You Want Me to Show You My What?

hemofgarmentWhat is the one thing you are most ashamed of, most embarrassed about? We’ve all got something. For many of us there are probably several things. They are things we may not like about ourselves or things from our past that we want to be free from. We may be the only one who knows about them. If only someone would just heal that part of us or set us free from whatever it is that continues to haunt us.

Now imagine that Jesus is coming to visit your church. You’ve heard He can heal the sick, free the demon-possessed and even raise the dead! Certainly, He could do the same for you. So, you, along with hundreds of others, go to see Him and you hope that maybe, just maybe, your path will cross His. You also hope deep down, that maybe that will be enough – just crossing His path might be enough to bring about the healing you seek. You stand elbow to elbow with hundreds of others at the foyer of your church to welcome Him. You’ve heard He’ll be arriving soon. You’re hoping that whatever you are seeking healing from is not visible to others.  At the same time, your heart longs to at last be free from it.  The energy in the crowd begins to shift as word travels that He has arrived. You check your appearance, straighten your clothes, and take a deep breath. Your nerves tingle as you wonder if He’ll notice you and what you will do if He does.

Then the moment arrives. You see His smiling face as He makes His way into the crowd. You soak up His presence but secretly wonder if the healing within you has already occurred. Is it gone? Am I free? Will I know when it happens?   You hope He sees you as He passes through.  Then suddenly He stops right in front of you.  Your nerves surge through you as they never have before.  The crowd urges Him on towards the sanctuary but He is not willing to move forward.  You can’t take your eyes off of Him.  He turns and faces your direction.  More nerves.  The smile on your face takes a dramatic fall as His eyes catch yours.  The crowd continues to urge Him on but He has focused in on you. Your heart is pounding out of your chest but you’re not sure you’re even breathing.  You try to look away from Him but can’t.  The people around you begin moving away until there is no one between you.  You and He are standing face to face. He smiles and calls you by name.  You try to smile back as your eyes fill with tears.  The crowd is now silent and all eyes are on you. Then He says, “Show me.” The pain, shame, and hurt come surging to the surface.  You know from His question that the one thing you have been hiding from the world for as long as you can remember is what He is asking to see.

I recently re-read a few of the healing stories we find in the Gospels. There is the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:1-6; the woman with bleeding issues from Mark 5:25-24; and the man who was an invalid for 38 years sitting at the pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-9.  What I saw in these stories that I had never seen before was the fact that the one thing that these three people probably spent their lives hiding from others or carrying as their greatest shame was exactly what Jesus asked to see. To the man with the withered hand He said, “Stretch out your hand.” To the woman with the bleeding issues who touched His robe in secret He said, “Who touched me?”  And to the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years He said, “Get up and walk.” In all three of those moments, Jesus was asking each of them to trust Him with their greatest vulnerability. And, when they did, He restored them. He healed them.

Jesus asks the same of you and me. We can say that we trust Him. We can even believe that we do. But have you truly given over to Him that one thing that you don’t want anyone to know about? If He said to you, “Show me,” would you?  Just knowing that Jesus knows about our issues is not the same thing as showing them to Him.  He wants that intimacy with us, where we feel safe and secure in Him enough to share our deepest hurts.  And He assures us through His Word that His desire to see our deepest need is not to condemn us or embarrass us. It is in order to heal us, to connect with us at our most vulnerable place.

St. Paul brought to the Lord three times his “thorn in the flesh” and specifically asked for God to remove it from him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) In each case, God’s answer was not to remove it, not to heal Paul of it. But what did the Lord say? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 9) Paul didn’t receive healing, but He received God’s grace and a greater dependence upon God’s power. Like the three other examples, Paul had that intimate, personal moment with the Lord over his greatest weakness.

Being vulnerable with our Lord isn’t about what we get out of it. It is about Who we get out of it. I am not suggesting there is a magic formula for healing. If you just show God your most vulnerable issue, He’ll set you free – guaranteed! That’s not it. God calls all of us to an intimate and personal relationship with Him. He does heal. There are countless examples not only in the Bible but in our world today. But beyond healing, God seeks to transform His children. I propose that what Paul received was far greater than a physical healing.  He was forever changed to be more deeply connected to and dependent upon God.  He wants that for us. He is always moving us closer and closer to Him.

Will you trust Him with your deepest vulnerability?   He may grant you a miraculous healing or freedom from it.  If not healing, He will bring you to a new level of intimacy you never thought possible with the God of the universe.

Thank you, Lord, for your depth and desire to grow more intimately with us. Thank you for the examples of faith you preserved for us in your Word. Each one of those men and women were willing to risk showing You what brought them pain, shame, and disgrace. Help each of us to have the faith to trust You with our greatest weaknesses that we may grow closer to You. Thank you for loving us more deeply than we can even imagine and for always wanting to transform us into being more like Your Son. In His precious name, amen.

