Reading Exodus 33 once again, I am struck by the audacity of Moses’ request of God Almighty:
“Show me Your glory.”
Oh God, we need Your presence more than Your good gifts.
We work for the stuff of this earthly life, houses, cars, trinkets, bank accounts, travel. We seek education, careers, and climb ladders to who knows where, hoping for a taste of fulfillment, to find happiness, to experience contentment.
We look for fun in the funniest of places, wanting something long-lasting, expecting it to satisfy, while it floats to the ground like dry leaves.
We spend our strength on things short-lived and temporal, that which passes away, leaving us searching for the next thing.
And all the time it is You, Lord, that we need. More than comfort, more than healing, more than gifts, more than answers. We. Need. You.
Give us hungry hearts. Give us ears to hear You and eyes to see You in our everyday moments. Show us how needy we are for Your Presence, Your Voice, Your Holiness.
As the month of September meanders to its end, I glance backward to what lies behind me.
Those days have been hard, dry and cracked open with suffering. And how do we go on from here?
Three times in my seventy years I count the most sorrowful of seasons. All involved death, real and symbolic. As if something were being ripped from my grasp, my heart was left crushed, my soul whimpering.
I spent time wandering the wilderness of my own confusion, my questions were without answers as I watered my path with weeping.
Looking backward with the perspective of time and wisdom, I see lessons I was meant to learn. Though I felt alone, I perceive that God’s presence surrounded me. My tears were noticed, my groaning was heard, and the Father of all comfort drew nearer to me in my brokenness.
I bear the scars still. The wounds have healed but their evidence remains, a reminder that no one gets a reprieve from suffering in this fractured world.
As I walk beside others in their wilderness journey, I identify with their pain, remembering the aloneness and the desperation. I feel their longing for relief from the angst of this affliction. We enter into the fellowship of human suffering.
With thanksgiving, I recall the bright and beautiful days, the gentle meanders through green meadows, the soft breezes on my face, the sweet communion of friends in joyful song.
But it is in the dark, thunderous storms that my heart is tendered by my tribulation. Those were the times I ran to the gentle and strong Shepherd while wolves surrounded and I trembled in the unknown. His comfort and protection were what I needed.
While questions without answers raged in my mind and I couldn’t see farther than the next step, He who is the Way opened the door to Himself, and I ran to His arms.
While I learned to trust Jesus at my mother’s knee and from my father’s example, it was in the dark night of my soul that I comprehended a dimension of God I could not have known any other way.
If I could have chosen, I may have taken the gentle way, the easy path, but that would not have been the best for me. I would not learn endurance. I would not know peace in the storm. I would not experience a comforting Presence in my pain. I would not have empathy for my fellow sojourners. I would not see hope in a hopeless situation. I would not stand in awe of the brilliant stars in the blackness of night.
Words of a song from my youth take shape in my mind, and I sing them to the trees.
More of You. More of You. I’ve had all, but what I need is more of You. Of things I’ve had my fill, and yet I hunger still. Empty and bare, Lord hear my prayer for more of You.
On retreat at a cabin in the woods, what better place to be? I look out to the treetops. The quiet is a balm. I fill up on nature’s nectar.
The early morning is my favored hour on the deck, before the heat of the day, sunlight filtering through leaves, birds serenading, gentle rain dripping to the forest floor.
When Maisie and I walk, she is in olfactory heaven. I wonder at her inquisitiveness, ears alert and nose to the ground. What scent causes her pause, creating a craving to investigate? What sound catches her attention enough to stop, stand still, and wait for more?
I too feel the yearning to pause in wonder while seeking and searching for truth. What lies ahead as one decade of my life ends and another begins? How shall I be alert to what lies ahead? How can I give heed to what my senses and my spirit are trying to tell me?
At this age I have more questions than answers.
Reading Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life, I make notes in my journal.
I will not live wisely unless I am thoughtful, examining this one wonderful life, my motives, behavior and habits.
Preparing for tomorrow is different than worrying about tomorrow.
I can’t face old age when I’m old. I have to do that when I’m young. (I hope it isn’t too late.)
Life is a remarkable adventure, with twists and turns, wonder and mystery. The trail is winding and uphill, heavy with the weight of the unimaginable yet to be discovered.
The journey is dangerous and wild. Sometimes I’ve stumbled and face planted. Hopefully, I learned from my errors, picked up and gone forward. Around the bend is magnificence, and I don’t want to miss it.
When the road is uncertain and frightening, I will not walk alone, though the valleys are deep and the mountains high. My Shepherd leads. He started the quest and invited me to follow. He is my protection and prepares a table for me. He bids me rest and takes my hand when it’s time to press on.
The closer I get to home, the more I know what I really need, what I want most. It isn’t the stuff I’ve spent a lifetime accumulating. Not houses or land, bank accounts or possessions.
It’s Jesus. He is what my heart craves. He is what I need.
As I turn over the calendar blocks to July 1, I’m stunned that half the year is over. Is life moving at warp speed or is it my own illusion?
What do the next six months have in store? Only God knows.
