Tap my shoulder…PLEASE!

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Just when I think I’m maintaining a pretty good pace on this marathon called The Christian Walk, life happens. Ugly, heartbreaking, tragic life happens.  And I pray…and I wait…and wait…for the Holy Spirit to tap me on the shoulder to tell me that He’s right there, and everything is going to be okay.  And I wait…and wait….and the sound of crickets is overwhelming.  And then I remember that I’m not alone in feeling like this.  Many other believers feel like this and have felt like this.  David wrote his raw feelings in the Psalms:

Psalms 10:1 “Why, Lord, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Psalms 13: 1 & 2a “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”

Psalm 22:2 “ My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.”

It’s been around 6 years since I’ve felt this loneliness this deeply, this silence so deafening, this sense of pain so deeply.  And once again, I have to go back to what I know about God and not what I feel.  And while I wait for the Holy Spirit to tap me on the shoulder again, I feel the taps on my shoulder from those whom God has placed in my life:

  • my friend Robin (our pastor’s wife) who stands out in her front lawn and prays with me
  • our church family who text, email or message me to let me know that they are praying for me
  • a dear friend who slips me a piece of paper during church to let me know that God wants me to bring my burdens to Him (Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”)
  • family members who encourage;
  • a co-worker who send you a verse to remind you that our prayers don’t have to be just the right words, we just need to rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. (Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.)
  • a sweet sister in church who slides over by me during the service to just be by me because she knows I’m having a tough morning.
  • elders in our church who pray for me and other members of our congregation; men who have the spiritual gifts of encouragement, mercy, compassion, discernment, and wisdom.

And so as I wait and as I continue on this marathon called The Christian Walk at maybe a slower pace than normal, I’ll continue to remember these truths: 1) God has promised to never leave me; 2) I don’t need to understand everything that happens; 3) I don’t have to have the right words to pray effectively.  The Holy Spirit takes my cries and interprets them on my behalf. 4) I’m not responsible for other’s responses to life situations. 5) I don’t save people, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

So for tonight, I’ll remember what the Psalmist wrote in Psalms 4:8:

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord,   make me dwell in safety.”

 

Do you smell smoke?

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One of my all time favorite things to do is to sit around our fire pit in our backyard or the campfire while we are camping.  And usually, for the next few days the smell of the fire and smoke stay with me even after washing my hair a number of times.  I have a love/hate relationship with the smell of smoke.  When I do catch a whiff of the lingering smell of smoke in my hair, it brings back the memories of sitting around the fire with family and loved ones.  But then, while I’m sitting at work and a co-worker is standing by me and I smell smoke, I think “They must be thinking ‘Does she ever bathe?!'”  Lol.

Sitting around the fire also reminds me of one of my favorite accounts in the Bible: the time when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves in a fire pit themselves!  We read about this hot incident in Daniel 3.  The background of this story is that King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that when the trumpet and other instruments was blown or played, everyone was to bow down to the golden image that he had made.  Whomever did not bow down to the image would be thrown into the fiery furnace.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, being believers of the one true God, would not bow down. They told the king that they knew that God could save them, but even if God didn’t deliver them from the furnace, they still would not bow to the image.  So  they were bond by ropes and thrown into the furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar looked in on the trio and saw four men instead!  The king summoned the three young men out and noticed that their hair was not singed and their robes were not scorched. The only thing that was consumed in the fire was the ropes that had bound them.  And I love this part of the story: “and there was no smell of fire on them.”

So many times I, like other believers, pray that God would spare me from unpleasant and painful situations.  I’ve been lulled into this thought that my life should be pretty easy, carefree and comfortable.  But the reality is this: life is painful!  Life is not always easy!  I will go through and have gone through some pretty difficult times in the past few years.  And even though God did not spare me (and other family members) and prevent me from going through these times, I know for certain that just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, God was walking right beside me in those “fiery” times.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had the ropes that bound them burned off while they were traipsing around the furnace and that got me thinking “What ‘ropes’ were keeping me bound while I was walking through painful times?” Maybe the “ropes of unbelief“:  Why would God allow this to happen to me?  Isn’t He a good God? This doesn’t feel very “good” to me right now! Maybe the “ropes of doubt”:  Does God really know what He’s doing?!  Do I really trust Him to see me/us through this time of being uncomfortable? this time of being in pain? this feeling of being lost? of feeling abandoned?  How about the “ropes of anger”:  How could You possibly allow this to happen?  “Ropes of pride”:  I’m/We’re one of your children and THIS is how You choose to treat me/us?  I’ve been living a pretty good life testifying to how I believe you and THIS is the thanks I get?!  As you can see, I should have bought stock in a rope company!!

And just like our three heroes of the Old Testament, it sometimes takes a fire to burn off these ropes that keep our hands, our feet, our hearts, and our minds bound.  And just like our fire walkers, we realize that no, maybe God didn’t deliver us from having to go through these fiery times of pain and hurt, but we know without a doubt, that we didn’t traipse through that fire alone. God didn’t keep us from going through it but He certainly was right there the whole time.

Oh and that favorite part of that verse: “there was no smell of fire on them”?  The Holy Spirit gently taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that even though I have walked through some fires in my lifetime, because of His presence and His grace, people won’t be able to tell that I’ve gone through the fire.  Because instead of the lingering smell of smoke on me (and in my hair), they will only be able to smell the sweet smell of Him saving me by grace and walking beside me while we both watched those ropes disintegrate and disappear.  Yeah, every once in a while I pick up those familiar ropes again and start wrapping myself up in them.  But soon enough, the Holy Spirit reminds me of what it took to burn those things off.  I can stop and remember that even though I had to go through those times, I’m not the same person who was thrown into that fire and I’m certainly a different person after I came out of that “furnace”.

And with that being said….who wants some s’mores!!  I’ll grab the lighter and the marshmallows!!