Even though I couldn’t fall asleep until almost midnight, this morning I opened my eyes at 4a and felt almost chipper. I got dressed and headed to the church for my morning p90x session with my ever faithful friend, Angie.
[Side note: today’s kempo workout (think Tae Bo on crack) only further solidified my belief that I would
a.) love boxing and
b.) possibly be good at it]
We finished up and I headed out in the thick, cold rain that had been coming down like a blanket since I woke up. I got some gas and a black coffee from McDonalds and headed to my Aunt Mary’s house to help her two grandkids, Riley and Alec, get off to school. I let myself in and the house was still dark, though I could hear the shower going in the master bedroom. Turning on Aunt Mary’s fake Amish fireplace, I settled in with my Bible and turned on the news at inaudible levels.
For some reason I turned to the second half of Daniel and started reading with the two flickering lights competing with one another to keep the thin pages of my leather bound book lit. I didn’t really have to turn the news on to know that health care had passed… I kind of just figured they would ramrod it through, given the way things have been going lately. No big surprise there.
Still I felt a part of my insides sink at the words repeating and repeating across the bottom of the screen. I sighed and turned the volume down a few more notches, not that I could hear it anyway.
I once lived with a beautiful girl named Brittany who taught me more than a thing or two about God. She could eat salsa all day and for awhile she had a beauty mark piercing and she would dramatically change her hair when a relationship ended. We would sit on our stoop and drink coffee and she’d write poetry and I’d pretend to do the same. It is safe to say I will never be a poet, but I loved to take in those evenings with her. Whereas I was the kind of person whose heart leapt at the thought of diagramming passages to unearth their meanings, she was the kind who could paint or write or play her guitar right into the presence of God. Among a great many things, she taught me that God speaks to us all in the way we can best hear Him.
Daniel was a dreamer. God gave him the ability to interpret dreams and He also spoke to him in dreams. The latter half of the book that bears his name is chalked full of dreams.
Now, when I dream, I mostly have random people showing up in random situations saying random things. If my dreams were blog posts, I would tag them with words like ‘bizarre’ or ‘random’ or ‘odd, but entertaining’. On the other end of the spectrum, my sister Beth always had dreams that were terrifying, disturbing, worrisome.
Daniel’s dreams were akin to Beth’s… only they were more than dreams, they were visions of things to come. He struggled to understand what was being revealed to him, but it was just out of his grasp. But he felt the weight of the visions… he became faint and sick at the thought of them.
And yet, Daniel rose from that sickness of heart and revealed the substance of his faith,
“And I set my face to the Lord God to seek Him in prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes…”
…and he goes on to pray with such conviction and humility, that I can hardly read his words without conviction piercing my own at times wobbly heart.
A Sunday or so ago we were reading in 2 Kings 4 about the Shunamite woman whose son became ill and died. This woman and her husband had been so faithful to Elisha, the prophet, that they built him a room off of their home, so he could stay with them on his travels. They were so faithful that Elisha asked what he could do for them, but they had means and didn’t need anything…. except a son, not that they asked for one. But it was made known to Elisha that this generous couple was childless and he prophesied over them that they would have a son and a year later, they did. And it was this promised son who fell ill and died.
The woman went to Elisha and though she didn’t tell him (at first) about her son, he could see in her that something was amiss. Elisha saw in her countenance and demeanor that though she was holding on to her faith, all was not (yet) well. And he said something that caught my attention,
“…and the man of God said, Let her alone, for her soul is bitter and vexed within her, and the Lord has hid it from me and not told me…”
In my notably horrible handwriting (be glad you aren’t reading these posts in written form, friends), at some point when reading the story, I had scrawled one single word at the end of that verse:
Elisha had the expectation that God would tell him things that were going on around him, especially to the people he ministered to and loved. It was out of the ordinary that the Lord wouldn’t have given him a head’s up about the Shunamite woman’s son and his illness and death. Otherwise, why mention it? If you don’t have the expectation that the Lord speaks to you and pricks your heart and gives you knowledge about situations you would never know on your own, why mention it? Wouldn’t the list be quite long of all the things God hadn’t told you?
In the middle of reading the last 3 or 4 chapters of Daniel this morning that’s where my thoughts lingered for some time.
Elisha expected God to give him marching orders and to open his eyes to the unseen. Daniel received dreams so real and true and unsearchable that he was left quivering, grappling to understand.
