The sheer speed of those weeks made my heart race. Each moment gone in a blink. Each day like a breath. Each night my dreams were of falling short. And each morning I woke with words on my lips, “How can I do this?”
I felt like a bridge spanning two very different worlds. A bridge stretched beyond its design. And like our recent I-5 bridge collapse, I wondered what passing moment could cause my demise.
But I dared to believe, with just the smallest measure of faith, that Yahweh would fill my need. That He brought me to this time and that He would deliver me through it. And I hoped He would be merciful and let me have some dignity intact when it was all over.
You’re probably going to laugh. Or be mad at me. Because my stress was from good things, not bad. Because so many people are in the midst of real pain and stress. And mine is nothing in comparison. Sorry to be so ridiculous.
Here it is: I agreed to preach* two Sundays in a row. And the second Sunday also happened to be the date of our daughter’s 5 year old Princess Birthday Party.
So for the past six weeks I have been wrestling in the spirit about eternal things and the incredible weight of speaking about God’s Word. And I have been wrestling in the physical about temporal things and the incredible weight of pink cupcakes, and streamers, and princess dreams.
Each day, praying and planning. Each day, researching and creating. Each day, listening and dwelling. Plus caring for our children, doing laundry, grocery shopping, preparing meals, taking sick kids to the doctor, taking myself to the doctor, staying on top of all my medical treatments, trying to find a lost pile of bills, attending weddings and funerals, getting together for meetings and friendships, filing a medical appeal, choosing frames for my first “old eyes” glasses… and on and on the list goes. Oh, and trying to be aware of my husband’s needs and the romance of our marriage.
Paul wasn’t wrong (1 Cor 7:32-40.) Being single allows one to be focused on the Kingdom with finer attention. Being married muddies the waters. And having children makes that mud thick and arduous. And yet, Marriage is God’s invention. And Children are His miracles. So Paul is speaking about a problem that is worth embracing and walking through!! This problem has turned out to be my life calling.
How big is God? How possible is it to be both a fully engaged functioning human being AND a fully engaged functional spiritual being? When it’s so easy to be either-or?! When it seems that only compartmentalized living is the solution?! When, clearly, compartmentalized living is no solution at all. Because Faith is not one part of our lives. Faith is the pickling solution that infuses and transforms every inch, ounce and corner of our lives!
At one point, when I couldn’t keep juggling all the balls and I heard them softly thudding all around me, my amazing friend said with simplicity, “God’s got this.”
And I had to examine myself. How much ownership do I want to have in the success or failure of these weeks? I am deadly serious about sermon preparation. There are no short cuts for having adequately researched and prepared. The Word of God is not a book to be trifled with. And Yahweh is not a god to be flippant about. I had been soberly and passionately diligent. I had spent unending hours in research and preparation and Biblical meditation. I had prayed to hear His prophetic word for our church family. And I had heard. But all that had not happened in a pristine environment. Not in deeply prayerful spiritual solitude. It had happened amongst the throws of life with small children and a husband who had been gone working days and nights and weekends.
And so I was a wreck. I was empty. I was in desperate need. I had nothing of myself. And my heart cried: “I need to be filled! I need to have something to give!”
Well, God is very big. And He Himself became flesh and walked this chasm spanning life in full humanity and full divinity. And the Holy Spirit empowers us with that same power. And I experienced it this past week more fully than ever before. And, amazingly, I have little shreds of dignity left. And, even more amazingly, I have an overflowing awe of how God moved in people’s lives through me.
Somehow, God spoke through both sermons. Not that I doubted Him. I doubted my worthiness and aptitude. After all, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5)
And somehow, God was the God of our daughter’s birthday party. Not that I doubted he could. I just didn’t expect He would. After all, what interest does the Creator and sustainer of all life have in a 5 year old’s birthday party?
Well, He has a LOT of interest. He is the passionate Shepherd-Bishop (overseeing and watching closely with deep and passionate care) of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). He is finely attuned to our every move. Not because He’s critical, angry, or watching-for-mistakes. But because He is passionate about us. He is careful and intent to have the very best view of each of our moments. Because our lives are His joy. Because we are His joy.
This empty vessel has been filled with His joy. This highly self-critical, insecure, overwhelmed human has been filled with His joy. I was emptied. Gloriously. And I have been filled. Miraculously.
Wow, Yahweh is good. And this week all I can manage to do is shake my head in disbelief. And like King David I am dumbstruck by God’s Love. “Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far?” (1 Chronicles 17:16 NAS)
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good. For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good. He changes a wilderness into a pool of water And a dry land into springs of water (Psalm 107:1, 9, 35 NAS)