Friday, April 25, 2014

Greetings from the Wilderness, Part 1

I have been re-painting a hand-me-down sofa this week so we can replace our current couch, which got ruined. The "new" sofa itself was, originally, a hand-me-down wooden-framed, cargo-style sofa that my grandmother gave to my parents. 

My husband and I have discovered that painting our furniture white makes the apartment appear larger: since the walls and carpet are the standard creamish-white rental property color, the white-washed furniture sort of fades into the wall instead of looming over our shoulders like the furniture from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Had the furniture talked to us, entertained us, protected our apartment from home invasions, and made us fancy French food, then we would have permitted it to remain looming and dark. But it didn't do anything except sneer.

My folks are letting us use part of their garage to paint.

Now, I don't know if this is a country thing or maybe just a guy thing, but my dad has always had a radio playing in the garage that he never turns off. I have great uncles, from my maternal side, with this same interminable radio set-up in their barn. My uncles perpetually play the country station; my dad perpetually plays the Christian sermon station.

It's the thing to do with out-buildings, I guess.

Anyway, yesterday, while I was painting the couch with all the gracefulness of a sumo wrestler, I heard a good sound byte that resonated with what I've been pondering in Psalms lately.

"We walk not by sight, but by faith," the preacher declared.

He expounded upon this verse (2 Corinthians 5:7)--that no matter how things appear in this world, no matter how hostile or trying or terribly wrong, we are not to live our lives by circumstantial appearances because we are not to live by sight. We are to live by faith in our God--a concept I've heard all my life, but never truly taken to heart.

My friends, would you say that the God of Moses, who delivered the children of Israel out of a 400-year bondage, was unfaithful to His people when He afterwards led them into the wilderness?

"By no means!" you might exclaim. The Israelites were unfaithful to Him.

It should not have mattered how their circumstances appeared in the wilderness. His deliverance out of Egypt--through the plagues, through the pillar of fire, through the parting of the waters and the drowning of the Egyptians and Pharaoh himself thereby--should have testified to the Israelites of God's enduring faithfulness.

But as we read in passages like Psalms 81, the Israelites turned to other gods. And Christians do that very thing all the time.
We, who have been delivered from the bondage of sin and death, are unfaithful to God in our own wilderness. We face difficult times and instead of remembering that God is in control of everything and that we can trust Him with everything, we worry about things we cannot control.

We're not supposed to worry; we're supposed to let God handle it and be faithful to continue in the things which He has called us to do.

You don't need the Staples "easy" button, you don't need to stay at home to worry over it, you don't need retail therapy to take your mind off of it, you don't need extra food to "comfort" you. You need to give more of yourself, more of your control to the One who made you. To the One who saved you.

There is a verse in 1 Samuel that is often quoted to speak about self-worth in God's eyes, but I find it applicable in a deeper sense this morning as I wait to hear the outcome of a dear loved one who is undergoing surgery.
"But the Lord said unto Samuel, 'Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.'" (ch. 16 v. 7)
We human beings are so caught up on how things look that we forget that there are underlying realities we don't see. We can only judge circumstances and people based on how they appear. But God knows and sees what lies beneath the surface.
You may look at your current wilderness and see no possible way out. But the God of Moses, the God who parted the Red Sea for His people, sees underneath the visible shell of your wilderness. He sees what the future of your wilderness holds. And the results do not matter except for the fact that "ALL things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28, emphasis mine).

Not "some" things or "most" things. All things.

So what should we do in our wilderness? What is the purpose of it? ". . . He died for ALL, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto HIM which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15, emphases mine).

In the future, I'd like to unpack this chapter in 2 Corinthians a little further. As for now, I pray we would remember that "we walk by faith, not by sight."

--Mrs. D.