Today, I passed by a sign on my way home from having my car inspected. I pass by this sign at least three or four times a day. Normally, I just laugh to myself as I glance at it. It’s a billboard-type sign on the outside of a neighborhood church’s building. There’s always some catchy phrase trying to be relevant, trying to lure the masses inside the church’s doors. I laugh cynically because I think how ridiculous, how cheesy. But then again, I always read it, don’t I? So I think to myself again: who am I to judge their efforts? I have no idea whom they are reaching.
The cynical laughing continues, only this time it’s aimed at me. Will my pride know no end?
So back to my point…today there were two words on the sign that stuck with me: Exodus 5. I can see them in black and white even now, over twelve hours later. It’s like the sunspots you can’t stop seeing if you stare directly into the sun. Or like a neon sign flashing brightly in my mind: Exodus 5, Exodus 5, Exodus 5. As I climbed into bed, I decided to take a hint and read the darn chapter.
It’s early in Moses and Aaron’s career. They have heard the call of the Lord and do their best to obey. Obedience equals confronting Pharaoh and asking for a day off for his slaves. Through Aaron, Moses asks for three days to make a sacrifice to the Lord in the wilderness. Pharaoh responds with an emphatic “no.” In fact, Pharaoh punishes the Israelite slaves for A & M’s presumption. At the end of the chapter, Moses cries out:
“Why have you brought all this trouble on your people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” (Exodus 5:21-23)
My first thought? I can really relate to Moses.
I flipped over to my daily reading in Romans (I still don’t understand why God has me stuck in this book…I am definitely not getting it yet.). I reread Romans 5 (for about the fiftieth time since the New Year began…what am I missing???).
Suffer and you’ll be glad, yea, yea, yea. Endure and you’ll find hope, yah-de-dah-de-dah. And to conclude: don’t be bummed that you keep getting it wrong because Jesus got it right. He, ultimately, is the reason for your hope. (Obviously, the paraphrasing is mine.)
My thoughts? I know, God, but it still doesn’t make the suffering any easier. At this risk of sounding like a whiny Moses, what the heck is the point? You tell my husband and I to walk down one path, and it does not – by any stretch of the imagination – come to fruition. You promise things to us, year after year, and we see no fruit come from any of it. Are we crazy? Are we hearing you wrong? Are we asking the wrong questions?
The kind of suffering I’m sitting in right now is not die-of-starvation-type suffering. It’s barely worth mentioning when compared to the things I could be dealing with. (Heck, it’s barely worth mentioning when compared to some of the things I recently have dealt with. Oh, how easily we forget God’s goodness.) And yet, my heart jumps to despair at the first sign of bad news, and my flesh cries out with Moses: Why…?!? You called, I obeyed, and you have done nothing!
Whoa, the accusation puts a bad taste in my mouth. Pride retreats while humility surfaces. I cannot be that arrogant, even in despair. Even when I really, really want to whine about how much this sucks, my faith rises up and takes over. My soul speaks the Truth:
I love the Lord. He loves me. He is good. He has given me life abundant. There are many good purposes, both for the here-and-now and for the future, seen and unseen. I know this to be true.
In other words: fleshy side of me, shut up!
His still, small voice reminds me: “these are treasures in heaven.”
I fight back the urge to retort: “I’d really appreciate some treasures on earth.”
The reality is that sometimes being a follower of Christ isn’t enough. Even the solace of knowing the only One worth knowing doesn’t wholly satisfy. I am left feeling empty, wondering if I will ever be full.
Is this because Christ is not enough? No – I respond with an emphatic no. It is because I do not see enough. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLV)
Oh dear Lord, have mercy on me. Crucify my flesh. For even though I can see where suffering has produced perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope, I clearly need some more work done (Romans 5).
This is the true meaning of “In The Becoming”; this is the true meaning of life…always seeking and never quite attaining, yet getting to a place of peace with that harsh reality, with the fact that I might never feel fully satisfied this side of heaven. Being able to be at rest in the midst of a process to the point that I can engage it fully, even though I know full-well that my goal must bow to my path. I might not get what I want. I must lose myself with no intention of ever finding me again.
That is hard. I’m not sure I can do it.
But I will keep trying because I’m a girl in the middle. And more than that, I’m a woman in love. This journey is for His glory, even when I so desperately want it to be for mine. Again I cry: mercy, Lord, mercy.
Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria again today.