Oftentimes, when we talk about something being a “miracle,” what we mean is an intervention or inbreaking that can only be attributed to God. His power is manifest in a special way, leaving us in awe — that He (still) moves and acts today. This incites worship and breathes new hope and a new awareness of God’s presence into our souls. Miracles scream: He is with us! He hasn’t left us!
But why exactly are we in awe that He moves and acts today? Have we unknowingly been influenced by a deistic worldview — believing that God has set everything into motion and then removed Himself from the loving care, protection, intervention, …. of His creation? Has this mindset falsely convinced us that answers to prayer are uncommon and that we’re actually the ones sustaining the world around us? That without our help, everything would fall to pieces?
My prayer — our prayers — have defined (and hoped for) this kind of miracle: an intervention, a change in course, that could only be attributed to the hand of God. We received what we have been asking for on Sunday with the relief in back pain — but perhaps God’s “miracles” are a little more “behind the scenes” than we’d care to admit. Sure, God loves to be the show off — He’s the only show off that actually has the credentials to back it up. But what if His daily boast is the slow, intimate, daily process of renewing His creation? None of us become a sage overnight. None of us become holy overnight. What if what we’re truly looking for in a “miracle” — God’s power and presence manifest in a special way — is here — and merely needs to be searched out?
What if God desires to accomplish the miracle through waiting, through hoping, through daily obedience, through the surrenduring of our allegiances?
And what if we’re missing the miracle through these means — leaving us disappointed that He hasn’t answered in the way we deem best?
What if the miraculous is happening beneath our noses, yet we’re conditioned to miss it?
What if, in our waiting for the kingdom to come in a big, showy way, the kingdom is actually coming; what if the coming of the kingdom in our lives is more like the Messiah coming in a manger than as a political King?
What if the kingdom is actually near — when we’re living as if it is still far off?
In this sense, we are seeing miracles work through our journey with chronic illness. At yesterday’s doctor’s appointment, she explained, in body chemistry terms (most of which I cannot understand) the effects of chronic stress, lack of sleep, anxiety…but also, set us up to allow God’s miracle to work — for the body to heal itself. That the body gives inescapable signals that we are running too hard is a true act of grace. That the body heals itself as we align with God’s intentions is unbelievably gracious.
Although we do “reap what we sow,” if the body is equipped to heal itself in MONTHS after YEARS of wear and tear — He is truly a God that waits for us to turn to Him — and is so patient in the waiting! So, we walk forward another step…expecting and believing in the miraculous presence and healing of our good and gracious Father.
I approached the seminary season with great hopes of having all of my questions answered. I ask a lot of questions…so much so that my husband calls me “The Riddler.” Much to my surprise, my questions would birth new questions, deeper questions…questions that have left me feeling as if the very foundation I am standing on is weak. Instead of the newfound confidence I craved, both for myself and for my ministry to others, I have been left with newfound insecurities. I feel like my marriage to Jesus has somehow reverted back to the awkward dating phase, “So…Jesus, tell me about your family. Your favorite color. How you grew up…” It is a bit frightening and I am left vulnerable; vulnerable to answers that I don’t expect, vulnerable to being wrong about something I was so confident in before…vulnerable.
Yet, how would Jesus define my foundation? Would he define it was “thinking rightly” about him? In the same way, how does my husband define the foundation of our marriage? Is it defined as knowing everything about him? Is there room to “rethink” things I thought I knew about him that end up being wrong?
In Matthew 7, Jesus speaks about our foundation, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
The variable in this story is the one who either does or does not do the words that he/she hears. Each one hears, yet the emphasis is not on “hearing rightly,” the emphasis is on the doing. I would argue that right hearing leads to right action, and is very important. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t subject myself to a grueling 3 year intensive study of the Scriptures. However, for the sake of today, Jesus equates the one possesses a strong foundation with the one that does the things that he/she hears.
