Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Update: Wrestling

I'm not going to talk much about last week.  It was disappointing on so many levels.  I wasted a lot of time and energy on stupid stuff that doesn't really matter.  I could have used that time and energy for things that built up God's Kingdom instead of bulding up my own. That's all I have to say about that.

But church was very good today.  I almost didn't go.  I was having some wardrobe malfunctions (have you ever had an epic battle with a zipper?  I have.  Me-1, Zipper-0!).  I was running horribly late.  But every time I thought, "I might as well just go back to sleep," I had this inkling that Satan was trying to keep me from going to church today.  I'm not sure if that's the case (though I really have to wonder if there's ever a time when Satan doesn't want to discourage people from going to church--if it's a God-honoring, Christ-centered church and not just a glorified social club).  But I defeated the zipper and made it to church twenty minutes late.

We're going through 2 Kings right now in Sunday School Adult Bible Study, and today we talked about Elisha and different ways God provided for different people.  One of the women we talked about was wealthy, respected, and generous, but she had no children.  Elisha prophesied that she would have a son.  The woman's reaction revealed that she was afraid to even hope for this--which leads me to believe she had hoped for it for quite some time.  She desperately wanted children, but she had been hoping for so long that she had come to the point where she was afraid to hope anymore. 

I understand this.  I think my apathy is centered around this idea of being afraid to hope.

The thing is, this woman did have a child.  And a few years later, the child died.  The woman's reaction was pretty remarkable.  She put the boy's body in a closed room, and without telling anyone what had happened, she immediately made preparations to journey to Elisha.  She acted as if all was well.  When she was coming near, Elisha sent a servant to meet her, but she remained calm until she actually reached Elisha's side.  Only after coming to Elisha did she show her desperation, her need.  Elisha sent his servant to the boy, but the woman would not leave Elisha's side.  She knew that her child had not been given to her just to be taken away again, and she knew that Elisha was the man of God who would bring her son back to her.

When her child was only a promise, she was afraid to hope.  After her child had been given to her, she fought for him...because she knew there was a reason he had been promised. 

While studying this, I was reminded of Abraham and Isaac.  God had promised this child.  Then God commanded Abraham to sacrifice the promised child.  Abraham obeyed, believing that God would provide in one way or another.  He believed that if Isaac died, God would be able to bring him back to life.  Because God had made the promise that Isaac would be the first of Abraham's many, many, many, many (etc. etc. etc.) descendants.

I'm sensitive to stories about promised children because, while I've never been promised children at all, I have wanted to be a mom for many years now.  It's not happened.  It might never happen.  And if it doesn't, I'm okay with that.  I have a lot of borrowed children, so I'm good.  In a weird way, God has given me a lot of kids, just like I asked Him.  So it's okay.  Better than okay.  I have far more than I deserve.

But there are things that I desire besides children.  I don't know if I can really say that I have been promised these things.  God has never sent me a lightning bolt or shining angel to tell me that one day I'll be a published author.  But I can't help but believe that He's given me my passions and gifts for writing for a reason--or for many reasons.  I can't help but believe that He's given me the stories that live in my brain (some of which even live on paper).  It's not a promise, really, but it's a hope.

Lately...I think I've gotten tired or fearful of hoping. 

A lot of good little Christians probably don't like the fact that I think that it's a good thing to wrestle with God sometimes.  I really like the story in Genesis of Jacob wrestling with the angel.  Scripture says that Jacob wrestled with God and man and overcame.  But do I think for one minute that Jacob, a mere man, could overcome God?  Well, there's only one way that could ever be possible, and that's if God let him win.  God could strike Jacob down in a heartbeat, with just a thought.  He didn't have to wrench Jacob's hip out of place in a feeble attempt to make Jacob release Him.  He could have wiped Jacob out with no effort at all.  But there was something God was doing in the midst of that wrestling match.  And I think it showed a lot about Jacob's character that he held out and held on for that blessing. 

Jacob was a deceiver, a grasper.  He hadn't rightfully earned anything he'd gained.  He still had the nerve to wrestle with God and say, "I'm not letting go until you bless me." 

Now, if we didn't know what happened, the good little Christian would probably assume that God would react to Jacob's audacity with lots of good ol' fashioned smiting.  But God didn't smite Jacob.  God blessed Jacob. 

Why?  Why would God grant Jacob what he wanted?  I think the answer is pretty simple.  Jacob had faith.  Just like Abraham had faith.  And that faith was credited to him as righteousness.

And while we all need to surrender to God, I truly believe there are times when God calls us to wrestle with Him.  There are times when all we have is a faint, frail hope.  In these times, it's easy to get discouraged and just stop trying.  But it takes far more faith to hold on to that hope, holding on to God, wrestling while waiting for that blessing.

I'm at this place now.  Well, I've been here for a while.  I've been waiting and working for some things, but I've gotten to that place where I'm just so afraid to hope.  I'm so afraid of getting my hopes crushed, so I don't want to risk believing.  But the Lord has reminded me...again (I need lots of reminders)...that He is faithful.  And I need to be more like that woman who knew everything was going to be all right, even when all hope seemed lost.  She rushed to Elisha, wouldn't leave his side, until she had what she believed she was meant to have.  Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved child, knowing God would not go back on His promise.  Jacob had the faith and boldness to actually wrestle with the God, demanding a blessing, though he had no natural right to it.

And I need to get back to the point where I'm working towards my goals.  I need to get back to the point where I'm working as if I actually believe I'm going to have what I believe I'm meant to have.  I need to wrestle with God as strongly as I wrestled with that blasted zipper this morning.  God's made me stubborn for a reason, and I need to rediscover that stubbornness.  I need to audaciously wrestle with God, holding on to Him until I get my blessing.

...and I really don't have to fear hope, because the truth of the matter is, His hold on me is even stronger.

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