Monday, September 2, 2013

Putting the Pieces Together

This is a warning. I'm quite tired and my brain isn't operating at 100% capacity, so this is going to be an interesting read. Bear with me, if you will.

I was out for the weekend at an oasis in the midst of this miserable earth that I've blogged briefly about before.

The Lord doesn't ever waste a thing. If there's one thing I want you to know, that would be it.

Allow me to ramble a bit about this weekend.

My family and I sojourn for many hours into the east, into Mordor, every Labor Day weekend with a local university, because my dad volunteers as camp doctor for them while they're there. The fun of it is, for the last ten-odd years we get to spend three days in an immaculate and gorgeous camp in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by college students. And twice a day there's a session in an indoor auditorium where there's worship and a teaching, from profs and/or guest speakers.

While being totally fun, it's also a place that I look forward to being inspired (it was on the way on our first or second drive there that I got my first inspiration for a novel), and spiritually filled up at.

I don't know if I've mentioned this yet on the blog or not, but my life verse has been Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Wanna know why it's my life verse? Because I struggle with it. It's something so simple, something that is very hard for me to do, and therefore something I need to be reminded of regularly.

I was born and raised a church-going kid, in a Christian family. My spiritual academia isn't lacking in any of the essentials. Trust God? I could rattle off twenty reasons why you should.

Because He's God! Because He's all powerful! Because He created you and He knows what's good for you!

*taps skull* It's all in there. The great and lofty facts about God. I know all of the right answers, and honestly, it's incredibly frustrating. Just because it's in my head doesn't mean I truly believe it. Lots of things get stuck in my thinker and don't make it the last twelve inches down to my heart.

Back to this weekend.

It was incredible, all four sessions were Holy-Spirit-orchestrated to fit perfectly. Together they wove the most amazing tapestry of truth.

I want to share with you some of my notes, a brief paraphrase, from Saturday night's session. It was called "God In A Box." The title alone had me incredibly dubious, but it ended up being nothing like what I supposed.

  • Walking with or walking like a person is how you get to know them.
  • The last verse of Exodus is about the Tabernacle. The point of Exodus is about God wanting to abide with His people.
  • He loves you. And He likes you. 
  • In Leviticus, the dimensions for the Tabernacle are repeated twice. Boring stuff. And yet it's repeated. It must be important. 
Why is is important? You may already know the answer.
  • The Tabernacle is where God chose to be to abide with His people. 
  • It's a gold and purple box in the middle of a desert.
  • God is infinite.
  • God. Doesn't. Need. A. Box.
  • And yet He chose to dwell in one to be with the people He loves and likes. The people He delights in. 
Do you ever doubt that God understands how ugly and filthy you are? Do you ever feel like God doesn't realize what a mess you are? Do you ever feel pressure because you know He sees the new creation that you are in Jesus, and so often you still act human and imperfect?

There's a passage in Leviticus that the speaker didn't understand for the longest time. This is the passage:

Leviticus 21:16-24 

16 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying: ‘No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, 19 a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, 20 or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch. 21 No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the LORD. He has a defect; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy; 23 only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the LORD sanctify them.’ ”

24 And Moses told it to Aaron and his sons, and to all the children of Israel.

(this has been courtesy of Blue Letter Bible)

It sounds really mean, don't it? Sounds awful. Why would a God who wants to be with His people say something like this?

Here's why. This is what's written in the margin of my Bible next to this passage.

  • This is a living metaphor for how holy God is. So that we know how filthy we are to God. 
  • He's letting us know that He sees us for what we are.
  • And Exodus is still true.
He sees us, guys. He knows our filth and our impurity and our failings and the way we're wired.
He still likes us. He still loves us. And He still wants to be with us. 

In fact, He likes us so much that He not only consented to living in a box to be closer to us, He took on the form of a man and walked among us. 

This is the God who needs nothing. He didn't have to do any of that. He just did it because He delights in fellowship with us.

And to top it off, God died.

So that we could be with Him.
  • He knows us better than we know ourselves. He sees us through the lenses of the Cross because He knows what's behind it.

I am grateful to have intimate friendships in real life. I have people that I invest time in, and they likewise. People who are gracious enough to see my point of view, and I try to extend them the same courtesy. We know each other well. We spend time together. There's a closeness that comes from doing things together and learning about each other.

You know what? I trust those friends. I have as much trust in them as I can have in any flawed human being. 

