Sunday, May 18, 2014

God is Not a Magic 8-Ball

"Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is." - Oswald Chambers

So I'm sitting at my desk, slowly eroding a mountain of math papers and waiting for God to do something. You know the feeling. We know we're supposed to be faithful right where we are, but sometimes we're antsy. Urgh, God...what's next?

Especially if you have to change jobs in the next month and you've got applications out in the wind. The anxiety is a constant companion. A nervous, not entirely unpleasant pit in the stomach. I know God's moving. I just don't know where, or when. And I'd really like to know, rather than discouraging silence every day.

Finally, calls start coming in. My applications have been seen. "Are you available to interview next week?"

Sweetest words ever. Immediately, the pit is replaced by excitement.

It only lasts a couple days, but for a little while, I'm stoked. A great vacation from that up-in-the-air feeling. I'm happy just to see even a hint of movement. that right?

I mean, on one level, sure, I'm only human. This is natural. But on another level, I'm called to greater things.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" - John 20:29

...were Jesus' words to the doubters. Thomas and I would get along. He was human. He'd been disappointed before. He wanted to believe, as his confession "My Lord and my God!" indicates. He just didn't want his hopes up. He thought he needed more.

I, too, want God to be my magic 8-ball.

You know how it is. We bring our next move to God - "Should I apply to this college? Should I date/marry her? Should I quit my job? Is this all going to work out?" And we sit back and pray in expectation of a response.

Hopefully it's one of the positive responses. "Yes, definitely." "Without a doubt." "You may rely on it." I'll even take the more reserved "Most likely."

Sometimes, a small part of us is content even to hear a negative. "Very doubtful." "Don't count on it." Because at least then we know.

Instead, my interviews are concluded, and I'm back to the waiting and the grading and getting "Ask again later." "Reply hazy, try again." "Better not tell you now."


I mean, the waiting is easy. Heck, I'm an expert in waiting by now. I just want to know how long I'll be waiting, and where I'll be going after that. Then the wait will be easier. A piece of cake.

In other words...godless.

We ask God for a lot of things, and God is generous. But one thing he'll never give us is something that frees us from needing him in the here and now.

This is why God's will is tough to track down sometimes, even for the faithful. It's why he might often leave us hanging for a long time - perhaps until the last minute - for a direction or resolution. As Steven Furtick said, God sometimes makes it "a process of hide and seek - he hides the answer so we'll seek him." We want to know God's calendar and master plan, rather than his heart. There's a difference. Maybe we don't realize what we're doing, but surely we can all admit the relief we feel when God shows us the next step, right? I kinda just want that.

It's not that God doesn't care about my anxiety and uncertainty. In fact, he cares very much. And that's the point. He wants to deal with my anxiety himself, to salve it himself - not with answers or direction, but with himself. With his presence. By teaching me, through his word, that he's attentive and involved and powerful.

I don't say this lightly. God isn't a harsh teacher who plays mind games. We're not talking about Calvin's dad here, someone who makes his kid take the hardest way possible because it "builds character". Delayed directions can be excruciating, and our heart is understandably bound up in them. God knows that.

But, at the same time...I need character. I need to know God. And before the go/no-go arrives, he wants to show me just how wonderful his presence is.

Hopefully, my wait will be over today. Maybe even by the time you read this. I just hope that God has found me faithful during this time to hear well the one thing I know God wants me to hear: "Let me care about your heart. Don't rely on some circumstance to reassure it. Bring it to me."

That is always his line.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thanks, Mom!

I was at a Christian retreat in Colorado a few months back. There's a lot of teaching on identity, healing, restoration, and discipleship for men specifically. It's one of those functions that tends to have a tremendous spiritual and emotional impact on those who attend. Many men end up weeping. In front of other men. That ought to tell you something about how God moves there.

This time, the folks who host these retreats tried a new lesson they'd never tried  It was about mothers. It was a bit of a double-take for us, because a lot of these talks discuss the role and power of our fathers, and the profound way they shape us and build us up. But this time it was about moms, who possess a power and influence all their own that can't be ignored - for good or for ill.

Sure enough, God was there. Through the words of the gracious woman speaking to us, he got through to a lot of guys that night, spoke healing to difficult pasts with mothers, to abandonments and harsh words and broken hearts. Once again, we had a roomful of bowed heads, open sniffling, spectacles coming off and handkerchiefs coming out. Totally a God thing.

I believe God wants to speak to our pasts and offer restoration of our hearts.

But that's not what I want to talk about here. During that powerful talk on mothers, I was sitting back in my chair and just listening. Not weeping. Not even sniffling. Feeling pretty good about things. For that particular talk didn't really apply to me.

Because I have an awesome mom.

Thanks, Mom, for always telling me I could achieve whatever I wanted.

Thanks, Mom, for raising me to be honest.

Thanks, Mom, for getting me into martial arts and not letting me quit.

Thanks, Mom, for working your heart out to schedule my lessons, correct my papers, and force me to redo the tough parts (some of you have no idea how much work and sacrifice is involved in homeschooling).

Thanks, Mom, for letting me vent stupidly over the phone all these years.

Thanks, Mom, for showing me how to organize my important papers into a nice, neat portfolio.

Thanks, Mom, for postponing the final collapse of culture by teaching me to write in cursive.

Thanks, Mom, for birthing me in the first place.

Thanks, Mom, for supporting my enlistment in the Air Force even though it meant we'd be far apart.

Thanks, Mom, for the emergency loans. I swear on my mother's, on my personal honor that I'll finish paying them off soon.

Thanks, Mom, for the piano lessons. I may have fought you every step of the way, and I may have ended up on the guitar anyway, but music lessons are music lessons. Now I'm a worship leader.

Thanks, Mom, for always reminding me that my brother and I would end up needing each other. You were right.

Thanks, Mom, for not killing me.

Thanks, Mom, for buying us a pony when we were younger. I wish I'd been willing to learn to ride.

Thanks, Mom, for paying for my massive orthodontia, for letting me stay up late during those first few nights with headgear and buying me Star Trek: Deep Space Nine action figures.

Thanks, Mom, for getting me into youth group at the time when meeting new people was right up there with death by measles on my personal wish list.

Thanks, Mom, for not letting me get a Super Nintendo and devolve into a vidiot until I was old enough to handle it.

Thanks, Mom, for making me read constantly.

Thanks, Mom, for constantly telling me how proud you are.

Thanks, Mom, for the bandaids and the hugs and the fair visits and the iPods and the people advice and the teacher conferences and the birthday money and the good cooking and the Uno games and the millions of things neither of us remember anymore and only God remembers. I hope he puts them all down on a list when we finally join him in heaven. It'll take a significant chunk of eternity to go over them all.

Love you, Mom.