I grabbed Hannah’s keys off the counter at 7:25 on Thursday morning, making sure I left the keys to my and Jake’s car in case of an emergency. Hannah had been incredibly generous and let me borrow the car when necessary, since I was still waiting to be able to register my car in North Carolina. Logistics, yes. As I headed out the door and into the sweet sunlight to pick up Anna, I felt the exhaustion of the week hit me.
The passage of Colossians 1:28-29 ran through my mind as I hopped into Hannah’s car. I was supposed to be striving with all of God’s energy, and not with my own. I was supposed to invest in others with all of His strength and understanding, not my own. As I thought over this, I reminded myself that Hannah’s car is an automatic, and I don’t have to use both feet to drive, and the brake is not the clutch.
I drove to Anna’s house. We were meeting up to do our devotions together before I dropped her off at work. And so I prayed.
Without Jake being here, it’s been too easy for me to stretch myself too thin, to forget that I’m human and that God has designed me to rest in Him. And though the week had been spent on loving and listening to and praying for people that He loves, I was tired and feeling a bit drained.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
I breathed out and continued to pray for Anna. I had recently felt like a failure in the area of faithfully praying for people. And yet, it wasn’t because I wasn’t spending quality time in prayer…it was just that there were so many people and things to pray about! “Pray without ceasing” was suddenly making a lot more sense as a command. (Romans 12:12)
I hadn’t been able to talk to Jake for a couple of weeks, and I missed him terribly. But I was reminded that God is a better listener, the God of all comfort, the Father of compassion, and Jesus as living water and the bread of life is able to sustain me and bear my burdens far more effectively than Jake can or ever will be able to…Which is hard to remember sometimes, because Jake is so wonderful and I’m probably still wearing rose-colored glasses.
I pulled into Anna’s driveway and she ran out to hop in the car. I noticed she didn’t have her Bible and notebook. I wanted to facepalm because I hadn’t been clear that we were doing devotions together, and selfishly struggled with feeling like I’d yet again failed in communication. So I asked her if she’d run in and grab those things. As she walked back to her front door, I felt even more like a failure for not saying “Good morning” first.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Right, that’s true of me, I thought as Anna got back in the car. I said “good morning” and we started talking as I pulled out of the driveway. Right, I thought again. I can’t fail. I’m not failing. Christ has made me sufficient as His ambassador, and He’s totally equipped me to do what He’s asked of me, and going therefore and making disciples of all nations is not too difficult with Him. And I’m only meant to live by faith in Christ, who loved me and continues to love me…This is His life to live. I might not feel like I’m doing well, but I cannot be driven by my feelings.
Anna and I parked in the parking lot of The Coffee Scene, the coffee shop frequented by our circle of friends. As we walked in, I realized I’d never been in The Coffee Scene that early on a week day. Everything was quiet and the shop was nearly empty, save a red-headed woman sitting on the couch in the lounging area under the stairs, and a gentleman sitting outside in one of the black iron chairs smoking a cigarette and drinking a hot beverage. Coffee, probably black.
Anna and I ordered our drinks and we sat down at a high table by the window wall to the left of the entrance. I managed to bonk my head on the “OPEN” sign hanging on the wall as I adjusted myself on the seat.
Anna opened her notebook and Bible and started in on her time. I opened my Bible to 2 Samuel and prayed as I read.
I entered into the world of King David post-Bathsheba, and my heart ached as I read of Amnon and Tamar, of Absalom the kinsman murderer, of David’s cowardice and passivity, and of Joab’s anger. I used to see the people in the Bible as intimidating; they were perfect people whose faith I would never be able to emulate. But the more time I spent with God in His Word, particularly the Old Testament, I realized that people in the Bible are a mess.
Well, I can certainly emulate that, I thought.
And yet as I read about Joab (David’s army commander) sending a woman to tell David he ought to bring Absalom home (Absalom fled and was banished from Jerusalem when he killed his brother Amnon for raping their sister Tamar…it’s a mess…), the woman said something really cool.
“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.” (2 Samuel 14:14)
So, Jake has quoted this verse a lot, and I always thought “Oh! What a great verse about how God forgives us and pursues us! So cool!” But what I never realized was that the “banished person” used as an example was Absalom, a murderous son who would later sleep with his father’s wives and conspire against the king and make an even bigger mess of everything…and yet “God…devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.”
I always associated myself with the position of the banished person for whom God makes a way. But when I read this, I was confronted by the murderous, lustful, deceitful, and covetous state of my own heart. I was Absalom.
“‘You have heard it said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.'” (Matthew 6:21-22)
How many times had I hated someone, or simply been selfishly angry with them, even if it was just for a moment? I very often lived in fear of my own temper, because it was fierce and hurtful when left unchecked. I still had to give my anger over to God.
There in The Coffee Scene, I sat broken before God, ignorantly sipping a hot vanilla chai latte at the feet of the King of the Universe, who made a way through the sacrifice of His own Son to make sure I, a murderer via the hatred I’ve harbored in my heart, would not stay separated from Him. He wanted me to be with Him, even though I killed His Son with my sin.
Anna and I talked some more after we finished reading and praying. She shared some of her thoughts on Psalm 70, and she helped me with my Scripture memory (2 Timothy 2:24-25 and Psalm 75:2-3). Eventually we left The Coffee Scene and I dropped her off at work.
As I drove back home, I prepared my heart for the time that Hannah I would spend with Jessica down the street (she and her husband are also part of the Navigator ministry here), and started thinking about what questions I had or wanted to ask her. We’d planned on meeting up with her at 9:00 that morning, so we’d have to walk down the moment I got home. The drive back, I felt bathed in God’s grace toward me, a murderer who once deserved judgment, thinking on how He showed His love for me by dying for me even as I continued to sin against Him, and who continued to love and forgive me every day from now until forever, as I continued to fall short in pursuing Him.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)