Community, James, and Doubts

For the last six weeks I have spent Monday nights with a group of women, talking and getting to really know one another. Let’s just end any similarities to the Bachelor/ette viewing parties right there. Because I was in fact, not at one of those, but spending much needed time in community with women in the Word of God.

Y’all. Can I confess here? I was apprehensive about going. It was a study of James (I had just finished studying it on my own with SheReadsTruth) and it meant adjusting my calendar on Mondays. This is coming from a woman who used to lead a small group, reads multiple faith-based books a month, and writes a devotion for her church. CMON. This should have been right up my basic, white Christian girl alley.

I have been hurt in female groups before and will be again, especially within the church because we. are. human. We are post-fall, culture living, sin-struggling humans. Every single one of us. Including me. But that lie that community will only harm was what had me questioning stepping into the room full of women. Who love Jesus. Who want to study God’s Word.

Just like me.

Little did any of those women know that for the prior eight to ten months my heart and prayer had been for women who yearned for the word of God. To study and be present with one another digging into what God was speaking in His Word to them and through them. The reminders that He still works and moves. He is active among those who seek Him.

19732017_10154738616990963_1382455788602163614_nSo last Monday night, as we wrapped up five weeks of gut-checking study, of sharing and being open with women I held in deep respect and those I never met before, I stood and shared that exact thing. I pointed back to the very first chapter of James where he urges us beyond just hearing the Word, but doing the Word. Doing means stepping out when it might cost me something, when it will cost me something. My self. That pride. That ego. That self that tends to lead me in the opposite way of His Word and into doubt and fear. That leads me into less community and more separation.

It was community right there in that room that showed me exactly what the prayers answered can look like. Prayers of months, of a heart desiring women to gather and dig in to His Word, for them to desire it and step into it, when I was skeptical myself. When I doubted He’d be able to do a thing. It was Him at work, when I felt it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t wanted.

Sometimes your answer to prayer means you are the doer…facing the doubt and lies on something so insignificant in many ways, but something so eternally impactful when stepped into. Because when we are only hearing the word for ourselves, we live in that deception of our own voice, our ego, our sin-soaked selves telling us no one else wants it so why desire it, pursue it, mention it? Why choose to change your schedule and pick a bit of discomfort in order to gain so much more?

Because He is so much more.

Considering the Pursuit

During Lent I have been studying Isaiah along with thousands of women across the globe with SheReadsTruth. (I highly recommend them, HeReadsTruth and KidsReathTruth as well y’all) To be honest, Isaiah isn’t all that uplifting and hopeful of a book. In fact it’s chocked full of judgment and discipline on God’s own people.

Yowza…not what I was planning for when I set out in Lent.

I mean yes, there’s valleys full of armies coming for God’s chosen, promises of their captivity and judgment strewn across page after page of Isaiah. But God has a way of showing up in some pretty beautiful ways in the midst of our own plotting and destruction, our own demises we’ve brought on ourselves doesn’t He?

It’s hard to see the beauty of God when we are facing the ugliness of battle, the destruction of selves and lives based upon our own pursuit of other things. When we attempt to rescue ourselves, we find hope and faith are only in what we can accomplish, what we can strengthen in our own might. Even in Isaiah’s prophecy here in chapter 22 you can spot God trying to point them back to Him, to see the error of their own ways and call to mind His pursuit of His people once more.

You saw that there were many breaches in the walls of the city of David. You collected water from the lower pool. You counted the houses of Jerusalem so that you could tear them down to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the walls or the water of the ancient pool, but you did not look to the one who made it, or consider the one who created it long ago.” (Isaiah 22:9-11, CSB)

We miss His creation, what He does and how He works when we pursue rescue on our own terms, in our own means, by our own strength and through our own wills. We miss HIM in the midst of pursuing after lesser things as He pursues us. Our flesh likes to tell us we can make it by in our ways, and then just give God the consideration of our plan. But we miss it all when we don’t consider the pursuit He is undertaking for us. For our hearts, minds, wills and ultimately us.

He desires us, we are His. And yet we find ourselves making weapons of war when He attempts to discipline us. We scurry to build walls upon the things in which He created and set forth long ago. We look to our hands to be our rescue and do not see the Creator reflected in them, instead we see ourselves and our means of saving. We don’t see the nail scars, but our own scars of our flesh.

While the words of Isaiah are hard to swallow, and truly reminding me of the current status of a nation, I am finding God is woven deeply into his words…the beauty of God pursuing us even in the hard, even in discipline and judgment, in order to bring us back. To remind us of Him and Who He is to us and for us and in us.

Thus I am reminded of these words from Tobymac, that ring so true in context of Isaiah, even in the difficult and hard of discipline…

My heart did all that it could to undue me,

but You loved me enough to pursue me.

 

Lingering

“And while he lingered…”

Those words jumped out at me this morning, in the midst of a study on the women of the Bible with She Reads Truth. (I highly recommend this study for any woman or girl seeking to dig into the inner workings of God and women in the Bible. You can jump in today even)

This phrase came out of the 19th chapter of Genesis as I was reading about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, more specifically looking at the situation from Lot’s wife’s perspective. If you aren’t paying attention you miss it in verse 16, but there it is. Lot was lingering as the messenger angels were telling him of the awaiting destruction of his city. They would be the only family spared, thanks to Abraham’s pleading with God, and yet he tarried about the home.

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As much as I would like to think I would sprint out of my home should the angels of God tell me He was unloading His wrath upon the city I was in, I have to admit I would probably be right there with Lot. Lingering, tarrying, frantically looking about my home. A year ago this week I became a home owner, and as I look back on this first year I see a sense of pride building in my home. The memories that are being created, the community in which it is nestled. You worry about unreasonable things as a homeowner that you just didn’t do when you leased or rented a place. That also means you fix the things you’d normally call the super to manage.

About a month ago I discovered a leaky seal on the toilet in my master bathroom. I was determined that I could solve this issue without calling in a plumber. So after consulting my dad (who is a master at fixing almost anything and where I get my need to fix stuff from) and a plumber’s YouTube channel (because hi, it’s me) I got the seal repaired and the leak stopped. I have done minor things around my home, but I still take pride in it, in how it looks and the opportunities it provides to open up the doors for others.

Having lingered a bit too long in Genesis this morning though, I see where that can reach a dangerous point. God has been generous in the provision of this home in my life. But if I am putting more value into it rather than Him, I lose sight of the purpose of the blessing. I linger in the things rather than in the presence of Him. I grow attached to things rather than the Maker. It’s a slippery slope and one I find I have to be wary of even in the best of moments.

Yes I can build a home, one that is welcoming and full of joy. But let me not linger in it and the things it holds. Because these are all temporary-no matter what fondness or memory they hold-in comparison to what He is doing in and through me. Let’s not linger in the stuff today, and instead take hold of the hand that reaches out in mercy to bring us to safety.