Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just a Season

Genesis 8:20-22 (New International Version, ©2010)
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

22 “As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”

I was "randomly" reading Genesis 8 the other day, finding that the entire passage really spoke to some issues of my heart, and feeling especially moved by the above portions of scripture. What I wanted to share with you from all of it is simply this, "This difficult season won't last forever."

This chapter in the Bible deals with life at the end of a flood that covered everything on earth for 150 days (Genesis 9:7:24). Chaos, confusion, uncertainty, and a maddeningly long wait is what I think of at this point in the story. But on the other side of the story is something beautiful--a new beginning, and a promise from God.

Verses 20 & 21 got my attention because is tells us that the SACRIFICE of Noah was so pleasing to the heart of God that He decided to never again destroy all life on the earth, even though we totally deserve it. Look at all the horrible things we do to each other--genocide, human trafficking, the corruption in governing systems that allow all this stuff to go on. I'm honestly in awe of the grace of God at not destroying this place. Again, what moved God's heart to never do this again? Sacrifice.

I think we all understand that God doesn't need us to feed Him animals. Psalm 50:9-11 straight-out tells us that. I believe that God was pleased when Noah burned up the meet as an offering to Him, not because He likes a good barbeque, but because it was sacrificial worship, an act of extravagant love. Noah took from the supply God had given him to feed himself and his descendents, from the supply of the future for life on earth as he knew it, from the supply for his own need and desire and concern, and poured it out for God. All this after surviving the world's most catastrophic flood, the difficult season of not really knowing what would come next or when, of waiting and waiting. Even after seeing God's wrath poured out on the whole world around him. Noah got it. He saw that God was good and worthy of praise, his only source of life, and he poured out of what he had in response to this truth. I believe God really liked that. I believe it pierced His heart with pleasure.

The Lord followed that up with verse 22, and was showing me, yesterday, that all hardships have their limits. He won't let the seasons of death, darkness, winter endure forever, destroying us to the core, although they are designed and allowed to make us a sacrifice--a pouring out, an emptying, a wasting of our own desires at His feet.

Winter in Maine is long. It feels like it's never, ever going to end. Just when the snow starts to melt, we get hit with another storm or the temp sinks down to freeze-the-blood-in -your-veins levels. It's brutal, and it can feel that way in our spiritual walk, sometimes, too. Some of us have been in a season of darkness, of not seeing where we're going, not even seeing the path under our feet, even while God is leading us. But guess what? It won't last forever! There will be a day when the muddy waters and the chaos recede, and we will be able to see the world around us again, with fresher eyes, with greater clarity. God is not leaving us in this season of confusion. It's almost spring.

For additional reading on this subject, I recommend Isaiah 54. Good stuff.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Declaration of Intentions (Why I Wear the Ring)

Every now and then I get into that whole discussion of "what's the point of marriage?" Sometimes its with somebody else, and sometimes the discussion is inside my own head. I mean, a lot of people around me are getting married (again), and I honestly do wrestle with the purpose of relationships, from time to time. What it sort of boils down to for me, as a believer in a God of sacrificial love, is making an intentional commitment to another person before God and before your shared spiritual community. Sometimes I hear things like, "Isn't marriage just a piece of paper?" or, "If you really love somebody, and you stay with them because you love them instead of a sense of obligation, doesn't that mean something more?" or, "Isn't the permanency of a relationship the same thing as marriage anyway?" To be honest, I don't really care about the piece of paper. If I was forced by some strange law to choose between a legal ceremony or a ceremony which expressed my spiritual beliefs about the sacred nature of romance and my whole-person, life-long commitment some man I knew God brought into my life, I would choose the latter. So, addressing the other two questions, the whole thing becomes about declaring intentions. I can't do, "I just happened to end up staying with you." I need to be the giver and receiver of, "As God as my witness, I give you my promise." That is just how it is. I could go on and on about why that is, but who needs to read that right now?

Why am I bringing this up? All of this stuff about marriage being said, I'm still very single. Yet, I've taken to wearing a silver band on my left hand. So, some of my friends have been asking me, jokingly, "Are you married?" Ha, ha. No, I'm not married. I'm wearing this ring, and I'm writing this blog entry, to make a declaration. I don't want to be incidentally committed anymore. I want to be intentional about it.

Do you want to know what's inscribed on this ring? "FAITH." When my roommate first offered this unused ring of hers for the commitment I wanted to make, I said no. I didn't think it would fit, since she has much more delicate fingers than I, and I didn't think FAITH described what was happening between myself and God at all. I thought this, because I was dead wrong. God has promised to my heart over and over again that He has a husband for me, and that He will bring us together by His Spirit. I heard no words from the sky, it's just what's been injected into my spirit over and over again from my own time seeking His face and from time in prayer with others who seek His face. Does this make sense? No. I don't know why He would go through the trouble of setting me up with someone. I don't deserve it the way I feel others around me do. I don't know how it could possibly happen, because nothing that I ever try, or want, or hope for in the love department works out, so what could He possibly have in mind that would turn out good? And I don't know when. It could be this very year or twenty years from now. It could be sixty years from now. I don't really know. But I know that it's going to happen, because He wants it to, He said He would do it, and I'm wearing this ring to say, "O.K. I believe you." I'm saying I'm not going to be the one to make this happen, YOU are, God, as You promised. It's not because I'm some power woman, full of mountain-moving faith, it's because God is faithful, and I'm reaching out my hand to receive of His faithfulness from Him.

Will I ever date? I guess so. I guess I'll eventually need to spend time with someone as we both try to decipher what the Spirit of God is doing. But I'm not going to try to make it happen, and I'm not going to get into a relationship just because I like a guy or just because I'm head over heals in-love with a guy. Seriously, as I read this, it all sounds totally nuts to me, too. I have no idea what it's going to look like when that someone comes a long. I have no idea if I'm going to have 5 or 10 false starts before I really get the heart of God. I know plenty of grounded, Jesus lovers who think that this approach I'm taking is simply stupid and that waiting for God to make the first move in your love life basically means getting lucky or staying single forever. That's fine. I can't live out somebody else's spiritual walk, I can only live out the one God's called ME to.

Here is what I know, what I'm banking on: God's been faithful to close doors this whole time I've been single. He's been faithful to break my heart in order to save it for something more to His purpose. And if He's faithful to tell me, "No," He will be faithful to tell me, "Yes," when "Yes," is the best fit for my highest good--which is being made like Him, however painful the process.

So, I am saying, "Yes" to His plan. That is why I'm wearing this ring, which fits perfectly, by the way. A special thanks to Becky Russell for providing it for me : )