What have I accomplished since January 1? Lists marked with completed check-offs attest to busy days, tasks and projects completed. The journal reflects daily activity and moods, the inner rumblings of a mind distracted some days and focused on other days.
My good sense tells me the moments spent with friends and family were the most valuable and enriched my life in ways not measurable. I expect that will be true of the next six months. How does one calculate the intrinsic worth?
So what do I want? From this day forward, what should I pursue? What shall I choose for 182 days left in this year?
Working through a new Bible study, I see how the Scriptures are full of questions. In a way, I knew that. God asks:
“Where are you?” “Who told you that?” “Where have you come from and where are you going?” He knows all the answers.
Somewhere, sometime, I heard I should not question God. Yet through my study I’m being made aware that God initiates relationship through questions. Maybe they aren’t harmful after all but rather a way to dialogue. Don’t I practice Q and A to get acquainted with a new friend? I often ask and dig deeper to understand, to comprehend, to get beyond a surface response?
Jesus invited inquiry. “What are you seeking?” “Why are you afraid?” “How much more will the heavenly Father give . . . ?”
Psalm 38:9 says, “All my longings lie open before You, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from You.“
I wrote it on my spiral index cards, and I’ve looked at it many times during the last weeks. Sometimes what I want seems an impossible request. Sometimes it is difficult to put it into words, this longing too deep to be demystified. Sometimes it is too hard to say it out loud.
And so I offer it up to my Father who knows my heart and the thoughts yet to be formed in my head. He is completely cognizant of my soul and spirit, their inner workings, their conflicts, and the questions I have.
He welcomes my questions, the wrestling I occasionally do with Him. He tells me to ask, seek, knock. It is His invitation to bring all my quandaries to Him. He is not put off by them, is not stunned that I would be so bold, is not offended at all.
He offers the appeal: Come boldly to the throne of grace. Come with your questions, your struggles, your pain. Come with your proposed plans and decisions. Bring your “what if? and “what shall I do?”
God has answers to questions I don’t even know how to put into words.
“Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
Waiting. It’s not what I usually choose. I like a plan and the action that follows.
Yet, we all share time in the waiting room.
Waiting for Christmas as a tender child seemed interminable.
Waiting my turn to give an oral report in high school was pure torture, wanting to get it over with while dreading it at the same time.
Waiting in the dentists office for the needle and the drill leaves me anxiously wringing my hands.
Waiting for the doctor to see me when I’ve already been there long is frustrating.
Waiting for the red light to change because I’m running late, I endure by counting the minutes.
We all wait for something. A phone call, a visit, a letter, a promotion, or a confirmation. We wait for a biopsy report, a positive on a pregnancy test, a return of strength after surgery, a healing of a broken heart. In the waiting, we wonder why it is taking so long.
After unexpected and unimaginable turn of events, a crucifixion that was mind boggling, Jesus’ disciples, friends and family huddled in fearful waiting, not knowing what they were waiting for.
All they knew for sure was that Jesus was dead. Some saw it happen. Some walked to the tomb where his linen-wrapped body was placed. Some heard the horrific details and could not comprehend how or why it happened.
They waited in their stupor of questions, uncertain of what lay ahead.
They were much like me when things don’t turn out the way I expected or planned or hoped they would. I am left wondering and waiting.
From my perspective I see the tomorrow that will come for Jesus’ followers, the empty tomb, the glory of His resurrection. If I could tell them anything, it would be this: It’s going to be alright. Just you wait and see.
And the message is the same for me. No matter my circumstances, as God’s beloved child, it’s going to be alright. I won’t necessarily understand at the moment. I may not fully know on this earth. But one day, things that hurt me will reveal their purpose. What I couldn’t understand will be made clear. I will see that the trials, the tears, and the pain had an objective and a goal, all in the mind of a sovereign and good Father, and all of it to conform me into the image of His dear Son.
The waiting room may not be the place I voluntarily go, but it is the place I will return to again and again. Perhaps I need to tell myself this right now.
The hope of Israel comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, humbly yet with the air of royalty. This man is different, unlike others before. He holds crowds sway with His words of authority. He speaks and dead men live again, the lame walk and the blind see.
He confounds the wise with His stories and calls out the motives of the powerful. He walks on water and calms the wind like a restless child.
He keeps company with an unlikely and rowdy bunch, parties with publicans and tax collectors, and has intimate conversations with outcasts.
As he rides into the city amid proclamations of Messiah, knowing that their honor will be short lived, He sees the heart of the matter. He perceives the thoughts and intentions of those giving Him praise now.
While the parade proceeds, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of year-old sheep are being chosen and affirmed Passover lambs. One lamb for each family, it is marked for death in just a few days. As households gather for their annual celebration meal of roasted lamb, bitter herbs and unleavened bread, they will tell the story of their deliverance from Egypt and hope for another Deliverer.
Do the people fully comprehend that here He comes, riding on a donkey? This One was proclaimed Lamb of God by John at the river Jordan. He is the One Abraham prophesied, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” On this Sunday, designated now as Palm Sunday, He is marked for death in just a few days. Crowds will gather at the foot of the cross as His blood pours out for whosoever will.
He is Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He has come to set us free.