So, over the past three weeks (can you believe there’s only two and a half months left of the semester??), I’ve had a Friday Bible Study with several of my classmates. During the school days, and also during the weekends, God has taken every opportunity to challenge me, strengthen me, comfort me, break me, nudge me, and, of course, knock me right upside the head and down a few notches. I realize that neither of those things, Bible Study and God’s growing me closer to Him, seem entirely congruent, but they’re certainly not separate 🙂
Last week, my classmates and I looked at Genesis 1 and 3, at the very beginning, to see what the Creation account says about His character. Some things were obvious. The first verse says “In the beginning, God created,” so, from that, we can gather that God is creative…which I personally have never taken from that, even though it’s kind of like a “no duh.” And then there were things less obvious. The third verse in chapter one says “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” This shows that God’s word, His audible, verbal word has power, not just to create, but to create things out of absolutely nothing. Can anyone pull a chicken out of the air? I certainly can’t. That would be an interesting talent to have. But God can 🙂 It was really fun and very cool 🙂
So, of course this past week I sort of introverted and discovered the value of giving myself room to be alone, even though I love talking to people about God’s word and discussing things. I mean, even during this past summer while I was counseling at BaYouCa, the small break we counselors got in the middle of the day was wonderful, and I often used it just to rest in God before going forth and ministering to and loving those girls again. But while I was introverting, I got to study God’s word in preparation for Bible Study, and I got really excited 😀
Friday didn’t go as I expected at all. The first “event” of the day I thought would refresh me and encourage me, and the middle of the day I imagined would be filled with nervousness and preparation, and then the last event would be spiritually trying. But this is ACTUALLY how things happened:
The first event left me worn out and somewhat discouraged, but first leaning into God and letting Him take the blow, and then talking to Jacob after that made me refreshed, even if I was still a bit wounded. And then, while I was sitting in the cafeteria, holding my head over my open Bible (for that’s where I was on Friday morning, in my normal spot), Taylor came up to me and asked me if I was doing the Bible Study that night. We talked for a bit and, regardless of how discouraged she seemed, and how worn out and wounded I felt, it felt nice to be, well, positively emotional, where we were just being real women and talking about the things that were difficult for us, but still having a smile on our faces, knowing that this isn’t all there is.
I went back to the dorm and laid down, just thinking, playing things through my head, praying, though not actually saying anything. I just hung out with God, rested in Him, bathed in His truth, and listened to the sounds of the world. I’d been struggling with a few of my classmates, both those on campus as well as those who’d transferred to other colleges or dropped out, dealing blows to my pride, but not the bad pride, the kind that separates you from God, but the healthy pride, the pride in my identity as a daughter of Christ, the understanding that God uses me regardless of who says what, and the solid confidence I have in His loving desire to grow and challenge and use me despite my feeling incompetent, unintelligent, clumsy, or misplaced.
At one point, because the sun was pouring in through the windows with the blinds half-drawn, I wondered what the room would look like if the blinds were completely drawn. So I got up and pulled them, and the room flooded, and I mean flooded with the light of the noonday sun. It felt like Narnia, when winter is melting and the spring is coming back, when Santa Claus gives Susan her horn and bow, Peter his sword, and Lucy her dagger and healing vial, leaving with a hearty “Long live Aslan.”
A few hours later, I headed to the cafeteria. And who did I run into as I walked out of my dorm? Charlene 😀 We both looked at each other like soldiers having just finished the second to last battle of a war they’d been fighting forever, and we hugged each other and talked about things. We didn’t have to go into detail. It was enough just to see each other. I talked about Bible Study. She talked about her group project. We both talked about coffee. We hugged one more time, departed with “I love yous,” and trudged away to our destinations. Although I felt tired in every way, I still felt at peace, as corny as that sounds. There was a sense of victory that I couldn’t explain, like the white noise of a river running in the background. I wondered if this is what walking in Christ’s victory, regardless of what blows are dealt to me, feels like.
I sat in the Pie Shop for a while, first doing homework and then studying my Bible, not even to get ready for Bible Study, but just because I needed the solidity to rest on. Amanda came and sat with me at some point and we talked for a while. I went and got coffee and pizza, and, though it was a small thing, I smiled when the cup of Joe was perfect, and thanked God for the sticky note on my refrigerator, the one that says “Hello, I’m here, and I love you, and I’m holding you. You can rest now.”
I couldn’t quite figure out why I needed so many reminders that day of God’s desire for me to rest in and lean on His understanding, to depend on His strength and His power, to run to Him as a refuge, but I’m glad that He so perfectly provided for me in that way.
Kat and Taylor showed up. Then Bree and her boyfriend Teddy. And we all sat, eating dinner and talking for a little while before beginning. This week we looked at Noah and the Flood. I realize this might seem like a cop-out, but it doesn’t matter. I’d never looked at this account in the way I’m looking at it now, where I’m searching for God’s actions and seeing what He does and what it says about His character.
Genesis 6:5-6 says “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
So, with a human perspective, regret involves, usually, an element of unexpected remorse, or that’s always what I thought, until, of course, I looked up the actual definition of the word 😛 Regret (the verb) is defined as “feeling sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.); to think of with a sense of loss.” Now, of course it would be easy to say “Well, God is changing His mind,” or “He totally didn’t see this coming.” But let’s actually look at this.
Being regretful doesn’t necessarily mean the consequences or results of an action were unexpected, but simply that they caused you grief. For example; you have a loved one who’s dying of a terminal disease, hospice has been called, and there’s nothing left to be done. You know they’re going to die. But when they do, even though you were expecting it, even though you knew what was going to happen, you still cry, your heart still aches. When God created man, though the original act was good and the creation seen in the same light, He knew what was going to happen, and yet when it did, though He was expecting it, He was still grieved in His heart.
