Enjoying the Getting to There

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We’ve been driving for more than five hours. The rain is falling in droves around us, and the kids are quietly playing, I am quietly reading, Greg’s mom is quietly doing crossword puzzles, and Greg and his dad are quietly listening to college football on the radio. (Well, as quiet as that can be.)

We’re road-tripping for a week-long trip to Disney World. All is well.

We’ve been to Disney before together – in fact, Paxton is exactly the age Jaana was on her first trip – and as we journey down the interstate going a hair faster than the speed limit says we should, I watch my boy in a deep sleep, mouth agape and breathing deeply. And then I watch him wake up suddenly, wide-eyed and rested. And then I watch him play the shark game (again) on the iPad.

I watch him, knowing where we’re headed – to Disney World! – and he knows that too…he knows where we’re going. But I watch him and realize he has no idea where we’re going. He doesn’t understand the joy he’ll find there, the magic he’ll feel, the overwhelming sense of happiness that’s about to envelop him for four entire days as we laugh and play and experience the wonder of this gift.

I watch him.

He’s happily sucking his fingers all the while holding his ratty, four-year-old Elmo and making a shark attack an innocent swimmer. He’s laughing at the jokes flying between his Daddy and Papa. He’s nodding his head in beat to the music, asking for snacks and another drink.

I watch him enjoying the journey.

He knows where we’re going, and even though he doesn’t fully know where we’re going, he’s enjoying the moment. Enjoying the journey. He’s not asking questions about how we’ll get in to the park or where we’ll eat or will Elmo get to ride Dumbo with him…he’s just being.

I watch him, and I’m completely and absolutely struck by how much I need to be like him.

We all know those times – the ones that are the majority, not the minority – where God doesn’t tell us where we’re headed and we blindly hold His hand, letting Him lead and guide and as He pulls us to the left to avoid the potholes and to the right to avoid the cliffs. We pepper Him with a thousand questions, a barrage of Where are we going? and How long before we get there? and I’m a little bit hungry and tired and bored. He doesn’t usually answer — just quietly gives our hand a reassuring little squeeze, which shuts us up for about half an hour, and we keep walking.

And then…

Then there are the times – the ones that are completely the minority and never, ever the majority – when He does tell us where we’re headed. You’re going to Disneyland! And we know it’s supposedly magical and we’re told it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type trip, and if He’s taking us there, it must be because He loves us so very, very much.

What sacred journeys those should be…the journeys where the blindfold is off and we are able to walk side-by-side Him – not being pulled behind – fingers entwined and knowing smiles exchanged as we stroll in His love, mercy and grace.

Except…

Except that I don’t walk with Him that way during those times. Do you? I don’t walk with Him as a friend, or lover, or daughter. Instead I hang back — I resist, I pull, I shuffle. I ask questions — again with the questions — but now they sound more like accusations: Why is it taking so long? and Why doesn’t anyone else know where I’m going? and What’s it going to be like when I get there? and This is really hard, should we just go back?

And I think God looks at me and is tempted to say,

Just get up here and walk with Me. Hold my hand and let’s enjoy the journey. It’s going to be worth it. SO WORTH IT. Don’t you realize to get anywhere amazing requires a little effort on the journey? Be it through the wilderness or through a tomb or through exile, it’s going to require some fortitude and perseverance. But where I’m taking you is going to be better than Disney Land — it’s the Promised Land. You are going to FREAK OUT when you see what’s waiting for you there…but for now, just enjoy the Getting to There. 

I watch him.

He’s only almost-five and he doesn’t complain that it’s taking so long, or that the car is bumpy, or that we have to stop again for someone to use the bathroom. He’s only almost-five and he just happily be-bops along, completely content because he’s safe and he trusts who’s taking us there and he’s surrounded by people who love him more than life itself.

I watch him, and I’m completely and absolutely struck by how much I need to be like him.

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For I Will Yet Praise Him (Beating the Blues #2)

I’m honored to participate in our pastor’s current sermon series, “Beating the Blues” as a guest writer. Here is the second of three installments:

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She emailed me out of the blue…I had not seen or heard from her once in the three years since we left. But she emailed and told me some difficult news and shared her struggles and questioned God in it. She was tithing and giving extra offerings and fasting and praying, yet He wasn’t changing her circumstances and she couldn’t figure out why.

She was doing everything “right” and God wasn’t responding.

I couldn’t type my reply fast enough and there was smoke coming from the keys as I responded to her. I didn’t want any time to go by that would allow her to continue to think untrue and warped thoughts about her Abba Father. The words came easily and I said to her,

“Tithing is wonderful, and offerings are amazing and fasting shows God how serious you are. But you can never do those things out of a hope to get something from God in return. If that’s the motive of your heart in doing them, you might as well not do it at all. God only cares about your motive in doing it — He doesn’t need it. Give tithes because He asks us to and it’s obedience. Give offerings out of a desire to help others beyond what your tithe can do. Fast to show Him you really want to hear from Him…not to get…never to get. Your obedience to Him will always supersede your sacrifice. Every time. (<= click to tweet this)

 I know you feel disappointed and desperate and need a change in your circumstances. And more importantly, GOD knows that. But He seems to be asking you to follow and trust anyway…even with the possibility that nothing might ever change. Would you still follow Him if nothing ever changed? That’s the root of everything He’s trying to get through to you. He loves you regardless of everything you’ve done in the past or will do in the future. He loves you regardless of a job or no job. He loves you regardless of whether you tithe, offer, pray or fast. HE JUST LOVES YOU BECAUSE HE IS LOVE. He can’t help but love you. He just wants to know — and moreso, wants you to know — that you would follow Him into poverty if that’s what He asked of you. That’s all.”

 And God used my own words to speak and preach to me, as much as I was trying to encourage her. Because it’s so easy to praise Him when everything is great, isn’t it? And when He isn’t fitting into our perfectly outfitted, unbelieving box…well, then we just get mad and shake our fists at a Most Holy God and threaten Him with “just wait and see if I continue to follow you after this!”

We’ve all been where psalmist was in Psalm 42, that place where tears are our food day and night and people say to us all day long, “where is your God?” We’ve all been in the place where we say to Him, “why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” and that place where our bones suffer mortal agony and our foes taunt us saying all day long, “where is your God?”

Those places are hard. Those places are dry. Those places are where we tithe and offer and fast and pray in hopes of getting out of it. And God…watching from above with tears in His eyes because He is so close to the brokenhearted says,

“Remember these things as you pour out your soul…how you used to come to My house under My protection with shouts of praise and joy among the festive throng. Remember these things from the land of Jordan and the heights of Hermon, as deep calls to deep and my waves and breakers swept over you. Remember how I direct my love at night with My song in you, a prayer to Me of your life. Remember ME. Don’t love me to get. Love me because I first loved you.”

My friend replied to me with a simple and pure, yet profound realization,

“The answer is still yes…a simple but truthful yes…because I do love Him and I do trust Him even knowing I will never understand Him.”

His ways are higher, His thoughts are higher, and if we can conceive it, then that can’t be it. Yet we love Him anyway. Because He first loved us. Because He is love.

“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God — soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.” (Psalm 42:11, The Message)