Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Changing Plans

“ The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. “ ~ Sarai,
Genesis 16:2

Most of us are familiar with God’s promise to Abram of innumerable offspring - and we know how Sarah tried to “help” the process along. In fact, I felt so familiar with this story that when I was reading it recently, I was tempted to skim through it just because I ‘knew’ the story already. But, because I felt that prideful ‘been there, read that’ moment, I purposefully slowed down to read it again. And God faithfully revealed a fresh new detail that I’d never noticed previously.

God had decided long ago that Sarai wasn’t going to have children. I feel certain she prayed for children. But somewhere in her journey, she settled with the reality that God had closed her womb and that possibility. I kind of found it curious that she hadn’t tried to build a family earlier through her maidservants – but instead it seems she had just resigned to the state of being childless. When Abram shares God’s revelation with her, she doesn’t seem to lament this change of plans – but shifts into “planning” mode following her belief in his encounter. She simply states what she’d seen all along – that if God’s plan was for Abram to have children, it wasn’t going to be through her. How did she know that? Because that’s how it had always been. The Lord had already closed her womb.

“The Lord has kept me from having children.”

Here’s what I want us to catch. Sarai’s mistake wasn’t solely a lack of faith in God’s ability to keep His word or make His plan happen. Her ‘faith mistake’ was interpreting God’s future plan for her by her past with Him.

Pretty reasonable assumption, don’t you think?

In fact, I’d go so far as to say for most of us, God is only as big as we’ve experienced Him personally at that moment. I mean, we read the stories and know in ‘theory’ that God can do a whole lot, but often we assume that power is for everyone else… for another time and place, and a story better than ours is at the moment.

Think about your own life. Is there anything that you’re eager for God’s involvement in, but you find yourself limiting the possible outcomes to only the realities you’ve experienced so far with Him? Maybe you’ve returned home from the field to a church that you feel will never change. Maybe you start down a path towards a new mission field, only to have God put on the brakes. Maybe your marriage, which seemed so full of life at the beginning, feels increasingly dead as time goes by.

The call to let God work in our lives free from the assumptions of His work in the past is a tough one. Joseph is a fascinating example. When Pharaoh’s dream needs interpreting, and Joseph is called up out of his cell, we assume he reveled in the fact that he was finally vindicated. But I wonder if Joseph was really all that excited? I’m sure being out of prison was a relief, but when Pharaoh says he will give Joseph one of the highest positions in all of Egypt, does Joseph struggle with a little flashback? I mean, in Joseph’s life, interpreting dreams and being raised to positions of power were always followed by dark valleys of injustice and loneliness. Was he tempted to just ask for freedom and walk away from the leadership?

The more life God gives us, the more tempted we are to think we’ve seen Him work as much as He’s going to work. It’s easy to be a ‘fan’ of God and still bind ourselves and our faith up to only what we’ve experienced firsthand. I encourage you to anchor yourself to the truth that God doesn’t say that He can only do what we ask or imagine. He doesn’t even say He can do a little more that we can ask or imagine. He says he can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we ask or imagine. That’s a big invitation to imagine beyond what you’ve experienced so far. Keep seeking!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A happy New Year...

Wow... it's a new year. Already!

When I think about what to write here, I'm a little unsure. Reflecting back, if I were to be totally honest, the last couple of months have been a roller coaster in my head and heart.

First, a few months ago my family and I headed to Walt Disney World... a bucket item list for me that a year ago I wouldn't have dreamed was possible anytime soon. Good friends blessed us with an amazing place to stay, and we had a ball. Jason had never been, and it was fun to be so delightfully exhausted all together. I'm SO grateful we had the chance to go!

The last couple of months have been a real spiritual battle in my own heart and mind. I've not struggled with depression before... but considering I'm not one who cries often, and I've cried more in the last few months than I have in the last few years, I'm thinking that's what might be going on. I've always valued facts over emotions. But I'm learning that when the accuser takes 'facts' and twists them in your mind, that can create a lot of emotion. :-)

I'm recognizing that the last two years, specifically with homeschooling, have held immense change for me, and walked me into an area where I'm most uncomfortable. So I've retreated. Isolated myself. Been afraid to fail, and sure I wasn't going to succeed. I took every possible sign to prove myself right in those thoughts, and been nervous at any point in which my suspicions might be exposed to anyone else with out me stating it first.

It's miserable. Downright miserable. Did I say miserable?

Terry had a quote recently that struck me: "As long as self has the stage, fear has an audience."

I'll be honest. I keep asking God to take away this struggle. Either show me another way to school my children that will meet the needs homeschooling HAS met, or make me good enough to keep schooling them without stress and worry all the time that affects them. And He clearly has given me signs that He CAN do either one... I couldn't miss it! Nor could I miss the sign that He isn't offering the changes right now. I'm guessing He has a reason for that. :-)

What He is offering... is Himself.
I haven't wanted that, though.

I've wanted a new, improved, me. A me that can ________________. A me that doesn't _______________. And if along the way, I could also______, and __________, and not ____________, that would be great too. Oh and could I also have back some opportunities do to things that make me feel good about myself? And that other people would commend me for? If facebook were to summarize my year in prayer, I'm afraid it might have ME all over the picture. Hmmm.... guessing there's a connection between that and the depression, too.

Last night, my sweet husband gave me 7 hours to myself while he and the kids when and played. The house was clean, all chores done... no to do list or distractions to keep me from just relaxing. So I spent some time reading and listening to some messages that God had arranged for my heart to be ready to hear. It takes so little of His word and work to bring such renewal...and reminds me why He calls me to prioritize time for this!

New Year's resolutions are fresh on everyone's minds. There are lots of plans to do things differently this year, and I'm no exception. But I want to take the "me list" out of the equation.
I want be watching for God's plans... and to respond with a trusting heart that focuses on His power to accomplish whatever He calls me to, and a thankful heart that knows He will not remove my weaknesses just because I beg Him too. It may be that "My grace is sufficient for you" is His answer, and my thoughts and prayers need to refocus on the power He has always had to be God over the world and over my life.... and my sin.

It's my hope that confessing the self-centered nature of my heart will be the first step out of the pit, and back into the world where God is working all the time and inviting me to participate in His amazing work. It will be a happy new year because the Gospel still exists for all, including me, and THAT is the GOOD NEWS that I'm invited to start each day with.

So I think I will. :-)