Okay, maybe “hate” is a strong word, but I never read the introductions to books. Usually I find them tedious and dedicated to people I will never meet. Yesterday (July 12, 2014), I found this book at the Barnes & Noble in Lynchburg. I’ve been here (at Liberty University) a week already for one intensive and starting another week tomorrow. I decided to use what spare time I had here to work on my relationship with God and delve into some of the areas that I felt like He had shown me needed some work. As I was walking through the Christianity section of the bookstore with that in mind, I passed by several books, most of them decent, but, sadly, missing the mark of what I felt like I needed deep in my soul. Then, I saw this one.
THE MESSAGE: SOLO
AN UNCOMMON DEVOTIONAL
The cover is minimalist: white with grey letters. All CAPS.
I was intrigued. So, I picked it up and glanced through a couple of pages.
It is not like any other Bible study book or devotional I’ve ever seen. This one is actually more like what I’ve been thinking I needed, just the thing to jump start my exploration into who God really is and what He wants to be to me. The initial passage is relatively short but, above, it shows the expanded passage, so you can get the context. (Kay Arthur says, “Context is key.”) Then, the next page invites you to READ, THINK, PRAY, and LIVE what that passage could mean to you and your life.
READ, THINK, PRAY and LIVE takes me back to the Introduction. When I sat down to read today, I started at the Introduction. While I was skimming over it, I came across the term “lectio divina”. Read, Think, Pray and Live are the four basic principles. The reader is encouraged to “Remember as you dive into this devotional that lectio divina is about wholeness: whole practice, whole Bible, whole God.”
Jump down a couple of paragraphs and this is what I read:
“Eugen Peterson called the Bible ‘a book that reads us even as we read it.’ That’s an uncommon sort of book, and it requires an uncommon sort of read. Knowing facts about God doesn’t change your relationship with him, so take the time to splash around in the Word, to absorb it, to discover what God as to say to you each day.”
“KNOWING FACTS ABOUT GOD DOESN’T CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM”
NO, IT DOES NOT!!!
More than anything, THAT has been the truth that I have discovered about myself, not just over the course of this last week, but over the course of this whole ordeal my husband and I have been walking through. I know a lot of stuff about God. I know a lot of Scriptures. I know all the right things to say. How to speak it. How to act it. How to fake it. But, I don’t think I can say that any of the stuff I know has really made that huge an impact on my life.
Don’t get me wrong. Over the course of my life, I can see where God has worked and has delivered me from many things. I am grateful for all of that. But, to be quite honest, I’m starting to think that I’ve been spared too much pain. I’ve been rescued from so many things that my walk with God has been, for the most part, superficial. Even if “superficial” is too harsh a word, it would not be a stretch to say that I have been in it mostly for my own comfort.
The problem with that kind of thinking is: when things are not comfortable for me, I doubt my faith. I doubt God’s love for me. I doubt His Goodness and His Provision.
What I’ve come to realize is that I have been behaving much like a child who first learns how to use the word “please.” We teach our children to use the word “please” when they ask for something because: (1) it sounds nice and (2) it tends to make a request out of a demand. However, we also have to teach our children that there is no guarantee that they will get what they want just because they say please. There are many reasons for this, but most of them boil down to the fact that getting what they want all the time is not realistic and it is not good for them.
Having that kind of pseudo-faith (I call it that because it resembles faith but doesn’t really work like faith should) has left me feeling like I’ve been wandering around out in the desert without a canteen or a map. Like God has left me. I’ve even said to people, “At least the Israelites had the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, and the Ark of the Covenant. They had physical representations of God. I’ve just been left out here to die in the wilderness. And, as such, I’ve been begging to go back to Egypt. However, unlike their Egypt – full of slavery – my Egypt was pretty sweet. My husband was there, our family was intact, and we were basically untouched by the horrible injustices of the world.
But, then, if I’m to be honest, there was bondage there too. In fact, it took being led out of
“the Egypt of my own making” to even be made aware of my bondage. I have found that I have multiple gods in my life. The biggest one: ME. I’ve been just like Frank Sinatra, doing it my way. But, see, my way was not so bad. I wasn’t hurting anyone. We were going to church, being obedient, and trying our best not to screw our kids up too badly. I had several causes I was passionate about and wanted to help out, and was working toward that. I was even submitting to my husband. And, to top it all off, I was begging for a life that was lived sold out to Christ because I wanted my walk with God to really mean something. I did not want to just spend my time here on Earth, going to church the rest of my life, calling myself a Christian, and leaving nothing behind to show for having worn that title.
Well, I was saying it, anyway.
My god was my comfort, my safety, my security, my plan.
And now, I have been led out into the desert, away from my plan, and have seen that, I am just like the Israelites, cursing God for having brought me out into the desert to leave me to die, when things were good in Egypt, because I had fish to eat. Sure, I was a slave. But at least I was eating well.
I never could understand how they could do that. How could they possibly talk to God that way after all He’d done for them? After all they had just seen, how could they think that God would leave them to die in the wilderness? But, alas, as Ecclesiastes says, there truly is nothing new under the sun, and I have done exactly what I have found so remarkably unbelievable.
So now, here I sit, with this devotional in front of me. Ready to start checking off the boxes of getting together with God, every day, but not just for the sake of checking off the box. If something doesn’t change – if I don’t do something to take steps toward God and letting Him show me His plan for my life – I know that I am going to continue to be just like the Israelites. And what I fear is that when God calls me to enter into the Promised Land of His Calling for me, I am going to look and see what is there and say that I cannot go in and take the land because there are giants, and I will miss the riches He has for me.
So, here I go. Solo. One on one. Just me and God. “God, let it be with me just as you say.”