October 1, 2015

Confusion and Clarity

What do you do when you feel confused about something? How do you handle confusion?

Today is Thursday, and it has been a good day for me. Truthfully, Thursdays are welcomed, celebrated, and enjoyed -- simply because -- they signal the end of the week, and they remind me that I am almost finished, almost ready for the weekend. My week is heavy this semester. I have so much on my plate, so much work, and frankly, I am sinking under the pressure to perform and to get everything turned in on time.

My courses at Regent are fine, they are fine, but I am not on top of them like I normally am, and I am feeling the pressure ramp up as we make this turn toward the midpoint of the semester. I am doing my best, and the Lord is providing for me, but I feel as though I am not giving 100% of my time or my attention to my studies. On top of that, I am dealing with pressure at GCU, and the feeling that I am not doing a good job for my students. I know that this is more ME, my mindset, than actual reality, but that isn't helping me to think that I am a failure every time I walk into class. Last, my Mom is not doing well, and her recent cancer surgery, while it turned out well, has had some set backs, and I am having to do more work around the house. Thus, my time is precious, and that precious time seems to be slipping away faster than I prefer.

I am sitting here at my MAC, trying to focus on the tasks at hand, and thinking to myself, "What is the point?" I mean, I am feeling less enthusiastic about doing the work that I need to do, and I think the reason I feel this way is because I have absolutely zero control right now. I feel like I have no control, so why even try do to the work, if I cannot control any of the outcomes! I hate this feeling, I really do. Mostly, it is because I hate feeling so helpless, so unable to effect change. What's more, I see all that needs to be done, and I look to my hands, and I see that they are empty, empty! I am unable to use the tools, the resources, and the gifts the Lord has given to me, and as such, I sit here thinking that I am impotent, literally unable to perform.

As I sit here, I think about Exodus 34:20. This is the passage in Scripture where the Lord renews His covenant with the children of Israel. The details are recorded in this chapter, but verses 19 and following say this,
"The first offspring from every womb belongs to Me, and all your male livestock, the first offspring from cattle and sheep."You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed. "You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest"
I am not sure why this verse came to me just now, but perhaps it is because of the way I feel. I am feeling as though all my work as been for naught, that my efforts have fallen short, and that I stand condemned before the Lord because of my failure to do His work, to go His way, to live according to His will. Yes, I am feeling convicted, and in that feeling, I am crushed. The Lord knows that I desire to follow after Him, that I long to be wherever He wants me to be, but lately, I have struggled to figure out where He wants me to go. You see, I want so much to follow Him, but when it comes right down to it, I struggled against His way. He calls me to walk on, to move, to go -- and I recoil because I feel like the way is blocked, the way is too hard, too difficult, or too impossible. I know that my perception is skewed, my view is limited, and what I see ahead of me is unclear. It is as if I am looking at Goliath right now, and when I look down, all I see is those five smooth stones. How, Lord? How can I go, move, live someplace else? How can leave all that I know to follow after you? How can I go now, right when I am needed here most? How can I look forward and even imagine the future being anything but difficult, impossible, and unattainable?

Doubt and Confusion

As I think about my feelings, about why I feel this way today, I am reminded of this story. If you recall, this story takes place shortly after the children of Israel rebelled in the wilderness, created the golden calf and worshiped it. Moses had been with the Lord on Mount Sinai, and was coming down to bring them the Tablets of the Law. When Moses saw what the people were doing, he threw the tablets down and broke them.

This story has significance for me because in it we read of the Lord's promise to the children of Israel, but also to Moses, with whom the Lord had special favor. Moses was commanded to lead the people, but the people were difficult, "stiffnecked" and he was afraid they wouldn't follow him. Moses spent a great deal of time with the Lord, sat in His presence, and experienced the "glory" of the Lord on numerous occasions, yet he still found it difficult at times to believe the words of the Lord, and go where the Lord was commanding him to go.

I know what that feels like too. I feel as though my relationship with the Lord is strong, it is good, and many times, I have experienced the glory of the Lord in marvelous and miraculous ways. Yet, I don't always believe Him. I don't always go where He tells me to go.

