(Currently Eating: A Hershey’s 1/2 pound milk chocolate bar )
Is anybody else amazed that June is almost over? I can’t believe it. That means I basically have a month before I leave. In case you’re wondering what that picture with the building and sunglasses is at the top of my blog, it’s a ticker of days til I leave for Canada. The text is black, but if you highlight it, you should be able to make it out at least a little…
I like it when God answers my questions. Well, I guess I should qualify that. Sometimes I don’t, because sometimes what He says is a little scary or unpleasant. Other times, like last night, it comes as a relief. Either way, though, I know it’s always for my good. And I would much rather Him say something–even if it’s unpleasant–than nothing at all.
I’ve been muddling my way through some spiritual issues lately. I may be the only one who ponders this stuff, but somehow I doubt it. Here is my issue: Mary vs. Martha, yet again. Except in the spiritual realm. See, this is the first summer in 3 years that I haven’t been gone on a mission trip. That’s been a pretty big deal to try to cope with. I find myself feeling pretty useless spiritually, being home in such an environment where my ministry abilities aren’t really…for lack of a better word, needed on a regular basis (with the exception of work). And there’s also the issue of spiritual growth. Because I’m in an environment where I don’t feel as needed to minister, I also don’t feel as pressed to be on top of my game as far as growth is concerned. Compared to being in a non-Bible belt residence (remember work is excluded from this) where I see such blatant need and where ministry just kind of naturally flows out of me…well, it’s quite a difference.
I am not happy with the difference.
Especially in the area of growth. As far as need is concerned, I kind of expected to not be doing much this summer. To restate something a friend once said, when you’re in an area where there’s a high concentration of lights, one more isn’t going to make much difference. It all just kind of blends together. It’s when light–even if it’s just one–goes to the darkness that you notice a definite difference.
With growth, though, I expected that because I wasn’t going to be really busy with ministry, I’d be Spiritual Superwoman and really hone in on growing and preparing my heart for the next phase. Surely I would pore over Scripture and be immersed in prayer and have a holy glow around me all the days of summer, right? Bring Moses’ veil back in style? Yeah, I’m being a little extravagant to be funny. But shockingly (haha) my plan to whip myself into top notch spiritual shape wasn’t working. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do a 180 away from God or anything. I still prayed and read and everything. But not exactly at the Billy Graham level (or maybe since I’ll shortly be going Canadian I should say at the Henry Blackaby level…either way, you get the idea) I was originally aspiring toward.
I always set out with good intentions, and then the day got going, and those intentions got buried until the end of the day, when I looked back over the day and they resurfaced as guilt. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m sure some of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about.
One day last week I prayed about it. I told God that I needed Him to revamp my faith. Generally speaking, the way I see it, it doesn’t exactly take tons of faith to live at home…with a loving family…knowing you’re provided for…with a church down the street…you get the idea. In Canada things will not come so easily, so I figure if I’m going into hard core circumstances, I need a hard core faith to match. None of this fluffy, cutesy stuff.
What did God say? That faith is not an object to be grasped, but a gift to be received.
This was nice (in a fortune cookie kind of way), but it didn’t really help me. Was God saying that it was okay for me to be a lazy bum spiritually? That didn’t seem right. I shouldn’t be growing profoundly in spiritual matters as I watch a Boy Meets World rerun. Even I know enough to know that’s not how it works. Yes, God sometimes teaches us at the moments we’re least expecting or least worthy, but there are some parameters. But then, on the other hand, dubbing myself my own taskmaster and driving myself to read, pray, write, and meditate didn’t seem much like receiving a gift. It seemed a lot more like storming the Bastille to take the gift, and we all know we can’t force God to give us anything. This was my dilemma–how do you walk the line between the two and not compromise either principle? I guess if you’re wanting to view it scripturally I was debating the issue of faith versus works, except from a spiritual growth standpoint.
Well, last night I had a long prayer time and prayed about it again. And with one statement, God cleared it up immensely for me: “Petition Me, not yourself.”
It’s an amazing thought. The meeting point of faith and works in spiritual growth. See, we don’t have the power solely within ourselves to create real change in our hearts. So pretty much all our strenuous efforts to have an enviable “record” in prayer, Bible reading, and the like are in vain. At least, if we’re the force pushing ourselves to do it all. Because real change can only come from God. And, on the flip side, we can have all the good intentions in the world, but if the rubber never meets the road, we’ll never go anywhere. Refusing to even attempt to meet God halfway shows a complacent heart that may not really be desiring to know God more anyway.
Here’s how these 2 sides meet. If we want to change, to know God more, anything like that, we take it to Him. This way, it is left with the One Who can bring about change, AND we are not sitting passively, because we are concerned enough to pray and take it to Him. We’re asking Him to do what He does best–change hearts. If I want more faith, I need to recognize that I can’t get it myself, and ask God to grow the kind of faith in me that I’ll need. If somebody’s having trouble getting into his/her Bible reading, that person needs to pray and ask God to rekindle a love of His written word.
A.W. Tozer has a cool thought in one of his books that basically says, “God never runs out of anything. He is never even slightly depleted of anything.” I’d never really thought about that before, but it’s true. Whether you ask to borrow $15 or $150 from me, either way I will be at least a little depleted. I’ll have to save to replace the money I’ve lost. Whether we ask to borrow $20 or $200 trillion from God, it’s as if we didn’t take anything at all. That’s amazing. Whether it be “please help me make it home safely” or “please provide for my upcoming needs–make something out of nothing,” or anything and everything in between. Either way, He has the means to do it just as easiliy. No wonder the Bible says, “Cast all your cares upon Him.”
So, whether you’re praying about a specific situation or you’re just wanting to grow closer to God, here’s my advice. Don’t petition yourself (the Bible also says “don’t worry about anything”–worry is another form of us petitioning ourselves); however, don’t hesitate to petition God. I bet He’d much rather you do that, anyway.
Hey, maybe I am growing this summer after all.