After the speaker concluded, there were a few songs in worship. This was the first one.

Thank You for the cross that You have carried
Thank You for Your blood that was shed
You took the weight of sin upon Your shoulders

And Sacrificed Your life so I could live
Now nothing is holding me back from You
Redeemer of my soul
Now nothing can hold me back from You
Your Love will never let me go

These are just the beginning lyrics. I would have sung along, but I was sobbing. Not the sweet church-crying with the tears silently rolling down your cheeks so that you look serene and holy.
This was the kind that, if the music had been but a fraction softer, the entire auditorium full of college students would have heard. I had one hand raised in worship and the other clamped over my mouth to stifle the noise. My nose probably started running too but at that point all the liquid on my face was equal.

At first I wasn't really sure why I was crying. I had felt a pull at my heart during the teaching, but then the song started and for some reason it just hit me like an avalanche. Like something has released. Like I finally understood something. 
And then I realized it.
I. Trusted. God.
He was revealed to me as The Almighty God and Creator of the Universe, but, in the same moment, as an intimate friend. 
Not my bro. Not my buddy. Not my bff. My friend.

There isn't really a word beyond friend in the English language that I can think of to sum it up. 

But in an instant, He wasn't just a great and majestic and, yeah, kind of distant God. He was someone who needs nothing, but chooses to humble Himself, put Himself in a box, because He enjoys being with me. He enjoys being with you.

I've had trust issues for as long as I can remember. Are they gone now? Probably not. But the reality of who God is and the fact that He is trustworthy finally dropped the twelve inches from my head into my heart. I know that truth on a whole new level now.

I'm learning to abide. I'm learning, like a toddler to walk, to trust God. 

Because He is Almighty. He is great and awesome and powerful. And He wants to be my friend. And He did whatever it took, everything it took, to ensure that there was nothing between us. 

I love God. I love Him so much. Tears of gratitude are welling in my eyes as I type that sentence. 

I am by no means perfect now. Ha! Far from it. But this weekend granted me another piece of the puzzle of being sanctified, of understanding who God is. 

I love that He reveals things to us just as we need them. I love that if we stay faithful even during dry seasons of our faith, there comes an overwhelming flood of His tangible love and truth. 

Because it has been a relatively dry season for the last few months. I've done my best, albeit a very poor best, to not disconnect from spiritual things even though they were largely unrewarding. 

When I look around now, I see the world, see my life with a new dimension. I see new truths about my God and Savior. I see new ways that I can love Him. I see new ways that I can grow in my walk with Him. And that is a blessing beyond compare on this earth.

I've often wondered why it's so hard for me to be to obey Him. I've blamed it on loads of things.

But there's this song. And the order of verbs is so true.

Trust and obey
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey

The trust comes first. And like faith, like anything, He is the only one who can work that change in you.

I am eager to wake up every morning and, with trust in my heart, practice obeying Jesus Christ my Lord.

Neither you nor I will do this perfectly until Heaven. 

But I'm grateful for this piece of the puzzle that I could put together.

I'll leave you with another song we sang that evening. Thank you for bearing with me through this very long post. 


C McNeely said...

Amen! Great post.

Hannah Joy said...


Beautiful post, as usual, Abby. It has been a dry season in my spiritual life as well, and dry seasons are so hard. But this

Just thank you, Abby. For being a light in a dark world. For being a vessel for the love of God to filter through.

Isn't it amazing how in the darkest times, someone else steps up and is a bright light? God really has perfect timing.

Now I am going to go reread this again.

MarshaMarshaMarsha said...

I want to leave a profound comment of some sort but all I can think of is YAY! YAY! YAY!!! I just love how God doesn't give up on us... How He patiently waits for us to SEE what He has been trying to show us. To trust Him. To know Him. To love Him even a smidge of how much He loves lowly us!

Anonymous said...

That was very beautiful and refreshing, Abby! I have tears in my eyes from that song as it played when I read your post. Simply amazing.

reformed squirrel said...

Wow. :)

God is good.

Jake said...

And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come; still my soul will sing Your praise unending...ten thousand years and then forevermore.

Jack said...

So, so very true, and somehow so easy to forget. It is easier to say God cannot love us because we are so bad, so sinful, and He is so perfect. How can He even think of loving us? And it is easy to fall into self pity over it. But, God isn't like that. He still loves us, and it is harder sometimes to remember and act upon that.