I was thinking about this today, specifically, because I believe that the Lord is calling me to go someplace that I don't really want to go. I have said that I would be willing and agreeable to going anywhere the Lord sent me, but in truth, I was only willing and agreeable up to a certain point. I was hoping the Lord would choose to send me someplace where I could go easily, where the path would be straightforward, and the work easy. Instead, the Lord has chosen to send me someplace dark, some place difficult, and someplace that is not perfect, good, or even desired. No, the Lord is choosing to send me to a place where He intends to use me, and that means, to a place where I am needed. This is difficult for me to write but I do understand what He is saying to me. It is this way...

I would like to go to a place of comfort, of goodness, and a place where I could be "at home" for the most part. I want to do good work, to enjoy life, and to live a comfortable lifestyle. I am not seeking riches or positions of privilege, no not at all. Instead, I am simply asking for a good place to work, a nice environment, and a good pay check. The rest doesn't really matter to me so long as I am cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I say this just because as I have gotten older, I struggle with extremes in temperature. I am cold almost all the time so being in a very hot climate like Phoenix takes its toll on my physically. Living in a super cold place like I did as a child, scares me. I worry that I cannot handle the heat or the cold. How can I live then?

Today, I was praying and the Lord made it clear to me that the time was coming for me to go. Once again, as I have done so many times before, I balked at the thought of "going." I mean, I really do want to go, I really do want to be obedient to the Lord. It is just that the very thought of going scares me so. I wish I weren't alone in this, but the Lord has called me to walk on alone, and that scares me too. I don't know how I will make ends meet. I don't know how I will get hired teaching at a different University. I don't know how I will find a house, make such a major move, and resettle myself again. What's more is the fact that I don't know how I will leave my elderly parents or my son. I know the Lord will care for them, but the thought of picking up and going some place where they are not, well, it really scares me.

Hearkening back to the story from Exodus, I am reminded of the words of the Lord. No one is to appear before the Lord empty handed, without a redemption sacrifice (according to the Law of the Covenant). My hands are empty, yet I stand before the Lord with nothing to offer to Him but myself. I can do nothing in my own strength, and I cannot go forward on my own. I am not able to do this work, not at all. Yet, inside me there is a small quiet voice that says to me "I will do it, I will go for you, I will help you." Praise be to God, I know that my hands are empty, but His are not. He is able to do anything, small or mighty, so long as He determines it to be so. Therefore, all the doubt and confusion I feel is just the recognition that I am unable to do this work, to do this level of work. It is too high, too hard, and too heavy for me to do. It is at these times when I confess with Paul, "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me."

Furthermore, we read in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

My weakness, my flesh is failing. My hands are empty, and I am struggling to hold on. I remember that when I am at my lowest point, then I am 100% dependent upon Him for His grace and mercy. I can not do what He is asking me to do. I cannot go. I cannot live. I cannot work. I can do nothing in my flesh that will please, honor, or bring Him glory. What's more, at this point in time, I can do nothing at all -- physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally -- because I am spent, literally spent.  I am at the point where for me to go, I must rely upon Him for everything, every need, every requirement, every resource. I am unable to produce any good thing, no outcome, no product, nothing. Yet, the Lord is able to do all things through me so long as I am willing and agreeable to allow Him to do it.

So today, I think about my empty hands, and I realize that what the Lord is asking me to do is mighty, it is BIG, and it requires BOLD FAITH. I can do it, but not in my own strength, by my own will or even shear determination. I can only do it by laying my life down as a living sacrifice, by giving up everything I long for, desire, and want in order to sacrifice all these things for His name and praise.

Dear Lord,

I have struggled again to understand what you are doing in my life. I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot stay in Phoenix for much longer, and that you will be opening a door for me to walk through soon. This door is going to take me to a place of darkness, of great need, and in that way, I will be facilitating your work and serving others in the Name of Christ. As I think about the timing, the days and weeks as your plan for my life unfolds, I realize that I must start to let go of the things I am holding onto most tightly, namely my life here in Phoenix, my parents and their health needs, and the care of my precious son. As I let these things go, my dearest and most tender possessions, I am becoming ready to move, to go, and to follow after you. I ask now Lord that you go before me and prepare the place of your choosing. Open up the door you have chosen for me, and give me grace with employers, realtors, and others as I seek to move to a place I have never been before. I need so many things, so much money to go, but I know that you will provide exactly what is needed. I trust you, Lord, and I rest today in your sufficiency because you are God, and you are so very GOOD! I ask all this now in Jesus' Name! Amen. Selah (pause and calmly think about it!)

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