God is whipping me into shape more and more every day, and today was no exception. When I say this, I don’t mean that my God is violent towards me or hateful, but that He expects me, as His daughter, to be the best that I can be in Him, that I exercise discipline, that I exercise devotion, and that I grow more and more like Him every day.
I’ve learned in the past couple of days, after witnessing some people close to me learning from my mistakes, learning from what things happen to me here, learning from what God is so graciously doing through me every day, that mistakes and struggles are most certainly never in vain, especially when those you care about learn from them and don’t repeat them.
I think that’s how some parents think. I’ve witnessed many parents, young and old, read many books about parents who wish with every fiber in their being that their children don’t make the same mistakes they did, and many people my age have voiced a desire to “make a better life for their children,” hoping that said children will learn from their parents mistakes and that their lives might turn out differently, better.
God is the Parent that wants us to be like Him, because He’s made no mistakes, and never will.
I don’t say this to slight parents or to appear naive, since I myself am neither a mother nor a father and, unless it’s in God’s plan for me, I may never be, but I’m simply saying that God, like a father, wants us to be better, disciplines us to make us better, and demands in the most infinitely loving way possible that we be disciplined as well, constantly taking measures, because we want to, to obey Him and further train our minds to be obedient to Him, for our ultimate good and for His glory.
This morning when I woke up I was weighed down by exhaustion. Granted, I’d had a busy week, lots of working out, lots of homework, lots of not-so-lots of sleep, so yeah I’d be tired. But this exhaustion was heavy, like three extra blankets were over me.
I spent time with God, asking Him, before I even reached for my Bible, just to have the day, to use it to further His glory, in whatever way He wanted. After I’d written in my journal, I read 1 Samuel chapter 8 and 9. Now, in Bible Study, I’m currently studying the life of David, how he responded to and was guided by God in the decisions he made as king. So I decided today, while I’m inbetween the next study session and the last, to refresh my memory concerning the background of David’s becoming king.
I read about Saul, how Israel had demanded a king. The way Israel demanded a king made me frown, as I must imagine it did Samuel, since they said, after Samuel’s detailed warning against kings, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations” (8:20, ESV). It reminded me of when I was younger and everyone had MP3 players (wow, that’s such an old thing to say) and I was like, in my awfully spoiled, bratty, ten-year-old voice, “But everyone else has one!” The grown-up version of this, I think, is when I look at God and say, “Why can’t I just live a normal life where I have a job and I’m ‘responsible’ and ‘mature’?”
Samuel, like the soon-to-be-introduced David, went to God before he did anything. In verse 6 it says, “But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord.” Then, again, after Samuel’s warning against kings (v.10-18), he repeats the response of the Israelites “in the ears of the Lord” (v. 21). And God, in His sovereignty, knowing the result of this decision, gave him the “OK” to give them a king.
THEN! This is the really cool part, I thought 🙂 In the next chapter, Saul and his servant are out looking for some lost donkeys. One day, the donkeys just wandered off his father’s land and were lost, so Saul went to look for them. The two of them (Saul and his servant) went really far, at least really far to look for donkeys, though I suppose livestock was much more valuable to their culture then than it is to ours now, or maybe I’m young and stupid and really have no idea what I’m talking about. Anyway, the servant says, after Saul suggests they go back, “Behold, there is a man of God (Samuel) in this city (Zuph), and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go” (9:6). And after talking some time more, they head to see Samuel.
Now, before Saul even saw Samuel, and before Samuel saw him, God told Samuel the day before that “about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel” (v. 16). So, God used lost donkeys, a persistent servant, and Samuel’s position to orchestrate all of this coming about: Saul’s anointing, his disobedience, David’s anointing, and everything after that, all leading into the New Testament several centuries later when, through the line of David, Christ would be born. So even Israel’s obstinate desire for monarchy was used by God. God used the newly established kingship of Saul to add David to the line of monarchs, thus further establishing another piece of His plan to reconcile the world to Himself.
Ironically, after reading this and meditating on this, I was overwhelmed by the exhaustion again, thinking, “Well, it’s not like I’m going to go to hell if I don’t go to church,” and “I’m too tired to go to church; I think I’ll take the day off.” I even texted Jenny to say I wouldn’t be there.
But then, when I went back to sleep, the Holy Spirit hit be right between the eyes, and I suddenly sat up: during the entire week I’m around literally no Christians, and, other than my Internet conversations, I’m never in fellowship with other Christians, never talking about God’s awesomeness, about spiritual difficulties, about needs, about praises, about triumphs, about the war, with anyone who can sharpen me or keep me accountable or challenge me to be better and more devoted to Christ, to remind me of His love for me.