So then of course people like to bring up the question of “Well, why did God create man then?” Personally, when I consider that question, I answer it one of two ways: “To glorify Himself by both reconciling us to Him and allowing us the privilege and beautiful experience of living with Him forever both in this world and the next.” And the second is “How awful would it be if He’d never created me? I would never know what it’s like to depend on Him, to see Him valiantly come through for me, to see Him reign as a mighty King above all kings of this earth, and then call me His daughter…of course, I would never have existed, so I wouldn’t have felt awful about it, but that’s even more daunting and more painful of a thought than the other.”
And then we see Noah. God was planning on blotting out the entire human race, and yet He still sought a way, some venue through which He could redeem them. And He found it, ordained it, to be through Noah. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” And we see Noah being described in this way: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). God was looking for Noah. He was paying attention. His first reaction, before carrying out His word, was love, acting on a desire to redeem man despite their blatant apostasy.
God is not distant. He’s looking, He’s involved, He’s focused, He’s not just sitting up in heaven and letting humans do what they want. In the words of Tozer, “God is here.”
And then God destroyed all of man and beast, all except for Noah and his family and the animals God commanded him to save.
Now, it would be very easy and impulsive to look at this as “God is evil and horrible for destroying so many innocent people.” But then we look back to the state of the generation as being characterized by “every intention of their hearts being evil continually” (6:5). We also are reminded that this move wasn’t impulsive. God said He would do it (6:6, 13). And then He did it.
God has a backbone. He does what He says He’ll do.
In Genesis 8, verses 21-22, after the ark has landed on the mountains of Ararat and Noah has built an altar and made a sacrifice to God, it says “And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
So, and this made me smile, the first thing I noticed was “when the Lord smelled.” God can smell 🙂 Another thing is that God keeps His promises: we have not yet, since that moment in the Bible, had another global flood. The human race has not since then been wiped from the face of the earth at all, especially not because of a global flood. And in chapter ten, God gives humanity a sign of this promise, a reminder that He keeps His promises, reminding humanity of His promise and also showing them that He, too, will remembering His covenant with man. And so, rainbow 🙂
Then there’s this.
Noah falls almost immediately after God establishes His covenant with him. Noah planted a vineyard, made wine, and then got drunk off the wine, and lay naked in his tent. So, not knowing what was going on, Ham walks in and sees his father like that, and then goes and tells his brothers. His brothers, so they can’t see their father in all his state, walk towards him backwards with a blanket on their shoulders and then cover him up. When Noah wakes up and finds out that Ham looked at him while he was like that, he curses his youngest son.
“Woah! It was Noah’s fault he was naked in the first place! Ham just walked in on him, minding his own business, and BAM, there was his dad.”
Yep. You’re right. Noah was the one who fell. But look at what it says.
“And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside” (9:22). Now, if you walked in on one of your parents and they looked like this, wouldn’t your first reaction be to turn your head away, or cover your eyes, or something? I know I would. But Ham shows no remorse or shame when this happens. He just looks and he’s not convicted or disturbed, and his actions both humiliate and dishonor his father. Then when he goes and tells his brothers, which further dishonored his father (it would’ve been more respectful if Ham had covered him and then not mentioned it to anyone to maintain his father’s honor), we see his brothers taking great care to not look at their father, because they are ashamed. I know it seems petty, but it’s important.
And now we’re back to when Noah wakes up and discovers what Ham did, and curses him. Ham’s position as being the father of Canaan is a foreshadowing, or seems to be such of this curse. Noah says “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers,” (v. 25). Later on, through Ham’s son Canaan, different people groups are birthed, even an entire land, and this land is the land of Canaan…also known as the Promised Land, in which so many people are killed, wiped out, and destroyed by the Israelites (Exodus 23:20-33).
So what does this mean?
Well, that’s an excellent question. I’m not sure if these two events can be tied together, but I think it’s worth exploring. Going in, I personally believe that there’s more to this than meets the eye, that God is just and perfect and righteous and solid and complete in Himself, and I trust Him. Call it naive, call it crazy, call it narrow-minded, but that’s how I’m thinking.
Overnight, I was able to talk to Jacob for a really long time, which was incredibly refreshing. Then, Jenny, because she’s training for the Boston Half-Marathon, asked if she could run to Pratt and then we could go out for lunch and do some shopping. So she ran to me, and it was both her longest run and her best time 😀 It was wonderful to witness her victorious excitement.
The two of us then went to Sapolo, a Chinese restaurant on Myrtle, where I tried hot and sour soup for the first time…I wasn’t entirely sure what was in it, but it tasted all right 🙂 We then, after lunch, walked further down Myrtle, getting nailed with fat flakes of snow, and the entire strip of shops complete with cars and pedestrians was a flood of white, and if Christmas music had been playing, no one would’ve complained.
We went into several stores that sold hand-made bags and pillows, miniature elephants made of ivory, small heart pendants made of jade, heavy blankets, Mamies, and teas. There were journals bound firmly in leather and dresses made of wool, necklaces made of paper beads and charms made of steel.
After a while, we headed back the way we came, stopping at Connecticut Muffin for vanilla chai lattes and, you guessed it, red velvet cake 😀 We warmed up and continued our walk, sipping our lattes and laughing at how amazing the day had been. God once again blessed me with some girl time, time to just be a woman of God with another woman of God 🙂
So, even though I’m a bit worn, even though things are shifting and changing and most of them aren’t going exactly as I’d imagined they would, even though God is challenging me and putting me in uncomfortable situations, it’s all worth it when I remember why He’s doing it, when I remember that it’s not in vain, when I remember He has a purpose in it all, regardless of my messups and mistakes, past, present, and future, and when I remember that it’s all for my good, and, yes, for His glory.