Need an ox?

“They want me to do what?  Are they kidding?  There’s no way!  How am I supposed to do that along with everything else I have going on!  They just don’t get it.  They just don’t respect what I do.”

Have you ever been there?  Have you ever felt like someone was putting an undo burden on you and if they only knew how much you really did they wouldn’t dare ask you?  I was there recently.  If I let myself, the tirade in my head could have gone on for hours… perhaps days even.  I certainly could justify it.  It somehow felt so right to rant and rave.  And yet it changed nothing.  I would feel myself slip into the “zone” and suddenly realized it was an enormous waste of my time.  It didn’t change anything and ultimately it didn’t really make me feel any better, it just kept me up at night.

By no coincidence, the morning after my tirade I found myself reading in the book of Numbers.  I know, Numbers… the book where we realize God is a stickler for details; details important to Him but are they really important to us too?  Really?

This is what I read:  “Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings.  They brought as their gifts before the Lord six covered carts and twelve oxen – an ox from each leader and a cart from every two.  These they presented before the tabernacle.  The Lord said to Moses, ‘Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the Tent of Meeting.  Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.’ So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites.  He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required, and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required.  They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.  But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.” (Numbers 7:2-9)

oxes-cartYou might still be wondering… “So what?  (yawn)  What do a bunch of carts and oxen have to do with anything?”  But it struck me immediately… God knew what was needed for the task at hand and He provided the resources.

Several chapters back the duties of these three clans of Levites are spelled out in detail.  Each clan had a responsibility to help move the pieces of the tabernacle.  The tabernacle moved often during those 40 years of roaming the desert.  Someone had to be responsible for getting it safely from place to place.

Can’t you just hear the initial response of these Levite families after they were given their task?  “And just how the heck are we supposed to carry the tabernacle?  My gosh, what does Moses think we’re made of?  Bad enough I’ve got to move my own tent, family, flocks and herds at the drop of a hat… now I’m supposed to move the tabernacle too?”

To be fair, we don’t know if they actually complained about it.  The Bible doesn’t say.  But it doesn’t take too much imagination to think it might be possible that there may have been at least one or two grumblers amongst them.

In the meantime God just happens to motivate the head of each tribe to bring to Moses one ox as an offering.  And every two tribes decide to go in on a cart together.  I wish I knew more of the back story there.  How did each tribal leader hear from the Lord to bring an ox?  Did they talk to each other about it?   Did one guy have the idea and tell the others?  Did they do it knowing that they would be used by the Levite families?  Did they even know that the Levite families had been given the specific assignment they were given?  The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter… GOD KNEW!  He knew what was needed and He provided the support necessary for the Levites to do the task they had been given.

I was convicted.  Does it really matter what anyone else knows about what we do or how much is on our plate if God knows?  Isn’t He the one that is our provider?  Or have we mistakenly put our trust in mankind to provide what we need or to ration our workload?

What I like about this story too is that the carts and oxen went to two of the three Levite families.  Wouldn’t we say… gosh that isn’t fair.  Why didn’t they divide them up evenly?  But what did God tell Moses… “Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.”  The Kohathites, who were given the amazing responsibility of carrying the holy items that were inside the tabernacle on their shoulders, were not given any tools.  They already had the tools… two shoulders each.  It was a privilege to physically carry these items.  They were set apart to do that specific task and using a cart was wrong.  (Deadly wrong as we see later in 2 Samuel 6:2-7.)

This story ended my tirade.  The Lord knows the tasks He has given me to complete and He will provide the tools and the resources I need to complete them.  Others may get more tools than I do, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Lord knows what I need. There are certain tasks that are privileges that He is giving to me as a gift.  I need to recognize those privileges as such and not see them as a burden.  And most of all I need to believe and trust that He sees all and knows my every need even before I do.

This message was solidified for me as I wrote my thoughts in my journal that morning.  At the bottom of each page of my journal is either a Bible verse or a short prayer.  I leave you with the prayer that was written at the bottom of the page that very morning…

“God, Thank you that You know every need I have before I even bring it to You.  Thank You that You know the needs of those I love too.  As I bring these requests before You, I trust that You are able to answer in ways even greater than I can imagine. Amen.”

