Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wanting God

Last Friday, I blogged about waiting on God and how in teaching us patience, God teaches us to desire Him (Isaiah 26:8-9, "...O, Lord, have we waited for you.  The desire of our soul is for Your name.").  I have since thought more about this idea of, "wanting" God.  It kind of surprised me to find that God teaches us to desire Him while He teaches us patience.  I guess it makes sense--when we're waiting on Him for something(s), we seek Him harder or look to Him for help, which causes us to then learn to need Him and thus, want Him more.  Shamefully, I don't always feel that I "want" God.  I want a lot of things--a marriage that lasts til death, a financially sound retirement, personal health and fitness, an end to radical Islam, healthy grandchildren, a part-time music career, world peace, an end to world hunger, anyone but Obama for president, my family to all come to know Christ, etc.  We ask God for lots of things we need and want.   But I don't often say, "I want You, God."  If you asked me if I want God, I'd tell you, "Yes."  But it isn't something I say to God often or think about regularly, as I should.  I think of that old worship song, "As the Deer," that is based on Scripture from Psalms 42:1 and sings, "As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after Thee."  I used to sing that song all the time in my former church and with my students in the Christian school in which I taught.  If we mean what we sing, we are saying, "We want You, God." I also think of Psalms 23:1, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  That is like saying, "With the Lord as my Guide and Protector, I need nothing else.  I have everything I want and need."  That is a pretty huge statement made by David.  He was obviously at a point in his life where he could definitely say, "I want God."

This idea of God teaching us to "want" Him got me thinking about how God says He is a jealous God.  We talked in Sunday School several months ago that if jealousy is a sin, how can God, Who is perfect and sinless, be jealous?  In Exodus 20:4-5, in the list of the 10 Commandments, God states, "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God."  Here we see contextually, that God is exhibiting "righteous" jealousy--He is jealous when it comes to us worshiping other idols or false gods (i.e., gods that are concocted by ONE person--I won't mention any specifics here, but you get my drift.  God's Word clearly states in Romans 1:18-20 that He has made Himself known to everyone and that "no one is without excuse" for not believing Him to be the one true God).  Our Sunday School teacher explained this notion of "sinless or righteous jealousy" by likening it to and describing the kind of jealousy we have in marriage.  If our spouse cheats on us, we have a righteous jealousy--in this instance, Biblically speaking, we are exhibiting the sinless kind of jealousy.  It is a righteous indignation, and God says we are entitled to feel this kind of jealousy.  This is similar to His kind of jealousy.  Just as we don't want our spouse cheating on us and defiling the marriage, neither does God want us "cheating" on Him in our relationship with Him. We are to serve and worship only Him.  It  makes perfect sense when we view it this way.  Obviously, God is not playing the role of the "green-eyed monster" with His jealousy (which is, sinful jealousy that is self-serving and desiring of things that aren't warranted).  His jealousy is warranted and it is there to protect our relationship with Him. He desires us just as He wants us to desire Him--just like a marriage covenant should be.

This idea of "wanting God" brings a rather lengthy, but monumental story to my mind and heart. When I was teaching second grade in a Christian school 16 years ago, I had the fun policy of eating a special lunch in the classroom with each student on their birthday (or their half-birthday if their birthday fell in the summer months).  On this particular day, the students got to have a private lunch with just me, and I always brought something very special for lunch to share with them.  The kids looked so forward to this, as did I.  The conversations I had with them each, one-on-one, were really a hoot and so special to me.  As a teacher, you're usually so busy working with all the kids at once that there really isn't a lot of time to share individually with each student.  This was a great way for me to have some special time to get to know each kiddo and in many cases, see them in new ways.

