As I am going to be out of town for a few days in the mountains, I am sharing some old devotionals written some time ago. I hope they continue to bless and encourage you.
Your progressive redneck preacher,
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I have gone through some moments when I wanted to look up into the heavens and say “are you seeing this?” There are times I feel certain God must not be seeing me, must not be hearing me for if God was, how could this be happening? At times it is because of trials I face, and at other times it has been simply in times I felt alone, isolated, cut off.
I think we all go through such times in our lives, and the Psalmist reminds us that God is not sleeping, nor absent, even when the situation doesn’t make sense or we cannot feel God’s loving gaze.
As I read this story, I cannot help but think about a discussion I had about the text in which Jesus falls asleep on the boat with his disciples during a storm at sea. While reading it with the Bible study group I attend I realized a parallel to this image from my own life: When I watch my nephew who is a toddler, the best way to make sure he goes asleep is to put him in a car seat and drive a little. Almost instantaneously after putting him in that car seat, he knocks out. Why? Because he’s with his uncle and aunt, adults he trusts, and he knows he is safe. Could the fact Jesus falls asleep in the storm be a sign that perhaps he has that same attitude to us? In our struggles we feel we need someone to rescue us but Jesus knows he already has given us the resources to deal with the storms we face. He knows he does not need to swoop in but we are ready to deal with what lies before us.
That thought is strangely comforting to me. So many of the times when I felt God must be sleeping or preoccupied, or not really there it was because I prayed, prayed, and prayed and got no answer. As a chaplain and pastor I see so many people go through just such trying times in their own lives. Like my toddler nephew knows his uncle Micah has got it so he can nap, God knows we can handle what lies before us. Like Jesus knew his disciples had it through the storm, God knows we’ve been given the gifts and strengths to handle what lies before us. He’s gotten us ready. So perhaps it is in these times in which we cannot feel God’s gaze upon us that what is happening is not that God is abandoning us, but God is choosing to have faith in us. God is believing in us. God is trusting we can navigate our future with confidence.
God has faith in you.
The psalmist suggests such moments are not God sleeping or not watching. This suggests a different image for me of these moments. One of the things I remember my daddy doing with me as a little boy is teaching me to swim and to ride a bike. Both times he took his time with me. He did it for me, did it with me, let me do it either with training wheels or him in the wings, and then he stepped back and let me do it on my own. Perhaps these moments with God are like this in our lives. Perhaps they are the moment we think our daddy is holding us in the water and we look down to see we are swimming on our own. Perhaps they are the moments we think daddy is holding the back of the bike to keep it steady and we realize he’s standing four feet away waving and watching. In these moments God is not abandoning us but standing ready to help us if we fall but also proud of us, trusting us to live out what we have learned through the strength the Spirit gives.
One of my favorite sayings in the early church is the oft-repeated maxim that in Christ God became a son of men & women so that men and women might become children of God. So often we think that means remaining weak, vulnerable, and dependent on others for our next step. But these examples from Scripture and my own experience make me wonder. No adult parent really deep down wants their children to remain dependent on them for every choice but rather longs to look with pride as their children begin to choose to live out what they have taught them for themselves. I think the same is true with God. God always shall love us as God’s very own but God longs to see us stretch our spiritual legs, grow, and learn to run with confidence the raise before us.
So know this day – and always – that God’s gaze has not left you nor love abandoned you. Rather in that moment God is looking at you, believing in you. God is trusting in you to finish the race God has laid before you, to follow through on what God has shown you. If this is true, why not choose to believe in yourself and in those around you to be capable, with the Spirit’s power, to become the people God has made you & them to be?
And I ain’t just whistling Dixie,
Your progressive redneck preacher,