Sorting through conflict is my least favorite activity. Yet as a corrosively analytical-type I spend significant quantities of time revisiting conversations and interactions that didn’t go the way I thought they should. I don’t believe its a waste of time to analyze. I think it can be a source of wisdom if we are willing to take a dispassionate view of ourselves and the person with whom we were conversing. The problem lies in the fact that I’m usually powerless to turn a situation around to the point where I feel jubilant about things. Spoken words have that effect. And some conversations are so botched – yes, I’m capable in that way – that its pointless to revisit with the person at all.
How does this relate to art, beauty, hope and the pursuit of God?
Relationships can be beautiful, sometimes. Most of the time they are just a tangly mess of funky, dissatisfying conversations. They mirror our imperfections and unless I believe that there is beauty in the process, moreso than in the end result, I am without hope.
One of the most beautiful things that can happen in a relationship is that business of humility and deciding mid-conversation that I don’t have a horse in this race. The conversation won’t be about changing this person’s perspective so that it matches mine. At the risk of sounding rather competitive, it’s a conscious effort on my part to state my perspective and then ever so gently back off so that the other person is free to think or conclude whatever they wish…even to the extent that they might become arrogant and want to teach me a thing or two. No matter. Humility in relationships means engaging in the dance of dialogue without running away or demanding that I’m right. Close enough to get hurt but offering enough space so that they are free to adopt my perspective or maintain their own … that’s art. I wish I engaged in it more often.
Not long ago you trusted me with some rather heartfelt questions. I’ll be honest. The questions caught me a bit blind-sided and my answers were small, I thought. I just wanted to say thank you for trusting me enough to express them. With your permission, I’d like to try to answer them again, having given them more consideration.
Understanding the purposes of God can be a bit tricky. As I navigate this turf I want to point out my frame of reference – or starting point – for this response to you. I truly believe that there is a God. If we wanted to talk about the proofs of the existence of God, we could. But I think that you know – deep down – as well as I do, that He most certainly exists. I also believe that our God has feelings, just like you and me. The Bible says we are created in God’s image. There’s a whole lot of meaning to that statement. Just as you or I wrinkle our brow or feel a tear drop on our cheek, why shouldn’t God do the same? Every single thing that we know about ourselves, we can know that our God is wired similarly. Simply because you cannot see Him wrinkle His brow, or shift His gaze doesn’t mean that He hasn’t the ability. And so, this God who has feelings has deep feelings for you, and for me, wants to be in relationship with you.
He wants to know what *you* think, Friend … even your ugliest thoughts. He can take it. In fact, He’s better at fielding the questions that I am. I find that He doesn’t even care if I use rotten, un-ladylike language. (Yes, I did balk at your language. But it’s because I love you, and want you to become a fierce and lovely lady; one the world must reckon with.)
But, I digress…
I think it will help you in your discoveries to know that absolutely everything about God will be upside-down from the way you think it should be. That means that the reasons why He does things will often confuse you at first glance. But when you look a little deeper, and you ask Him about it, He will show you the deeper meanings and reasons of His ways. But you have to ask Him. He’s the kindest Person you’ll ever meet. He waits for you to look at Him, for your questions. And, once you ask, He will answer.
It will also help you to know that when we become followers of Jesus Christ we actually transfer our citizenship to the Kingdom of Heaven. In doing so, we suddenly realize that our priorities and focus has shifted as well. Remember that God created all things – all things – and through Him all things hold together. So, that means that He created time. And space. And stuff. And people. He created the enemy – satan and his household- that antagonizes us and, for a time, they rule this world. Knowing that there are two kingdoms at work sometimes helps me understand the conflicts
Whenever I get bogged down with the questions, “Why did You leave me here?” “Why was I born into this family?” and “Who are You, anyway, and why don’t You speak to me?” I really only do one thing… I sit quietly and ponder God’s big-ness. Smile. I become like a first grader, and expect that, as my real Papa, He’ll explain everything to me. So where do I look to understand God’s big-ness? I might look at Scripture. I could just look at the horizon, or the night sky, and see the stars and all the things around me that He’s created. But I happen to like Scripture and usually after I read the book of Job, or even just the chapters 38-42, I almost always get a sense of the magnificence of the one true God.
Ciao! Until next time…
There are sights I’ve seen as I’ve travelled through life that simply could not be replicated with a camera or words. No matter how hard I would try to show you what I saw and how I felt when I saw it, the breathtaking Caribbean sunset or the snow-covered Swiss countryside would remain truest in my own mind’s eye.
Something unexplainable happens when we perceive a thing of beauty, and attempt to capture its image or our thoughts of it on paper. Expression of its beauty is mostly about me … what I felt, what I saw, what I was thinking when I saw it. It’s an entirely different thing of beauty when you see it, and capture your own thoughts.
This is also true in one’s journey with God.
No one can have that relationship with Him for you. Each of us stands alone before Him. With regard to my journey, I can show you what I see, what I hear, what I say, but in the end it’s still my experience.
I have had the pleasure and challenge of walking with the Lord through many decades. I recall learning to be in relationship with Him as a very young girl, and then coming to understand the thoughts and intentions of His heart. Then of course there was the tricky bit of letting Him see my heart, my thoughts … and being real with Him. There was nothing sophisticated about it and no flashy terminology to describe the priceless exchanges between us.
