Welcome to My Jungle

“Jesus withdrew to lonely places.” (Luke 5:15)

How many times a day do I long for “quiet time?” To be alone with myself, my thoughts, and to get away with God for a time of solace and stillness. My desire is for aloneness. However, when I plan these times, I must make sure all my circumstances are in place: child and husband gone, coffee brewing, house clean, phones and computer turned off. I want my environment to be perfect…so much so that I end up spending more time creating perfection than I do being alone. If my circumstances aren’t the way I envision them to be, I say to myself, “forget it…I’ll just do it later.” But later never happens. Instead, life does.

It’s interesting to me the choice of words used to describe where Jesus got away to in the many translations of the Bible. He withdrew to lonely places (NIV). To the wilderness (KJV). To the desert (AMP). None of these words depict a beautiful setting with flowers on the kitchen table, a vacuumed floor and emptied dishwasher. They paint a picture of something entirely the opposite.

Loneliness is depressing, a place of complete fragility, and isolating. The wilderness is unkempt, chaotic and frightening. The desert is vast, empty and creates thirst.

Fascinating, isn’t it? Where I seek the perfect environment before I can withdraw to be with God, Jesus withdraws to be with him in the midst of imperfect environments. In the isolating, chaotic and empty places, Jesus withdrew. He sought out lonely places. He purposely went to the wilderness and the desert. This is where he found perfect communion with God.

I have been meditating on this for a long time, as I have felt lately like I am in a lonely place…a wilderness…a desert. A place where I don’t know why I feel the way I do; a place where I feel no one really understands what I’m going through. Yet in this place I have not sought out time to be alone with God and to seek him in it. Why? Because my environment hasn’t “allowed” me to do it. I have strived for all the pieces to be in place before I can do it:
…for my energy level to be higher
…for my kitchen floor to finally stay clean
…for the dishwasher to never be emptied again
…for the stains on the carpet to magically disappear
…for the laundry to wash and fold itself
…for my phone to stop ringing
…for my email inbox to be cleaned out
…for 10 pounds to have melted off in the night

I have been waiting for something that might never happen. The decision comes after the realization that nothing will ever be perfect…but what am I going to do about it anyway? Do I allow my circumstances and environment determine the quality of my time with God? Do I continue to cheat my relationship with him by choosing to work instead? I am ashamed to say it has taken me too long to realize nothing will change unless I change it. The authority is in me.

I can choose to let dirty dishes sit in the sink.
I can choose to ignore the ringing of my phone, or to turn it off.

I can choose to leave the TV off so I can read my Bible a little longer.
I can choose to not eat cake so that 10 pounds won’t turn into 15.
I can choose to not respond to email for 24 hours.

In the loneliness, isolation, chaos and emptiness, Jesus found a connection to his Father. He demonstrated that it is in those places that withdrawing is necessary for survival. Instead of screaming at the top of my lungs, or letting resentment and bitterness take root, I can choose to shut myself in my closet and withdraw to God. Even for just a few minutes, I can get alone with him, express whatever is on my mind and seek him for solace. I don’t have to plan to clean the house the night before, sneak downstairs with no one hearing me, set the coffee on auto-timer and my alarm to wake me up so I can have an environmentally perfect alone time. Instead of letting the chaotic, frustrating and depressing moments pass, I need to seek God in them. It is in those moments where I’m assuming, based on Jesus’ example, God has the most tender, healing and refreshing blessings planned for me. I don’t want to know how many I’ve missed…and I don’t plan to miss anymore of them.

Welcome to my jungle, Lord!

Souls in the City

Greg and I were talking the other day, and the subject arose about the differences between our church friends and our non-church friends. We realized after much comparison, that our church friends, as a whole, have a tendency to be defeated and needy. On the other hand, our non-church friends are more others-focused and empowered. We began to wonder, with all we have in Christ, why is there such a difference?

As a believer, Christ has offered us so much – Someone to trust in, Someone to turn to with our anxiety, Someone to give ourselves to so that we might be stronger. He has equipped us with armor to survive each day, and has given us Himself so that we might do all things through Him who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Notice is says strengthen us. Not render us to a state of self-consumption and neediness, but make us strong. Yet so many of us don’t exercise the authority biblically given to us through Him.

Maybe as Christians we bring everything to God, as He says to, but in the process of doing so we lose the power and authority given to us for our daily lives. The enemy so seductively has twisted our thinking from “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to “I can’t do anything without being a mindless robot just begging for God to tell me what to do every second of the day, to the point I can’t use the brain He gave me to make any decisions for myself at all.” Maybe my non-Christian friends don’t trust in God, don?t have that comfort and satisfaction that comes from Him alone. But they know how to battle and conquer. They can fight their negative emotions. Endure under pressure at work. Not grumble and complain to any open ear that will hear. Maybe as Christians it is we who have lost the ability to fight, and instead seek to be rescued from every single problem that most of the time, is brought on by own doing. God is Deliverer, but He also calls us to fight and has sufficiently equipped us to do so.

My biggest witness to my non-Christian friends is to show them how much better life is with Christ. If I cam continually defeated, negative, needy and self-consumed, well then?what kind of witness is that? If I’m not living a more abundant and satisfying life, then why bother with Christ at all?

I still pray for my non-Christian friends to know Jesus, of course. And I?m realizing I need to be more intentional and aggressive in winning them to the Lord. At the same time, I am allowing God to teach me through them. That sometimes I have to do some work, and not sit back and wait for Divine Intervention at every turn. I have not been given authority and armor for each day to not use it. Paul doesn’t tell us to “roll over and play dead,” but to “fight the good fight.” Thank God He is always teaching, through any means necessary, to get His point across to His children. Keep speaking, Lord!