No, I didn’t have to go to church….I needed to go to church.
I got dressed, continued to pray and quote scripture as my own flesh tried to keep me in the dorm, and left. I grabbed breakfast from the cafeteria and headed out to where my bike was chained up. Some lovely person had gone around to all of the bikes on the rack, possibly on campus, and had put poncho-material slipcovers on the seats to keep them from getting wet. Granted, it hadn’t rained in a day or two, but I still smiled when I saw it 🙂
The ride to church was wonderful, and though my body was incredibly sore from yesterday’s workout, I got there in plenty of time to freshen up and chill and fellowship before Sunday school started.
God is good.
In Sunday school we’re learning about what it means to have a Christian worldview, about holiness, about what it means. We were talking particularly about God’s “Excellent Reputation,” and using Moses’ request to see God’s glory in Exodus chapter 3 as a basis for this study. One section of our notes said this, referring to God’s referring to Himself as “Yahweh” :
“Names are normally just that—a name, a moniker, the word you call something. But God’s name expresses something of His glory. The name Yahweh is a derivative of the Hebrew verb “to be.” In its essence, by attributing this name to Himself, God was expressing the idea that He is self-existent. In other words, no one and nothing else created Him or caused Him to come into being. Yahweh is eternal by His own power.”
How cool is that??? 😀 😀 😀
When we read it in class I couldn’t help but smile. How reassuring is it that God is solid in Himself, complete, without flaw, lacking in nothing, confident and sure in His own power? Ah! I know a lot of times we fall into the pit (or, at least I do some times) of wanting people to be like that, consistent, complete, without wishy-washy-ness and without flaw. But they’re just humans, born in sin, slaves to sin until being saved by Christ, and even saved by His grace and sealed by the Holy Spirit they’re flawed, incapable, uncertain, doubtful, and fearful. But God is none of these things. My God is a strong God, a capable God, one that’s confident and sure and to whom I can run in times of trouble, on whom I can depend for anything and everything. Wow.
I had lunch with Jenny, sitting in front of the fire place in the lobby of the church, talking to Adham, chatting with Maria, and entertaining Abby and Julie. Overall, with the morning and afternoon services included, my spirit was so refreshed by just spending time with other Christians that I can’t believe I almost gave in to the temptation of not coming.
Again, I want to clarify that not going to church is not a sin. Obviously sometimes I am sick and physically incapable of going anywhere, or I’m at home with my family. But today was a battle that needed to be won, discipline that needed to be exercised, and considering the position I’m in, as I said before, where there are almost no Christians who are committed to sharpening me while I’m on campus, I need to take the time to fellowship with those that will.
Part of what I’m learning in Bible Study is that being a child of God, being His daughter, and striving to be committed to growing in Him and wanting Him and wanting His love to be known, invites opposition, invites brutal attack, invites difficulty and obstacles, including what I experienced this morning. By the power of God I will face these obstacles with full confidence in my savior and His ability to help me endure, His grace and mercy when I fail to be fearless, and His own confidence to pull me through despite my fear.
On the ride back to campus, on the route I take through Prospect Park, I witnessed a wedding, just as the bride was walking in to “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. I couldn’t help but smile and get all jittery with excitement. Weddings are just cool things, ya know? Two people are deciding to make a life-long commitment to one another before God and before a group of those they love most. All my life I always thought about what it would be like to plan a wedding, to see the look on the bride’s face through every stage of the preparation, and to know how important it is to her and magnificently precious to her when she walks down the isle, into the arms of the groom.
When I finally arrived on campus, and after spending time with God, a nap, a shower, homework, I had a long talk with God about something. I keep thinking, subconsciously, that once my four years here at Pratt end, that’s the end of God’s plan for me. But then, tonight, after contemplating all of the things that are going on and all of the adventures God has planned for me, all the people I’m bound to meet, all of the lives He’s going to change, I realized that I have A LOT of life to live, and God has a plan for that entire life, not just college. God has a plan for that ENTIRE life, all of it, the whole thing. His understanding and will and plans for me stretch beyond my limited view of my own life, reaching far away from what I can see, or think I can see, since I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow.
Along with God’s completeness, how wonderful is it to know that God has a plan for all of my life, and not just for one phase of it? How awesome is it to understand that God’s will for me doesn’t end when I graduate college, if I start a career, if I get married, if I have children. How amazing is it that He’s outside of a writing degree, outside of all time, outside of age and physical capabilities, and outside of fear and uncertainty and what to me is the unknown?
Imagine that 😀
“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”
—Psalm 61:2-3, ESV