Even as the years have flown by, I find that nothing has really changed from the time I was a little girl. The most important things remain. He speaks. I listen. I speak. He listens. He acts on my behalf, and I’ve been learning to obey Him. There is no one closer to me than He, and that won’t change. When I look into His face I can feel, and even see what is on His heart.
It’s my desire to share with you, as I write, my glimpses into the realm of the Holy Spirit, the realm of God. I find He makes His home among ordinary things, a stable, a manger, a cross. And so we have to look twice sometimes to see things the way He sees them. It takes courage to see the unseen, and to walk with God. My challenge to you then, Friend, is that you would look around you and begin to see things as they really are.
One of my favorite activities as a kid was to traipse around in the woods on the back part of our property. We didn’t have a lot of land, a small acreage, but it was plenty for us. There was a nice deep woods that outlined a good-sized field. There was a terrific trout stream that followed the property line, and my Dad used to say that it was the finest Brook Trout stream in Northern Michigan. That’s debatable, I’m sure, but the water always ran clear, and cold. A beautiful golden color.
I was just in Northern Michigan this summer, and had a chance to bound around my old tromping grounds in my Jeep. There was no hurry, really. In the early morning hours, I sat at the edge of the deep Black Lake and listened to the waves lapping the shoreline. Just like the streams that fill it, the lake water has always been a brilliant gold.
When I was young, my parents would take my family for Sunday drives out to different points of interest along the shores of the Great Lakes. We’d make a summer day trip up to the dunes on US-1, along the lower portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Other times we’d head further up into the UP, to Neebish Island, or to locks at Sault Ste. Marie. No matter where we went, each destination was packed with different meaning. Sometimes we’d picnic on the sand dunes. The sun was so close and hot that we’d burn like bugs on a windshield. Wave after pounding wave, we’d dash into the frigid cold water and then dance around in the piping hot sand, burning our feet. Later we’d eat the fabulous meat pies for which that region is known. Wrapped in sandy blankets and still sticky in our swimsuits we’d tuck into the truck and head for home.
A girl raised in Kansas might not be able to explain the way a Kansas wheat field is an inextricable part of her. It’s in this way that water is truly a part of who I am. It’s also a part of how I perceive God’s glory. God’s creation is a way in which He expresses His glory. He shows us who He is. There is nothing quite like watching a strawberry sunset on the rolling hills of Nebraska. It’s like He’s saying, “Ask Me to tell you who I Am, Samantha.” And so I respond, “Well, Father. Who are You, and what do You want me to know about You today?” And He says, “Watch this.” And without delay, He unfurls this array of colors in the sky, and the naked branches of the trees dare to impose themselves on the horizon. And I am overwhelmed.
And so it is with the lakes and the Great Lakes, and the seas…
God spoke to Job after he’d been through much trial and terrific suffering at the hand of satan. It’s the most prolific conversation between God and man, that we see in Scripture, aside from the Son’s 33 years here. And, even though Job was generally found to be righteous, he made the mistake of minimizing God’s holiness. God is like no other. That’s what holy means, set apart. It’s in this conversation that God chooses to tell Job about Himself through a series of questions. Part of it goes like this..
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
… Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?” Job 38
And then I read it as though the Father is asking me the same questions. “Where were you, Samantha, when I laid the foundation of the earth?” I think about the magnificent creative expression God has given with just the shoreline alone… “Or, who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth it went out from the womb…”
Oh we’ve so much to learn about God and to let Him be God.
You see, when you are in relationship with this God who longs to know you personally, it’s okay that He’s big. And magnificent. And that you’re small. I am small. I love to be small, and to show you my giant God. He’s huge! Ask Him to show you who He is. Then stand back and be amazed as He unfurls a sunset, or a captivates you with the wonder of a single snowflake as it lands on your nose. Allow yourself to be amazed at His glory.
Remember your mother’s distracted promises, “We’ll see…” or “Well, we can’t now but perhaps later…” And then you wondered exactly when ‘later’ would come to pass?
Seems like I haven’t changed much from when I was a kid. “Later” means this afternoon possibly, yet still today. Certainly not into next week or, God forbid, next year. There’s no time with God, don’t ‘cha know? He created everything! Time is like a play-thing to Him. So when we stand around stamping our feet, and I know I do, He smiles at me. One of those long blinking smiles, in the way that you know that He’s got a totally different grid on this thing than you do…always. And, to be fair, He has a delightful way of making you forget the long weeks, months, and years of waiting and growing into the shoe size He’s got in mind.
There’s something to this idea about resting in my Father’s purposes. I remember when I was a child I used to walk with my Dad, standing on the toes of his steel-toed boots. Hand in hand, I’d ride while he’d stride. Yup. It worked. It took effort from both of us to pull this off. I had the tricky part of balancing. He had the difficult part of essentially carrying me. Hmm. My heavenly Father is much the same way. I have to keep my eyes on Him, and not try to pull my own weight. To rest is tricky. It’s not unlike waiting.
One of my favorite authors, Bob Sorge, said of waiting,
“How to wait: Run after Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Waiting is aggressive repose. Waiting is stationary pursuit. Waiting is intense stillness. Waiting is vigilant listening.” [italics mine] — The Fire of Delayed Answers
How does one stand still and still pursue? And how did stillness become intense? This reminds me of how things become upside down in the economy of God. The last shall be first. The weak become strong. It’s here in the Kingdom of God that pursuit is stationary and stillness is intense. May we pursue Him with all that we have, all that we are, and He’ll meet us more than halfway.
“May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders.” — Deut. 33:12
May you dwell this night between the shoulders of God.