1) My God is bigger than I am. (Yep, simple enough.)
2) My God knows me inside & out, deeply & intimately; the humbly noble & the raw, sin-slain humanity.
3) My God loves me inside & out, deeply & intimately – anyway.
4) My God is able to craft victory out of brokenness, arise glorious out of discouragement & defeat.
5) My God is always whispering my name & searching my face for acknowledgement. He knows the smallest details of my life & is always at work for my good.
You just never know about the decisions you make every day, & how they’ll affect the people within your “sphere of influence”: family, friends, complete strangers. It’s a curious, awesome, sometimes overwhelming concept. If I think about it too long, I could sink under the weighty realization that my choices affect all the people in my life…& sometimes my choices aren’t very noble (just ask my children when I’ve had too little sleep & they’ve had too much sugar!).
Oh, I try. I try really hard. But ultimately I don’t have answers & sometimes even my best efforts fall woefully short. Before we get too slogged-in by negativity: my ill-considered actions, impulsive shrieks of frustration (think sleep/sugar scenario), or even more broadly - the consequences of our collective choices last Nov. 4th (it’s tempting to veer off course here, but – believe it or not – this post is not political); before we get too sidetracked, back to the complete-stranger/sphere-of-influence thing…
A few of you know that lately I’ve become a Pilates fiend. For years I’ve been a runner, but in recent months I was in need of a more corporate & interpersonal type of activity (where someone besides me is pushing me), thus, Pilates classes @ the Y. So, this week my Monday morning class was getting started. I spoke to my new friends, laid out my mat & was ready to go. Face value would tell anyone around me that I’m cheerful, happy & motivated; & by-&-large I am. But like anyone, there are burdens that I carry, & on that particular day, those were weighing especially heavy on my heart. (What does this have to do with consequences of daily choices? I’m so glad you asked. Please stay with me, we’re getting there…) So, in class this adorable young woman was positioned directly in front of me. There are probably 40 people total, & she’s within arm’s length, in my direct line of sight. I look up & hear God’s voice with my eyes. The back of her shirt was printed with these words,
“…but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” 2 Chron. 32:8
She didn’t know she was going to be God’s perfect encouragement, but for an entire hour, over & over I took in God’s message to me. Later, I looked up 2 Chronicles 32, & the thrust of it really began to take hold. The jist of the broader passage is King Hezekiah’s bold encouragement to his men facing overwhelming odds in battle. Hezekiah said to his men,
“Be strong & courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged…for there is greater power with us…with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles. And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.” 2 Chron. 32: 7-8
In the end, they were confident, not because of who they were, but because of whose power sustained them & whose strength would fight for them.
Reflecting on the lovely young woman, I am deeply grateful for her wardrobe selection on Monday. That small choice gave me more encouragement than she would ever guess. And out of that encouragement, God is growing a deeper confidence in His Providence. Listen. I'll tell you what I hear Him saying to me:
“Be encouraged, dear one! I am with you, & I will fight any battle for you. Have hope sweet one, because I am strength! And take heart, because I use you, too, to bring light to others, just like I did through that precious young woman! In the mean time, you just be strong & courageous, relax in my strength…leave the rest of the battle to Me.”
See? God knows I need to hear His voice. And as Prince of my life, He knows just how to help me keep my chin up. He knows just what to say, & just the way I need to hear it.
So, do our choices have consequences? Absolutely, whether we know of them or not. The big ones do, of course; but even the small ones like getting enough sleep, or even which shirt we pull over our head in the morning.
Because I’m learning #1 above, I know that God sees farther, deeper & wider than I could ever dream. Because I believe #2 & #3, I know that #4 & #5 are a sure thing. God is always whispering our name & searching our face for acknowledgement. There are times like Monday, that I actually hear & He catches a glimmer of recognition in my eye. I think maybe that delights Him.
As for all the other, I hope against hope that the stinky things I do or say (willful or ignorant) can be blotted out completely. Barring that miracle, I trust that ultimately those flaws will somehow be woven into a humble tapestry of forgiveness, bringing texture & contrast, instead of damage or pain. I trust that in the fullness of time this will be true. In the mean time, I'm going forward with renewed courage, hopeful that the more I learn & listen, the more I'll walk out into life wearing the right shirt.