Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Waters, Rivers, and Fires, Oh My!

It’s easy to get really comfortable with verses like those found in Isaiah 43:1-3. Then again, maybe not.

“But now thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

I’ll tell you what, I certainly have claimed that promise once or twice in my oh so tangled life. How quick I am to do things like that. Well, tonight, this verse popped up on one of my dear FB friend’s status – you know, one of those daily bible verse things people subscribe to – and I can only blame the Holy Spirit for this thought because honestly, my brain doesn’t work like this. For the first time, I’m noticing something about these verses that I’m sure I have read in about two dozen Dayspring cards and maybe even a few from the highly coveted Hallmark. Have you spotted it yet? Keep looking. Mixed in with all of those promises of what God’s going to do for me, there is something I never noticed before.

God is telling us not to fear, because he has redeemed us. It occurs to me that if He has to TELL me not to fear, it stands to reason that there would be something in my life that I could possibly be afraid of. There went that whole theory of Christianity solving all of my problems. Then there’s that sentence about passing through some waters. Notice that our Heavenly Father did not say, Elizabeth, while you stand on the shore and maybe even dip in your big toe, I’ll be with you. No, as much as I don’t want to admit it, God’s promise there requires that I do more than splash along the bank. Looks like I’ll have to do more than get my feet wet to claim that one.

Seems like if the rivers are going to have a chance to overwhelm me, it’s not going to be while I’ve got myself seated squarely on the bank. This brings back uncomfortable memories of the time my little sister Emily thought that I could hold her and I both up at the pool at camp in the 5’ deep section when I was only 4’ tall myself. She panicked as we both went down, meanwhile, my goal at the ripe old age of seven was to keep her head above water which meant at the time that mine would be under. Friends, drowning or the thought of drowning is not a good feeling. I can distinctly remember my mother calmly walking to the end of the pool we were in and pulling Emily out which allowed me to catch a breath and go back to my latest swimming expedition of the day. What I realize now is why my mother was so calm. She had been watching. She knew what was about to happen and so when it did, all she had to do was reach in and pull us out. You see, my mother knew something that my seven year old brain didn’t. While I was basically sure that I was drowning, Mom knew that she could get to us. Because we were (and still are) hers, she was going to do what it took to rescue us. So what could have been an emergency or even a tragedy wasn’t – why? Because my Mom was on the lookout for her girls. That didn’t mean she kept Emily from jumping in to my inexperienced arms, but it did mean that she had what it took to get us out.

Then there is that pesky fire thing. Excuse me; I know at some point someone told me that Christianity was my fire insurance. From the sounds of this, while the flames of Hell are definitely out for me, it still seems like that while I’m on this earth; I might have some moments when the heat gets turned up.

To top it all off, I don’t even see here where the Lord says that He will take us out of all of these things! I think one of the great lies that the church (myself included) likes to believe that somehow we are promised this American Dream – whatever that is. Why would we claim that when, brothers and sisters, we have better news! While He may or may not take us out of the situation we don’t like, He has promised that He will be with us IN it. If that’s not a Savior, I don’t know what is.

Despite all of this, I still find the best part at the end. It’s kind of like one of those bad news/good news situations except the good outweighs the bad in ways that cannot be measured. For He is the Lord, MY God, the Holy One of Israel… wait for it, wait for it… MY SAVIOR (and, I hope, yours too). So I know that whether it be waters, rivers, flames, or other, I know that I have a God who is for me, who created me, who thought this whole thing up and I can trust Him. Completely.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Why Me?

Have you ever asked, “Why me?” Have you ever just sat back and thought to yourself that it shouldn’t be this way? This was not the life that you signed up for. There are few times in my short life that I can look back and definitely say that I got a solid answer to a question that I asked God. One time I asked that very question and lately, I’ve felt the need to share it with all of you.

Most of you who read this know at least to some extent the background for this story. However, if you don’t, consider yourself blessed to have missed out on what I consider to be my darkest hour. Just know that if you missed it, you can be thankful. I wish sometimes that I had, but then again, God taught and is teaching me so much through all of those things that I can now understand how He uses things in His sovereignty that I just don’t get to vote on this side of heaven.

This particular morning, I remember standing in a shower and crying out straight to heaven, “Why ME?! What have I done to deserve this, Lord? Remember me? I did everything right.” Now I’ve never really experienced an answer that I knew was the Lord quite this quickly but almost before the words formed in my mind did was I very quickly hit between the eyes with this – “Elizabeth (yes, He used my name), why NOT you?” No, it wasn’t audible but it was as close to audible as anything I have ever experienced. And right there in that moment, I was forced to grapple with that very question. Thinking about it now makes me laugh a little because I think of how Job wagged his finger at God and asked questions – and God let him but then He asked Job some questions of His own. Maybe He was just turning the question back around on me. Well, not surprisingly, it worked. I started thinking… you know, why not me? When was I ever promised that if I checked a, b, and c off of the religious list I had tallied out in my head that everything would just fall into place with the so called “American Dream?” Where does this sense of entitlement come from? The pits of Hell would be my guess. God promises me abundantly more than I could ever even think to ask for but one thing I haven’t been able to find is where He promises me that my life will be fair and pain free. Know why? Because He promises, His word promises, just the opposite.

There is an old country song that one of my favorite speakers mentioned in a podcast this week. I’ve never heard it but when I heard the title, I dug up the lyrics. Here’s a spin on the Why Me question that so many of us (myself especially included) feel the need to ask. Next time you or I ask Why Me, I hope that I can think about the words to this song and remember instead how truly blessed I am.

Why Me, Lord? Kris Kristofferson

Why me Lord?

What have i ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I've known?

Tell me Lord, what did I ever do that was worth lovin' you for the kindness you've shown?