Himself to us. Often when we are distracted with our discouragement, we don't even realize we are in the midst of a "behold" moment.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out on any of His activity or anything that He has for me. I want to lean into Him, to embrace Him, to "behold" whatever He has for me despite my circumstance or season. He wants my eyes to be open, to believe that behind the scenes He is working everything out for my good (Romans 8:28). And that even when everything about my circumstance remains the same, I won't be.

Beholding. Spiritual vision. He's equipped us with everything we need to seek and see His help, to feel His peace and to grab on to the "behold" moments even in the midst of chaos, discouragement and life's interruptions. We have HOPE that this world doesn't have.

Oh, there's so much more to share, but my inability to keep things concise will force me to stop right here. I've gone on way too long with so many run-on sentences I could be arrested for it. But here's the deal...I want to experience Jesus. I don't want to miss out on a thing He has to offer me. I believe that He has been here every step of this long difficult season, but I haven't always had my eyes open to Him because I was too eager to move onto the next season in life or I was straining to find His blessings and joys versus straining to just find Him.

Little by little, I'm learning to embrace, to listen to Him in my silence, to see the beauty in this season, even when my circumstances don't change...to step on the path that He has set before me, the path of Jesus...to believe that He is with me and that He is for me...to be fully present in Him...and to keep my eyes open for all of the "behold" moments that come in between.

Thank you for your prayers. I beg you not to stop!
And thank you for letting me share my heart, even in run-on sentences.

"Behold"
He is making all things new.

3 comments:

  1. I had a cup of tea and enjoyed your words. Thank you for sharing your experience Amanda! While we all aren't experiencing the exact same circumstances, there is truth and wisdom in what you've shared. I really appreciate your authenticity, and I know God does too. A contrite heart is all he needs to do his stuff! You are beautifully splayed out before Him, it's evident.

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  2. So glad God orchestrated these two situations together. And so happy to hear you heard Him through it.

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