Browsing Tag

waiting

Faith

Why We Can’t Forget to Remember

July 3, 2014

I do my best thinking at night, always in that silent spot after the light is turned off and I’ve said goodnight to my husband. I roll over to my typical right side, arm under pillow under head, legs curled up, and eyes shut. And in that space, I remember.

I start venturing on this wild ride of maybes, ifs, and could-bes. I remember words spoken, dreams deposited, and promises given. I imagine myself years from now in the furthest hoped-for place, doing what I love and living what I dream. That’s always what my thoughts are in that safe, nighttime space.

I find, though, that my dreams and courage fade about the time my alarm goes off hours later declaring a new day. As I fall out of bed and shuffle my feet to the bathroom to start getting ready, my valiant thoughts of the night before become a soft hum as though we suddenly are miles from each other.

And as they fade, I so quickly forget.

From the first breath of the day, resistance seems to be a friendly companion, following me to each appointment, errand, and conversation, always ready to offer its pressing advice for how to give up, live defeated, and remain unsatisfied. Resistance is at every turn, exerting its strength and tactics to ensure that not one step more is taken towards those dreams.

If I’m not careful, resistance will be sure to keep me forgetting. Because when I do, my day becomes dictated not by the promises in my life, but my feelings in the moment.

See, when I wake up forgetting, emotions become the guiding force to my day. How I feel is the rudder that steers my course, keeping me in circles to eliminate forward progress. Before long, my own emotional teetering and wavering overflows my ship with water, forcing me to try to save what my feelings are sinking. By the end of the day, I did so much fighting with my emotions that I never actually moved anywhere.

Tomorrow, I say. I’ll get moving tomorrow.

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Photo Credit: Allison Johnston

But once again, resistance keeps me from remembering by using my emotions to sabotage my progress. And so it’s the same story on a new day. Trying to bail the ship I’m sinking myself by forgetting to remember.

This is why we must remember.

Because remembrance is like manna that keeps us sustained upon a course when we are not easily seeing or hearing.

Jesus once asked his guys, in the middle of their typical confusion, the question: “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” [Mark 8:18]

Sometimes (or mostly) in life, it is plain hard to see. No matter our best efforts and prayers, we simply cannot see what we long for or where in the world we are heading. And equally frustrating is when we also cannot hear. God may appear to be muted or distant. And in that place, when sight and sound don’t seem to be companions on the journey, the question is if we can remember the promises spoken over us, the dreams deep with us, and the truth of our identity and purpose.

In Hebrew, the word for remember is zakar. It means to keep in mind, to boast, to invoke. And its purpose then, in encounters like Moses to the Israelites or David in the desert, is the same as it is now: to affect present feeling, thought, and action.

Remembering changes what we think. And when we think different thoughts, we feel different emotions. And when we feel different emotions, we act and respond differently. Remembering fixes our eyes on what is true in the spirit, not what is before us in the natural.

Remembering keeps us moving forward when the course no longer has visual markers, emotional highs, or cheering crowds. When we cannot see and we cannot hear, it’s time to remember.

Faith

Promises Are Tricky Business

May 29, 2014

Most of us hold closely what we believe to be promises from God. We carry them as though they are a part of us. Maybe they came through a big encounter, a whisper in the chaos, or upon the pages of a worn Bible. Probably, maybe, from all three.

Some days we become bitter to those promises, as though they are reminders of everything we don’t have. We look at the word, or remind ourselves of the moment, as though it tells us what will not be and how certainly we should forget it. We throw our promises across the room, ensuring they hit the wall with force before falling to the ground. We decide to neglect and starve them of attention in hopes they feel the pain we ourselves feel by the reminder of what is not.

And yet, a few moments, days, or months later, we return to that spot and pick them up again. We brush them off and decide to hope in the promises we cannot see. Our method of neglecting, starving, and ignoring didn’t bring much life, so we decide to try a new way – a friendlier way.

Promises are tricky business. It’s difficult to steward something with grace and confidence when you have no control over when, if, or how it will happen. Maybe you believe in the “if,” or can guess on the “how,” but the “when”… that dang when… you can never be certain of the when.

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I remember a year ago waking up one Tuesday morning to plan the latest Bible Study. The week before was so busy that I hadn’t prepared anything until hours before people were arriving. Given how much time the other teachings took, I wasn’t sure there would be a lesson that night.

To add to the pressure, I cracked open my Bible to the next segment in Mark, specifically the passage on Jesus discussing the end times. My first thought was definitely, “what the heck am I going to say about this?”

I tried to calm my mind and let myself sink into the words on the page. And something hit me. Jesus was promising his return and explaining what was to come. Yet no matter how many times his friends asked the question we all ask – a giant WHEN?! – he remained silent.

His friends could be certain and secure by the words of God-with-them right there in flesh and blood. I mean, they have the promise. But for the life of them, they could not get the when.