I recall one of those birthday lunches very vividly--in fact, I know I will never forget it. I was having the worst morning ever.  My husband and I had gone to our Bible study fellowship group the night prior, and a conversation had come up in our study group that rocked me to my core.  One of our group's members began sharing how she didn't know sometimes if God was even real and went into great details as to why she had serious doubts.  Her arguments were valid--and she delivered them in a tearful account providing much evidence as to why she had these doubts.  Now I am not trying to slander her for sharing her real feelings and thoughts--if we can't raise those questions and feelings in a Bible study or in church where can we?  Those are places where truth-seeking should be occurring safely and regularly.  But the things she said were horribly disturbing and they shook me severely.  I left the Bible study that night very upset.  I cried all the way home and I remember Matt trying to calm me down and deflect the things she had said with as much Biblical truth as he could.  But I went to bed that night doubting God for the first time in my entire life.  I felt alone, scared, betrayed, and as if my life had no meaning whatsoever.  For some odd reason, I was hit with these lies and doubts at a weak moment, and they were believable to me.

The next morning was just awful.  I hardly slept the night prior.  Awaking at the crack of dawn to prepare to go teach Christian children about a God I now doubted was just the most awful feeling.  I felt like a total fraud, all the while feeling betrayed that I'd been duped as a child myself.  I remember standing in my bathroom looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, "Here you go to waste your time telling kids a bunch of whimsical crap."  I also recall styling my darling little girl's hair for school that morning (she attended the same school in which I was teaching at the time), and thinking, "If there's no God, then when I die I will never see Allie again."  I felt I was on the verge of a serious mental collapse.  These were thoughts I had never had prior, and they were absolutely mind-warping.  It was the lowest point I had ever experienced in my walk with God.  I was empty and I was sinking.

I somehow managed to pull myself together and get to work.  My stomach hurt so badly all morning that I felt seriously ill.  I plugged away with my, "business as usual" attitude, as best as I could, but I told the Lord many times that morning, "You have to show Yourself to me.  I am dying here. I cannot do this job if You aren't even real."  I offered up many pleadings that morning to Him--and I mean many.  The thing about teaching kids is you have to be on your "A-game" at every moment.  You don't fool kids.  They are so pure and intuitive--they can read you like a book.  So I prayed all morning off and on just to be able to stand before those kids and resemble some dignity and normalcy.  I now find it ironic that I was praying to and deriving strength from a God Whom I was doubting at the same time--almost funny, actually.

So I had a birthday lunch on this particular day with a special little girl, Lindsey.  I recall thinking, "Lord, I cannot sit in this classroom for 30 minutes with this child when I am on the verge of a serious breakdown.  Please help me be genuinely joyful for her."  Soon the rest of the class went to lunch.  Lindsey and I prepared the table for her special lunch, small-talking about her birthday plans with her family for that evening.  As we sat down to eat, she posed a serious question to me about something she'd seen on TV the night prior.  It was about the Jon Benet` story--Lindsey had heard the media raving about how this little girl's parents were being implicated in her murder, and she was rocked by it.  She told me the details of what she had heard and I could tell she was fighting back tears.  This innocent, precious girl was horrified by the notion that parents could harm their own child.  It terrified her and rocked her little world (and boy, was I in tune with those emotions at this moment).  I found it rather interesting that both Lindsey and I were struggling mentally that day, and I don't think it was by chance.  So her question to me was, "Mrs. T., why would anyone's mom and dad kill them?  They said on the news that it was for money."  I said, "Oh, honey, they don't know for sure yet that this is what really happened.  If those people did that, then they are really evil people and God will get them."  I went on to explain that this is a rare thing and she can just pray to God about it and let Him handle it.  I told her I didn't want her to think about it anymore, and reminded her how God tells us to think about things that are good and lovely (Phil. 4:8). I also reminded her how we had talked in class devotions recently about money being, "the root of all evil," (1Tim. 6:10), and how people do all kinds of horrible things when they don't have God and they want money more than God.  This seemed to make sense to her and I could visibly see the fear melting away from her sweet innocence.   She seemed to be feeling much better about the whole thing, and it did my heart good to be able to help (it took my mind off how I was feeling)!  Then she randomly says, "Mrs. T., I don't want money.  I just want God," and she smiled this little smile with the face of an angel.  She proceeds to go back to eating her lunch and at that moment, I felt God say to me, "And you think I'm not real.  I'm sitting right here in this child across from you."  At that moment, my eyes began to fill with tears and I faked needing to go to the office for something really quickly so that Lindsey would not see me starting to lose it.  I slipped outside the door and got my composure, praising God that He had shown up for me.  He was so faithful to me in that moment to not make me wait any longer for His presence.  He knew I was on the edge of something really bad, and He came for me that day in a second grade classroom.  He came in the face and heart of a child.  I am sure He did it more for those kids than for me--what an ineffective teacher I would have been for the remainder of the year in a Christian school doubting the existence of God!  God shows up when it is of dire, utmost importance.  He is so faithful it blows me away at times.

