Tuesday, July 12, 2011

He Has Shown You, O Man

Micah 7
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
       and passing over transgression
       for the remnant of his inheritance?
     He does not retain his anger forever,
       because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
       he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
     You will cast all our sins
       into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
       and steadfast love to Abraham,
       as you have sworn to our fathers
       from the days of old.

Several years ago, my sister Holly wrote these verses for me on the back of a leftover welcome card from her wedding reception. It was a precious gift from her, coming just after a difficult period in my life, when the Lord was restoring me and showing me just how loving and gentle He is. The card has stayed in my Bible since then, and its edges are creased and curled from where the paper has jutted out just so from my pocket-size NIV. Having broken loose and spent the last several weeks floating around in my purse, the poor thing was begging to be rescued, so I pulled it out and placed it in my gratitude journal, but as I did, I paused to read the words again…words now familiar but still so cherished. Tonight, I saw them new.

A fresh wind so needed, I read that He delights in steadfast love. The lovely thing there is that it allows me to stop thinking about all of my junk – all of the things that I think make me so ridiculously difficult as a person – and I get to relax into something that does not depend on me. He delights in steadfast love. That’s honestly just such a relief. Slow reading, I see: He will again have compassion on us. Compassion. Again. Not just this one time. One word: again. And subsequently, our iniquities are tread underfoot. Trampled. By Him. Whether we choose to realize it or not, sin always threatens to enslave and embattle us. So I imagine myself, in a helpless heap on the battlefield, and I think of Trampling Feet, warrior-stomping to my rescue. Again.

Three verses earlier in the prophecy, God references the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Then here we see that He promises to cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. That ring any bells for you? It didn’t for me at first; not until I started doing some digging (read: Googling). Think Red Sea. Pharoah’s army. Enemies literally vanishing into the bottom of the sea while the Israelites are free to run onward, away from captivity, away from slavery, into a life of liberty, rescue.

Now, I think I can say with some confidence that the Exodus story, while I believe it fully, probably does not resound with me the way that it would have resounded with an 8th century BC Israelite. So from my modern day viewpoint, I consider: He doesn’t promise to stand on the shore, carelessly toss our sins into the waves and see what happens…we’d be scooping those same things up just as soon as the tide came back in. No, He will cast them into the depths of the sea. Where they will sink. And stay. Never to be found, thought of, or relevant…again.

Finally, Micah reflects on the faithfulness God has shown His people from the beginning. He has not forgotten His promise to Israel’s fathers; it is as alive today as it was when Abram gazed at stars and Jacob used a stone for his pillow; as alive as when Sarah laughed and Jacob wrestled and Israel and Judah rebelled. As alive as when I sang wandering songs and lifted my soul to another.

The prophet Micah wrote a beautiful song of hope to follow some very hard lessons learned. Not surprisingly, that's about when these words fell into my hands. I am as thankful for them tonight as I was five years ago. And forever thankful I will be.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In What Ought To Be A Dream

After a solid year of wondering, puzzling and vaporous attempts at interpretation, I decided it was honest appraisal time, and after a thorough review, I somberly said to myself: this isn’t what I thought it was.

My Self replied: You’ve no substantial reason to suspect anything other.

She really can be quite contrary. Just the same, my next steps became clear: cease and desist. And don’t expect any push-back. Or push-forward, for that matter. An end to expectations, period.

As they say, it is what it is.

For a day, maybe three, I was sad. How, with so little fanfare, does this parade come to an end? I can’t have been the only sponsor. And then, early winter’s days turned to evenings in spring and I found myself in the April Gulf, all sun, sand and bleach-blowing wind. And the truth caught up with me, ringing bold and clear.

Out of sight, out of mind.

At midnight, I stood ankle-deep in chilly waves, gasped at stars and felt an inkling of what I believe will beat within all of our hearts when the ‘is’ is finally made clear, when all questions are answered and all things bright and beautiful finally bear brilliant fruit. Only now, I mourned having spent so many days tied to a thing that had vanished from my heart so easily, without so much as a whimpering hint of a fight. And words that had seemed so sincere from my mouth and to my ears ceased to voice any intention – hidden, mistaken or otherwise.

As the summer began to unfurl, I settled into one of the most contented spaces I’ve found in some time. Then a seemingly harmless hello became a knock at the door and before I knew it, the apple cart was tipping, threatening an upset of epic proportions. I might could’ve joined the circus with the ensuing balancing act – all at once comic, tragic, awkward and strange – until finally, I landed, flat feet on the ground, heaving chest with heavy breath, thinking: whew. Didn’t see that one coming.

Still I hastened to answer, and in my haste, fumbled. And while part of me naturally inclines to feel disgrace, the greater part testifies of grace, protection, contentedness, and beauty. To darling friends who are sent at a moment’s notice to remind me of ease, laughter and the present hour’s joy. Whose tiniest actions urge me to remember my worth and the danger of entering into any contract where it is questioned.

As with so many young single Christian women, for days on end I've been encouraged to be available but not too available, willing but not desperate; to not wear that ring on this finger, and memorize the fine, fine line between feminine frailty and offensive strength because really, in the end, men are such simple creatures who need just the slightest hint of encouragement, dear, and you wouldn't want to miss out on THE opportunity, now would you?

Even when I was younger, I didn't care for the ambiguity game. See, I'm fettered to One whose intentions were established before the foundation of the world, whose promises cannot fail, whose Word can be fully trusted. One who chased me down to show His love for me. That chase is and has been my gold standard. For as long as I've imagined my life falling into the frame of the bridal portrait, I've imagined a holy pursuit. Never once have I enjoyed dancing to the melody of mixed signals. I confidently assert that I never will.

My God is so very, very big. He owns - made - controls the cosmos. I trust that His purposes, whatever they may be, will be realized in my life, without any help from my frantic second-guesses and wildly unsuccessful attempts at being the perfectly balanced image of all womanhood. So, I give. I breathe. I sigh. And I get back to life, most gratefully.