Ever been in that place where you literally cry out asking God to give you the time stamp on the promise so the waiting won’t be the death of you?

Me too.

There’s always a waiting component to the promises of God. Though the waiting ground should be reassurance that we’re in the right place, it rarely feels that way. Probably because it is the waiting which preserves the mystery of the promises.

Oftentimes, so it seems, God withholds answers to our questions, especially those demanding timestamps, to keep our faith active and the mystery alive. When Jesus was with his friends, entertaining their questions, he didn’t give them clear answers; he kept the mystery.

We can be certain the promises of God always will require faith. And the when of the promise is the ground of trusting, hoping, and waiting in the most active of stances possible.

We cannot escape the mystery to the promises. No matter the power of our prayers, maturity of our words, or hours of our fasting – the mystery remains.

I wonder if the internal battle that cause us to throw those promises with force against that wall isn’t about the promises themselves, but the mystery attached to them. Because mystery is uncomfortable and stretching. It keeps us dependent, not knowing the right answers or being in control. And it keeps us transparent, raw and open as we wait one more day, wavering on despair.

To hope in God’s promises to manifest upon our lives is to choose to live and rest amidst the mystery. And more often than not, that land lacks answers and timetables, requiring faith and dependence.

 

More thoughts next week…

Faith

An Altar of Goodness

March 4, 2013

For years and years, I found myself in a place of perpetual waiting – hoping – for God to fulfill in my life what felt like the one desire I longed for more than any other. I longed to be a wife. To live beside my best friend. And to journey on the wild adventure of life together.

Due to his seemingly perpetual absence, I embarked around the world on my own, jumping into a fast-paced ministry of crazy adventure that led me to 40 countries in the last 5 years. I resolved to live life to its fullest and deeply hoped that along the way, I would find him somewhere beside me in the same orbit of adventure.

Some seasons I could easily remind myself of the catch I believed myself to be, that the wait was worth it, and that God’s hand was in it. Other days and weeks were filled with doubts over if it would ever happen given how long it had been without. The tears fell easily and I would weep wildly.

A couple years ago, in one of those downward seasons where my heart ached beyond comprehension for someone I didn’t think I even knew, I scribbled a message with dry-erase marker up on my mirror wall. Every morning and night I would look at it, speak it out, and do all I possibly could do in the midst of my spinning to settle back into its truth.

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I did all I knew to keep believing that despite the prolonged waiting ground I stood on, richly watered by my ever-flowing tears, I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. The word highlighted off my mirror each day was the word still.

Despite all that’s (not) happened,  I would see it. His promise alive and active ahead.

Ten years after first asking God to fulfill this desire, he showed up. I assure you, the whole thing looked nothing as I imagined it to be. It was not sparkly or pretty or glamorous – it was breathing, living and messy. Sure signs God’s hand was in all of it.

Yesterday, one lovely year ago, God fulfilled the long-awaited hope for me as I stood on the shore of St. Simon’s Island in front of the love of my life on his knee. With a ring. Asking me to be his wife.

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After that ring was slipped on my finger and I uttered “yes” a million times, Mark stood to his feet and my arms instantly embraced him. Tucked close into him, my eyes looked out over his shoulder at an endless ocean in the distance, with the waters appearing to fall off the world’s final cliff. The moment was frozen for me – all was still, silent, and paused.

As I stared out at the beautiful vastness, I began to replay in my mind’s eye the last decade of waiting – the moments of being sure I had found “him,” of being curled up on my bedroom floor weeping over a hope still not met, of watching others step into what I so longed for myself, of prophesying on shores, chairs, and the like for who he would be. Every moment and memory carried the same underlying voice, the voice that repeated His soft word of promise year after year, season after season: “Beloved, I am good.”

Standing on that shore, embracing my soon-to-be husband, I wept. I wept because of how true that word stood in every moment of waiting. All I uttered for an hour on the Georgian shore, over and over, was this…

You are so good.

That day the love of my life promised all of himself to me for the future ahead. The ring, as a sign of the the covenant to come, was slipped upon my finger. And something long awaited for became fulfilled.

This day, just one year ago, will forever be marked as an altar of the Lord’s manifest, tangible, breathing goodness in my life as I never knew before.

Building altars in the old was the symbolic proclamation that on this day, in this place, the Living One showed up and moved in their midst. It was an expression of remembrance, to help insure that what happened in the past would not soon be forgotten with the coming wilderness trials.

This story isn’t scripted to necessarily be hope for those who are single, although it could be. And it isn’t a story that assures “all is well in the end,” though it may. This story is one about the goodness of God in the land of the living. The altar built that day in my life is an altar of goodness. It’s one of remembrance, to insure I will not soon forget how He has moved in my life and midst.

I believe with all of me that the absence of it today does not negate the promise of it ahead. The waiting ground is the birthing ground for promises fulfilled in the seasons and years yet lived. And it is by waiting in the “still” of today that we are able to partake in the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living that is to come.

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