A Well-Worn Traveler

This morning, I woke up and had kind of a radical realization. I was reading my Bible and praying, as I try and do every morning, when suddenly it hit me. I am not afraid. (Pardon the long post, but this is something I have to write down, especially since fear and dealing with it has been a huge theme on this blog).

Those of you who know me and who regularly read my blog will know that the past year or so has been very intense. Job, David, and I became good friends. Not that I lost everything physically, but God certainly had plans for some major, major pruning. And just when I would relax and think, “Okay, this has to be it. I can rest now,” something else would happen. I mentioned in a post long ago that I had somehow managed to convince myself that because I am a Christian, nothing bad will happen to me, which of course is the opposite of truth. We have only to read the Bible to know that this is not the case. But when we are afraid of things, we will subconsciously twist words to mean what we want them to mean so that we can be falsely comforted. But I was wrong: something bad did happen. And it rocked my world view for months, and then more bad things happened, and they seemed to never stop.

You know those people who you look at and go, “He/she is weathered but they’re still here.” The well-worn travelers of the world, those people who have suffered and come out of it and they’re still standing. They are not afraid, because they know that no matter what happens, they will come out of it. They will be okay. God is sovereign. Life will go on; maybe not immediately, or even soon, but eventually, one day, life will go on, even if it is only in eternity.

I was not one of those people. I was afraid. Because, if I’m being honest, I was missing the point. If I live for myself and my own comfort, of course I’m going to be afraid. I have everything to lose. If my happiness, contentment, strength, and identity lie in the things I do, or the people around me, or what I own, or any circumstances around me, then of course I’m going to be afraid. Losing something of that, or, say, almost being mugged on my way home from campus, will shatter everything.

But I’m not here for me. I’m here for Him. And this morning I realized that I know that. That I can honestly say, as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” (13:15). Because, quite simply, I’m not the point. HE is the point. And quite easily and suddenly, my fear seemed to simply melt away and a brilliant peace took its place.

Divine Storm

The way we tend to think of things is a somewhat cynical one, unless we’ve been living under rocks. We say Jesus is in the storm, that he is sovereign over everything. We don’t stop to consider that maybe he is the storm, that maybe he orchestrated it. Our tendency is to try and put God in a box. Once he’s dealt with us in a certain way we think we know how he is, what his ways are, his whole character. We are arrogant enough to assume that he must fit into our ideas of perfect and loving. We are like spoiled children who think the way for their parents to show love is to give them everything they want. God will not be defined. He will not be mocked. He will not fit into our boxes, no matter how big they are. If ever we try to put a label on God or put walls around him, we will very quickly discover that we know him even less than we did before. The more we discover about him, the less we realize we know, and the greater he becomes to us.

If God is not only in the storm but is the storm itself, how encouraging and comforting is that? As David said, I would rather fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men (2 Samuel 24:14). Our definition of discipline and love and compassion will almost always be different from God’s. Our definitions are largely based on the moment, on this life. His are based on what is best for us in the long run, what needs to happen to make us kingdom-advancing machines, what needs to be chipped off and stripped away in our lives to make us realize how much God is in love with us. His love knows no barriers, no limits. There is no person on this earth who, if they turned to face Jesus, would not experience his love. This means everybody. This is a difficult thing to accept at times, especially when we talk about people like child molesters (my own personal fantasy includes buying an AK-47 and shooting these people to bits), but whether we like it or not, God’s love is there for anyone and everyone who turns to him for forgiveness. On my own, I am a manipulative, self-centered, whiny, loveless, self-righteous, rebellious, hypocritical jerk head only concerned about my own happiness, my own comfort, and my own pleasure. Only in Christ and through his transforming power do I become humble and repentant and teachable. The first time someone commented on my teachable spirit, I almost fell out of my chair. Me? Prideful, insolent, critical me? No. The Holy Spirit in me is why I am teachable, and it isn’t a one-time thing. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he told us to take up our crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23). It’s a daily thing.

A big part of Jesus’ work in us is brought about in storms. Easy doesn’t change you, or challenge you. It’s the hard times, the times when we come to the end of ourselves and when we have spent all that we are that change us, because only when we realize that actually we have no strength can Jesus work radically in our lives. He works in us the rest of the time, just like the constant beating of waves against rock erodes it, but it’s when storms come that chunks are broken off. Yes, it hurts. You don’t go through a storm without getting hurt. But God has to break death out of our lives before he can build life. It’s like the demolition of a ruined, sagging building that is a danger to people to build a new, solid one where people can live and work. There is refining fire, but it is a controlled fire, controlled by someone who loves you more than anyone else is capable of. It’s actually really. Freaking. Awesome.