Keep Calm and Carry On

keep calmLast Fall I had the opportunity to take an extended vacation.  I had five major destinations: Asheville, North Carolina; New York, New York; Crown Point, Indiana; Racine, Wisconsin; and Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. I’ll admit it was a little ambitious to think I could accomplish all five of these geographically diverse destinations in one trip.  But, in one afternoon I had worked out a reasonable itinerary that wouldn’t break me or the bank!  Before I left, a close friend gave me a journal.  The cover of it read, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  She told me that she had seen an address book with that saying on it in a bookstore and knew that I was supposed to have a journal with that title.  She searched through the entire store until at last she found it.  At the time, the saying meant nothing to me, or to her for that matter.  She just knew God wanted me to have that journal.  It wasn’t until months after the trip that I realized the significance of that saying.

I enjoy traveling alone but mostly because I go to great lengths to plan ahead.  Anything that can be done in advance is usually done long before “wheels up.”  Train tickets, plane tickets, hotel reservations, theater tickets, car rentals, shuttles – you name it, I’ve probably got a receipt in my carry-on… and a spare in my suitcase (just in case).  It affords me a worry-free, enjoyable trip.  All I have to do is show up.

For this particular trip I was flying about 4,000 miles, driving 2,000 miles, and taking the train for 500 miles.  I stayed in 8 different places and traveled through 15 states in 17 days. Every day was a new adventure. But, every morning, like an alarm clock, I was awoken by a twinge of anxiety.  Even after all the planning there were a few moments of panic.  Where was going?  How was I getting there?  Where was I staying that night?  Did I have everything I needed?  It never lasted long, but it was there everyday.   The journal cover seemed appropriate, but I still didn’t put much credence in it.  I did have a sense however, that these moments of insecurity were preparing me for something that was coming.  I can’t explain it exactly, but I felt as though God was using those moments of panic as “practice” for me.

Fast forward several months… I sold my condo in April.  The new owner was gracious enough to allow me to rent back from her for a time.  My deadline to move was set for July 31st.  Of course I assumed that would be plenty of time to find a new home.  I was wrong.  In just a few days everything I own will be put into storage and I will be moving in with my parents.  Not exactly what I (or they) had planned. 🙂  There have been those same moments of panic in these recent mornings.  What is today going to bring?  What do I need to do?  Where am I going?  Do I have everything I need?  But, just as He was faithful to calm me during those “practice” days, He continues to calm me today.  And, He has shown me in His word that same British phrase that adorns my journal…Keep Calm and Carry On.

I was in Exodus when I stumbled across it.  God, through His servant Moses, had just led the Israelites out of Egypt and Pharaoh’s soldiers were closing in on them at the Red Sea.  Their enemies are on one side and the sea is on the other.  They’re trapped!  But Moses says to the people, “Don’t panic.  Stand your ground.  The Lord is going to fight for you, all you have to do is be still.” The very next verse is God talking to Moses.  He says, “Why are you crying out to me for help?  Tell the people to move forward.”  (Exodus 14)

Two messages that at first glance seem to contradict one another – be still and move forward.  But having experienced them both on my trip and in my current situation I can tell you they are not contradictory at all.  Within my soul, in my spirit, I have to be still.  I can’t be in panic mode.  I have to know that everything is in His hands and not mine (thank goodness!).  In that knowledge and trust I can be calm.  I may not know what I will encounter each day, but God does.  I can be still in Him because I know He is in control.  He will lead me.

On the other hand I have to keep moving forward.  When I was on my trip there were a few moments when I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and sleep in.  But, there were hotels I had to check out of, trains and planes I had to catch, friends to meet up with, etc.  I couldn’t skip a leg of the trip, I had to keep moving forward.  And the Lord kept urging and cheering me on.  Now too, I can’t stay in this place I’ve called home for 10 years.  It’s time to go.  I’ve had to keep packing each week, making the proper arrangements, planning ahead, and looking for a new home.  I can’t stop.  I can’t stay in bed on the 31st and skip this leg of the trip.  I have to keep moving forward.

The miracle that Moses and the children of Israel witnessed and experienced that day was that they saw God open the sea for them.  They moved forward into a miracle.  They walked through a body of water on dry ground!  I know that God has a miracle for me too… for all of us.  He has a plan for our lives that He wants us to follow.  The plan requires us to both “Keep Calm and Carry On.”   Be still and know that He is in control, and move forward, following Him as He leads us into the miracles He has planned for us.

What I didn’t mention about that trip were the amazing “God moments” that He had planned for me on those adventurous days. (That may be another blog post.)  The people I met, the interactions I had, the unplanned circumstances that He orchestrated in such amazing detail… it was incredible!  They were things I couldn’t have planned.  They were things I would have missed if I had stayed in panic mode.  If I had remained frozen in fear.   If I had not allowed Him to lead me through my circumstances into His miracles.

I can’t wait to see His next miracle in my life and I also can’t wait to experience the amazing “God moments” He has planned for me on the journey.  If you are waiting on Him for a miracle, if you are feeling panicked, I’ve got five words for you, “Be calm and carry on.”