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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Contemplations

I think twice now, my update tag on Facebook has said that I am "contemplating". Well, if you are still wondering (Goodlet :-) and D.T. :-) :-)), here are the things I have been thinking about. It is amazing to me how many times these last two weeks I have tried to write and rewrite and rewrite these thoughts. I pray God will bring them all together in some coherent manner. Stay with me... I haven't written for a while... this could be long~

Do you like to walk in the rain? If you are anything like me, you don’t. I have never particularly cared to wade through muddy puddles or to take a leisurely stroll while lightning illuminated the sky and the storm clouds poured their cold, wet offering on my head. Faced with a good, long thunderstorm, I am more the type of person to retreat to the warm, safe, lightning-free refuge of my bed and a good movie. In all actuality, I don't even really like showers. I much prefer a long bath in a deep tub, filled with HOT water, and jacuzzi jets (not a reality yet, but hey, a girl can wish). All this would not be complete without a good book, or better yet a conversation with my LORD! Perhaps you disagree (about showers vs. baths, that is), but don't call me crazy. We all have our preferences and I very much enjoy my self-designated prayer tub, um, I mean closet!!

So, what does this all have to do with rain? Well, other than the fact that we all have to get clean in one way or another, there are some very real spiritual applications to be made between rain and suffering. You may have noticed over the years that there are a lot of references to rain (or at least water) in the songs we sing, spiritual or otherwise... "There shall be showers of blessing", "Holy Spirit, Rain Down", "Singing in the Rain". I don't know about that last one - I don't think you will ever find me singing in the rain. How about "Blessed be Your name... where streams of abundance flow". They all sound happy, or at least positive, don't they? Unfortunately, life isn’t always so happy. And the rain isn’t always so pleasant.


Allow me to take you back to a time in my “prayer closet” :-) when God spoke to me and I didn’t really understand the full implications of His words. Numbers 31:23-24 says “…anything else that can withstand fire must be put through the fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing. And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water. On the seventh day wash your clothes and you will be clean.” The first time I read this was in 2003, not long before D.T. and I made the move to seminary. At the time, I realized that God intended to take me through a time of purification and cleansing. However, being younger than I am now and having experienced less than I have now, I did not have a clear picture of what that would actually feel like in my life. Initially, the fire sounded like the difficult part and the water sounded gentle and refreshing, even healing. In hindsight, though, as painful as the fire can be, there are times when I wish the rain would just stop – or at least slow down. Have you ever been there? Have you ever wondered when your circumstances would line up with your idea of how they should be? Have you ever wished the sun would peak out through the clouds and make the storms go away? Have you ever wished God would just hurry up and show His purpose through your pain?

It is interesting just how many references there are to rain and water in the Bible… floods, drought, dew. Some are indications of fruitfulness (Acts 14:17), success (Deuteronomy 28:12), provision (Exodus 16:4), abundance (Psalm 68:9), and God's blessing (Hebrews 6:7). Others speak of curse (Genesis 7:4), judgment (Exodus 9:18), futility (Deuteronomy 28:24), and a lack of God's presence (Deuteronomy 11:17). Notice the common thread? It is God who controls the rain, using it for His purpose. What is that purpose? To continue the process of purification? To clean those areas of our lives that can’t withstand the fire? In the end, God promises us that He is fair (Matthew 5:45) and that spring will come (Song of Solomon 2:11-12a).


Then, God is no respecter of persons. The purpose of the rain, or lack thereof, may be different for you than it is for me, but the rain itself does not change. We don't have any control over the fact that it rains, but we can control how we respond to the rain. You see, the rain does something to us. For better or worse, it changes our appearance. It can make us cold and wet or it can wash away our dirt. It changes our perspective. It can cloud our vision, or help us to see things as they really are. It changes our entire being. It can bring fear and destruction or it can bring growth, refreshment, and renewal.

Over the last few weeks, God has allowed me... and probably you too :-)... to witness a lot of literal rain. As He did, He gave me some insights into the way rain can be in our lives. The first happened the night of the seminary banquet when we actually had some tornadoes in the area. While they did not touch down anywhere near where D.T. and I live, the effects were far reaching and intense. The storm was angry and destructive as the winds blew and torrential rains poured from the dark sky. Upon returning home, we sat in the car not wanting to brave the elements, knowing there was no way to escape untouched, even with an umbrella. The only choice we had was to move forward and then to dry off once we got inside. The second happened the night we traveled to the parking lot of a nearby store to meet with a friend. It had been raining off and on for some time, and although it was not causing any damage we could observe, the rain was steady and persistent. We tried to stand outside to have a conversation, but found the cold, damp conditions very distracting and too uncomfortable to tolerate. Eventually, we retreated to the warm, dry, and much more pleasant atmosphere of our vehicle. The third happened a cool, breezy Saturday morning as I took our puppy Ben outside. The rain was easy and cool – quite refreshing, actually. The sun showed through the clouds as the drizzle lightly landed on my face. It was the kind of rain that you could almost see the grass drinking it in and the flowers opening to receive it.


I would like to share one last thought which connects in some way in my mind. Several weeks ago, God drew my attention to Luke 14:25-35, and specifically verse 33 (NAS), which says “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” At the time, I was reading the New Living Bible, and the words used in that version spoke directly to some strange circumstances and emotions I had been experiencing. It said, “So no one can become my disciple unless he first sits down and counts his blessings–and then renounces them all for me.” You see, for 11 years – maybe even all my life, I have wanted nothing more than the blessing of being a mother. I believed God promised me that blessing. However, following the adoption training weekend we attended several weeks ago, I had the most unusual feeling (at least to me) that I did not want to have a child at all. It seemed strange first, because I have never had this type of feeling before and second, because we believed God had released us to pursue our family through adoption. Why now would I feel this way? I have shared this with a few people and explained that I don’t believe it is a permanent feeling, but that God is using it at this time for my protection during a waiting period of unknown length or to teach me something. It is interesting that the word used for possessions in the NAS version of verse 33 is the Greek word uparco, which means “being” or “exist”. To some extent, my perspective of being has been entirely wrapped up in the pursuit of becoming a mother. You could say it was my “heart’s desire”. But valid as the desire may be, I can’t let it get in the way of being His disciple. I must be willing to renounce my blessing and follow Him. Unfortunately, on my own, I did not have the strength to put it in the fire. After all, God recognized my desire and promised me its fulfillment, right? True, but not only… He also asked me to do those things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22)… to give up all my possessions, my desires, my existence, my being – for the sake of following Him. And so, I believe God used the rain – not the angry, destructive rain or the steady, persistent rain, but rather the light and refreshing rain. In quietness, He simply took my desire away, and showed me what it feels like to not need something else more than I need Him.

Embracing His Joy, Hope, & Peace...


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