The coolest part of this story is that Lindsey and I experienced a real bonding at this birthday lunch after my, "ah ha" moment.  I came back in the room quickly and apologized for slipping out.  I told her that I had really appreciated what she said about wanting God.  I told her that she was right on target to want only God.  She then blew me away asking, "Mrs. T., how can I ask Jesus in my heart?"  So long story short, we talked at length, ended up praying the sinner's prayer together that day, and Lindsey asked Christ to come into her life on her birthday.  She is now a 23-year old, beautiful Christian woman, who is living an amazing life for God. I am honored and "pleased as punch" to have been a part of the start of that--and what a hoot that it came out of a birthday lunch where I was sinking in my faith.  God blessed me with the chance to lead someone to faith in Him on the day when I was doubting mine. God makes no mistakes.

In retrospect, I know God used this horrid night of doubt to spur me to seek Him and the truths of Him harder.  I discovered that I needed to KNOW God and His TRUTH in the fullest--not just accept what I'd been taught most of my life.  My belief needed to be based on the fact that God had showed up for me that day, as well as, on truths that I had sought and found for myself.  I needed to never again be duped into thinking that my Lord wasn't real.  I began studying other faiths, as well as my own, in order to be better able to disprove other faiths and stand on my own, without ever again doubting or mistrusting my Lord or the truth of my faith.  It was truly a life-changing moment for me. I've posted about this on my Google profile briefly, but the book that most changed my life during this quest for truth about my faith was, The Case for Christ, by Lee Stroebel.  You can buy this book "used" for less than fifty cents on Amazon.com.  Trust me, it isn't an "easy-breezy read," but it will be the best two quarters you ever pay for coming to know the truth of Christ.  It is written by a former atheist who went on a serious mission to find out the truth of who Christ really was and the whole, "Christianity thing."  You can trust the author's resources (I checked many of them out for myself, and you can do the same easily).  He is trustworthy, honest, and real, and God bless him for it.  Lee Stroebel worked like a dog to find God, and God showed up.  God is more than pleased when we really seek Him.  He knows our hearts and minds, and whether we truly want Him or not.

The thing I think about the most from this incident in my life is, "How in the world do people get out of bed every day who don't know God or believe in Him?"  I did that one morning, and it was almost unbearable.  I've never felt so meaningless and alone in all my life.  I felt as if life was purposeless and like I'd bought into the biggest lie ever told.  No wonder I see so many miserable people in a given day--you smile at them and they look at you like you're nuts. It is also no wonder so many people struggle with addictions, too.  If I lived every day thinking, "this is all there is,"  I'd be numbing myself regularly, too.  It makes perfect sense to me now why people behave the way they do.  Without God, life is sheer misery--I know, I've been there.  If you've never had a "God-moment," start praying for one.  Pray hard and pursue Him.  I guarantee you that God will eventually show up if you persist and truly WANT Him--and you'll never be the same.  He wants us to want Him, and the best part is, He wants and pursues us, too.