The first time Daniel is told that he is “greatly beloved” by God, the Ancient of Days, it is Gabriel who is doing the telling. Daniel finishes that desperate prayer and Gabriel comes to tell him that his prayers have been heard and that God wants to give him an understanding because he is “greatly beloved”. The little blue star I drew and circled in the margin next to those words reminds me how I long to hear that same thing. I ended up with lots of blue stars before the morning was over…After another dream in chapter 10, the angel again instructs Daniel to give him understanding, addressing him this way “O Daniel, you greatly beloved man”. Later on in the same chapter, after the next dream, the angel says to him “O greatly beloved man, fear not!” The angel says, (kate’s paraphrase) “don’t you know this is why I came to you?” and then a few words later he tells him, just in case he has missed it “I will tell you the hidden words of the Book of Truth”.
Daniel gets to peek into the mysteries unknown because God cherishes, regards, adores, favors him… he is beloved. And God wants him to get an understanding of what is going on around him and what is to come. Elisha expects God to pull back the curtain and let him gaze into the unseen spirit world so that he can minister effectively.
I stopped reading for a few moments to let it all sink in… I gazed up to see the ticker still marching along to the same dismal news. Everything in my head was floating around, trying to find a place to land when my Aunt Mary came into the living room. She told me the particulars about the kids’ lunch money and how to set up her dog, Gray, for the day. Then she stopped and watched the television. “They passed it? Are you kidding? Well, this isn’t going to be a good day at work,” she surmised. (She’s a nurse at the local hospital). I muttered something and shook my head, still thinking about Daniel and Elisha and whether or not I expect God to speak to me in that kind of way.
She left the room and my eyes flitted back to the page in front of me, landing on these words:
“…but only for a time [the period decreed by God]…”
and then these words:
“…for that which is determined by God shall be done…”
Nothing is lost on God. Nothing surprises Him. Nothing can come out of left field and leave Him scratching His head.
Once I heard an analogy that helped me immensely to grasp the idea of God being outside of time… simultaneously existing in the past, present and future. A person was standing in their backyard, over an ant hill, watching the ants carry bits of cracker and bread and other treasures from one side of the hill to the other. The person had one foot on either side of the hill; on either side of the path the ants were walking. And in that moment God spoke… their left foot was in the place the ants had been and their right foot was in the place the ants were going and standing over the busy ant epicenter this person was able to be in the ants past, present, and future.
God knows what has happened, what is happening in our now (since “now” is a time word He isn’t contained by), and He is well aware of what will happen. So we needn’t shake in our boots as long as we stay connected to Him…the one who knows.
I don’t really care if God tells me what is going to happen in our country in terms of politics or health care or war, though I care about all of those things. If He gave me visions like those He sent to Daniel, then I would expect their to be a reason, a person to impact or a truth to herald. But I do want to expect Him to tell me what I need to know to be an effective minister whatever situations He leads me into. In John 16, we believers are reminded that part of following Jesus means that the Spirit will take from hidden things from God and reveal them to us.
We live in uncertain times and maybe you felt that today. I want to encourage you to think of yourself as an ambassador for Christ in this time you were born into. Don’t fear, don’t fret, don’t wring your hands. God accomplishes the things He has declared in advance. However we get there, the whole earth is groaning with longing as she moves toward her intended end. Like giving birth, the pains you go through no one would wish for, but they pale and fade into nothingness when you hold that newborn in your arms. However, torturous it was, it was worth it. It might be soon and it might be far– no man knows and it is a waste of time to try to figure it out because it really doesn’t matter when. What matters is that we keep our eyes on the prize… the coming of Jesus, when we will either be taken up to meet Him or raised from the grave to be with Him…when we will be WITH HIM FOREVER. The ‘how’ matters so much less than that ‘what’.
I want to leave you with a few verses that are lifting my spirit this evening…
“…but the people who know their God shall prove themselves strong and shall stand firm and do exploits [for God]…
…It will be a [test] to refine, to purify, and to make those among (God’s people) white, even to the time of the end, because it is yet for the time (God ) appointed…
…And the teachers and those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness (to uprightness and right standing with God) shall give forth light like the stars forever and ever…”
No matter what is to come, we want to be those stars that shine forever, those who have been purified and refined by what has come our way, we want to be those who have been shown strong and firm and effective for the Kingdom of God.
And we cannot do it if we are not hearing from the Spirit the things He wants to disclose to us. Let us be a people who reject stagnant religion in exchange for relationship with a God who longs to speak to His beloved. Let us be a people who hear from God… who EXPECT to hear from Him…. lest we just move on, unknowingly, in our own paths and ideas and opinions…
EXPECT him, friends.