Singled Out in Prayer

Over the month of July I was out of town almost every weekend, traveling for birthdays, weddings and concerts. While it was fun for the summer, it also removed me from my home church most Sundays. If I am honest, it was also a bit of a breather as I have been in some major wrestling on the state of the Baptist church as a whole and specifically the Southern Baptist church which I have been a part of for most of my adult years (and all of my childhood).¬†That’s at least a chapter in my second book for sure-how to wrestle in the Southern Baptist ring.

Last Sunday found my first weekend home in what felt like ages, so part of me was looking forward to being back at church and the other part was really just hoping to sleep in. The wrestling of my inner dialogue that many have on a Sunday morning hit full force but I made myself get my butt to a seat in our church plant service. I glance at the bulletin to see what Scripture we’ll be reading and see it’s the Armor of God in Ephesians…

WOOHOO! I missed the entire chapter plus on marriage!” was my initial thought. But then our pastor does the ole switcharoo. Preaching off script on marriage instead. The weekend prior I was at a wedding. The weekend before I was celebrating another birthday being single. Needless to say, my head and heart wanted to get up and walk out. My emotions were closing off and crossing my arms, thinking “well this won’t apply to me, should’ve stayed in my pajamas with coffee.”

This also fell after a conversation earlier in the week where it felt as though I was being single-shamed because I didn’t have a husband and kids to keep me busy and therefore could take on something. (For transparency’s sake, this wasn’t at my job) It may not have been the intention of the individuals but we all need some self-awareness of our words, even¬†especially me.

So as I sat in the building God built, alongside brothers and sisters, I started having this conversation internally that I have to admit was Spirit influenced. God was being very direct that you know what, His Church isn’t me-centered, it’s Him-Centered.¬†As it should be. And what if me praying for the marriages in that room was what He needed from me today. It wasn’t what I could get from Him but what He was asking of me, obedience in what can seem such a meaningless thing in the work of God but what He wants of me. Not to be me-focused, seeking Jesus-and out of life, but what I can do to serve Him. Giving up more of me so I can be fully who He knows I can be.

What would it look like to pray for every marriage I am around, that I know of? To pray over friends’ and families’ marriages that they would be God-centered, building a covenant relationship around love and respect, Biblical submission and leadership, authority and mutuality. That they would be the relationships I see as God-honoring and desire after the good things in those, rather than the Hallmark-saturated romance we are often using for relationships. How would the church look then? How would our communities and workplaces look?

Having that change of ‘tude made me grateful I had gone to church last week, that I’d been in a sermon on marriage and that even at the end our pastor made it a point to say he knew there were single individuals present and for us to be in fervent prayer for future spouses as well, just as he’d directed the spouses present to pray for one another. It was a reminder that I may not have a future spouse but I can sure pray for each and every one of them I know, and for my single friends as well to have spouses of the same prayerful focus.

Accepting Obedience

I was not an obedient child, at least not instantaneously. Oh I would eventually do as I was told (mostly by my mom or sister, because I was a good kid to everyone else), but not without some fussing and fighting on it. There were tears, there were hurt feelings, there were defiant stances and stuck out lower lips. I was not one to go quietly, nor easily when it came to obedience.

I think the same holds true many times in my relationship with God. I will war and wrestle with Him on what He has asked me to do. After much struggling, and lessons learned I will go obediently about His business. As we study God’s Unfolding Story at church I was drawn into the small narrative of the Passover today.

I am familiar with the story, and the significance it has within the larger context of both the Jewish and Christian faiths alike. It is a ritual that reminds us of the captivity, bondage and saving grace of God. But I had missed parts of this story before as I dwelt in the meaning of the Passover within the confines of the story of Moses and the slaves.

Moses has just gotten Word directly from God. It’s a good word, but it’s also very specific in instruction. They are to go and bring a lamb into their home to slaughter. The blood is to be drained and then painted upon the doorposts and lintel of the home. This will save them from the destroying angel. They cannot leave their homes until morning. They were to share the story with their children, as they performed the ritual each year then. But nestled right after all these words is two sentences that have wrung me out…

So the people bowed down and worshiped. Then the Israelites went and did [this]; they did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.

After being given instructions to save their first born males, after being told specifically to paint in blood on their homes they accepted and submitted-worshiping God for His command. They fully accepted His word as truth, going forth in obedience and did. They didn’t argue, they didn’t wrestle with the decision, they didn’t try another way before giving in to that way as the answer.

\No, they are the picture of what God wants from us. When He speaks (and He does, we choose other things to hear many times) He desires for our hearts and minds to follow Him. That we would openly submit, worship, and obey. Until seeing that the Israelites worshiped in the midst of their obedience, I hadn’t thought of it being significant.

But it is y’all. Worshiping is submission and obedience too. It is giving God His glory back, pouring back our praise on Him for His goodness towards us, His love outpouring on us to guide us and lead us in every aspect of our lives. It’s saying we are lesser than, recognizing that He is greater….than any and every thing else. When we worship in our obedience, we are submitting to Him who we are and asking for Him to use us for whatever means and whatever ways.

When we accept obedience without pouting or fighting, we are praising Him for His sovereignty and goodness. We are faithfully obeying a God who will do whatever He needs to do in order to save us, and that to me is worth accepting and obeying all that He asks of me.