Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Tea

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not unto your own understanding,
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He shall direct your path.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Long ago and not so far away... I was fortunate to be a part of the Jesus Movement*.  It was customary at the time to pray for God to show you a "Life Verse" (I believe it is still popular with some Christians).  I should have known my life would continue to be interesting when He gave me the above verse.  I knew that was the verse for me, beyond any shadow of a doubt.

I can't tell you how many times I have meditated upon this verse, hundreds if not thousands of thoughtful ponderings through the years.  Leaning on the Reformed side of theological thought, I truly do believe God allows circumstances, people, places, etc. in our life as we continue on the path He has planned for us.  Of course, our own choices are the other side of the scale's balance.

Our summer of Job-like trial after trial sent me back to my favorite verse... my life's verse... and recently I have been thinking through each line at a time.  I thought today I'd share some of my thinking... nothing deep at all, you know.  :)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart...
When I think of this verse, I imagine myself actually jumping off a cliff into a sea of grace.  He is asking for all my heart, not just a little... not even half of it... but all my heart.  For me to find that peace above all understanding, I cannot keep any of my feelings or my thinking or my worries or even my plans wholly within myself.

I think that is where so many of us fall short of His grace.  Not unlike Ananias and Sapphira in the Book of Acts, we hold back a part of ourselves (in their case, money purchased from a sale) and try to make God think we are giving Him our all. 

Of course, He Who Created Us knows us fully and will not let us give in to self deception... for we are also and at the same time telling ourselves the same falsehood.  In the process of trials, He shakes away the thinking that we are good enough as we are.

Lean not until your own understanding...
This is most likely the one sentence in the Word that I have muttered said to myself over and over in the course of my Christian life.  It contains a real secret to walking this fallen planet with joy.  When you come to the realization that you cannot understand God's path He has chosen for you.

It is when you are trying to make sense of it all... how a loving Father would allow "this", "that", or "the other" in your life.  That is why it essential to know the entire Word of God and not pick and choose various verses (which I am afraid even many denominations tend to do!) 

Just stop trying to figure out God.  Our finite brains cannot grasp hold the concept of a Holy God and the tapestry He weaves which in the end will result in a beautiful work of art to present His Father... that being you... and me.

In all your ways acknowledge Him...
For me that means keeping Him in my thoughts, surrounding myself with favorite music and art and literature and nonfiction books by favorite writers who have the gift of leading me to the Cross... establishing an atmosphere in which acknowledging Him comes naturally.

There is a reason many great hymns of the faith take place in a garden.  As I've written before... Man was created in a garden and born of the sod.  I was on a business trip (in my former life) to San Francisco when I took the time to walk through Muir Woods before catching a red eye into Chicago.  There was something about those woods and the giant trees that calmed me and helped me hear His voice about an life changing decision I was praying about. 

Christians are not to worship nature but we can also recognize nature's cathedrals as being a gift from Him.  How easy it is to acknowledge Him in those surroundings.

Having said that... I have little corners of my own house where I find it easier to stop and listen and do some acknowledging.  Perhaps the easiest is at my kitchen sink with the aroma of 7th Generation dish washing soap arising from the hot suds, looking out the window to a forest thick with various shades of green (or the quiet white of winter).

Saints of old have transformed prison cells to sanctuaries by inviting His presence into the damp darkness.  For it is He who makes the sanctuary... not our surroundings... even if we prefer the garden.  Acknowledging Him is simply inviting His presence and His wisdom and His direction into our finite existence.

He shall direct your path...
In the NIV, this phrase is translated "He shall make straight your path".  I like both thoughts for I am often in need of direction as well as making the path in front of me more direct... it so often seems to have twists and turns and loopity-loops... in between where I am presently and my desired destination.

In the beginning of Hebrews 12, we are told that we are to look to Jesus as the "Author and Finisher" of our faith.  He is the Author of our journey, the One who wrote the plot before the beginning of time and Whom we can trust... as we acknowledge Him and walk in obedience before Him to the best of our human-ness... will help us finish well.

When I began this journey of faith in my teens, I assumed everyone finishes well.  It didn't cross my thinking that many begin the race and then drop out along the way.  Perhaps when we first signed up for this adventure, we thought of the race as a sprint and became exhausted and depressed and frustrated when we realized it was a marathon.

But if we read the Book... all of it... there should have been no surprise.  "Many are the tribulations of those who follow Him", we are told... but... "He also provides a way out, a means of escape"... from every trial, from every pit.

He promises to never leave us or forsake us.  He is running the race not by our side but within if we have asked Him to be our Lord and Savior, as the Holy Spirit... the Third Member of the Trinity... provides to us all we need for the race.

We must acknowledge Him and that it is in the Destination that that we find Heaven.  The journey is to prepare us for finish line.  :)

* The Jesus Movement was a revival in the late 60's and early 70's made up mostly of young people but I remember a few old (probably only thirty!) guys and girls, too.  Wikipedia calls it the "Christian element of the Hippie counterculture".   It was also the birthing of contemporary Christian music.  Many of those who became Christians through the Jesus Movement came from "unchurched families" (like me).

I met my husband at a Jesus People coffeehouse where I spent each weekend sharing with people about my coming to Christ and praying with people.  I was eighteen and nineteen at the time.  My future husband had just returned to college after a tour of duty in Viet Nam.


Rebecca said...

I was a young person during the Jesus People times, too. (I wasn't necessarily a part of the "movement", though a Christ-follower...)

I enjoyed reading your personal meditations on this well-known verse. It IS applicable through each stage of our lives until we finish our course - finishing WELL!

Would you believe what I really am curious about is 7th Generation dish washing soap?! Do I need to reference some of your older posts to learn what this is?

Anonymous said...

Nice encouraging words!!

A pastor once pointed out that the literal meaning of "a way of escape" was "THE way of escape"...only one. I found that comforting...that it would boil down to just one, and thus hopefully be less difficult to find!! We are in a quandry now, approaching retirement and not knowing what to do, other than pare down. Perhaps we will know the next step once we accomplish much of the paring down.

Blessings, Elizabeth

Mrs.Rabe said...

I grew up in So. California and my parents who were young listened to all the Jesus movement music....

I think you are right. It is a marathon for most of us...that is when He works through us to make us more like Him.

We know He has a purpose in it all, but we don't always know why.


freetobeme - Anita said...

You have lived an interesting life! I love reading about your young years and your not so young years! Everyone has a story, unique to themselves. Yours is unique, interesting and ...well, fascinating! Thanks for sharing!

jlt said...

Thank you for this. It was an encouragement this morning.

Anonymous said...

I love your pondering....a real blessing to me this morning.

jackie said...

An excellent post! These have long been my favorite verses, too, in fact i think they were the first ones i ever memorized ~ aside from John 3:16. Thank you for sharing.