If I equate my foundation with “right thinking,” I am certainly on shaky ground. This perceived vulnerability has led to a wall in my relationship with Jesus – “If I can’t be sure about you, Jesus, then why should I come to you at all? Why should I trust you, if I don’t even know if I’m trusting who you really are?” The one person I can rely on and put full trust in has made me with limitations in my knowledge. As a result, certain parts of him are veiled, beyond my reach. He has chosen to reveal himself in time to humans made from the dust, rather than in one moment of full clarity.
The reality is, my foundation in marriage and in relationship to Jesus is seen most clearly in covenant actions – first and foremost, actions or vows made on my behalf. The very foundation of Christianity is on the actions of God in history. Jesus not only “thought rightly” about me, but he chose certain actions: humbling himself and taking on the form of human flesh, resisting temptations and dying on my behalf. He certainly thought well, yet earned his “well done, good and faithful servant…not, “good argument” or “good analytics!,” but “well done” on the basis of his actions. Because he obeyed the greatest commandment to love God and love neighbor, he stood strong against the most destructive of storms: betrayal, shame and even death itself.
With Jesus as both my foundation and example of true humanity, I build on the foundation of love with which he loved me. Even in my wrong thinking, he loves me, and beckons me come. And because he loves me, I know love and am free to love. He is more concerned about my building on his unshakeable foundation of love – trusting him in the things I do see of him and loving my neighbor in the ways I ought – than my abstaining from love because I don’t fully know and can’t fully see. He waits for me to come, to hear, and to respond.
Raise your support in 100 days!
We came out of the training ready, expectant. The promise (ok, my heart twisted it into a promise) made me excited. “We’ll go through half of our savings and still feel like we’re “trusting God” while maintaining a position of control. Yes, Lord, I want my faith to grow! No, Lord, I don’t want to go “too far” with this test. Don’t lead me to the point of true surrender, the point where I don’t know where the next day’s manna is going to come from.” Maybe I wasn’t saying (or thinking) these words exactly, but it is where my heart was. It was exposed on day 1.
Right after David retired from the fire department, we got his “cash out” check and it was half of what we expected. He called and after hearing the department’s reasoning, he answered everything calmly with “Well, this is very disappointing…very disappointing…” Meanwhile, I was on the opposite couch and gauging from the conversation and his body language, I knew. I didn’t know whether to scream or cry. When he got off the phone, I was angry with him, that he wasn’t more mad on the phone (Christian wife A+). They needed to know how much this hurt us. They needed to know that our well-being, our very manna, was at stake. Or so I perceived. David responded calmly, “God knew this would happen, this is not a surprise to him.” Back to the drawing board – we would have to do this in shorter time than we thought.
Again, on day 100, I got angry and…scared. First, the anger. What started as a gentle nudge, “David, how many people have you called today? Who is your accountability partner?” turned into endless questions dominating my mind’s space. I couldn’t sleep. And for those of you that know me, I sleep. A lot. I was consumed. His answers, however incomplete, gave me some sense of control. “If he contacts 10 people every day, and 50% of those return his call, and 50% of those support us, we’ll be done in 2.5 months!” I couldn’t stop my heart’s own madness. I had never struggled with anxiety more than a fleeting thought, and here I was – drowning in it.
Then, the promise in the midst of the testing.
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Seek first the kingdom of God, don’t be primarily concerned with manna! Every time I was faced with a tempting thought to withhold generosity: to cancel our monthly charitable giving, to make the woman we were ministering to day and night pay for her own meals, to stay at our free apartment even though we didn’t have time to do the ministry that came with it…again, “Seek first…” echoed in my mind and heart. Give it up, give it all up for His kingdom. He will take care of you.
Lilies are my favorite flower. David has bought me Stargazer Lilies throughout our relationship, marking significant days such as our engagement, wedding and various birthdays and dates. They remind me of God’s creative and delicate hand forming and fashioning His creation in ways that reflect Him.
Little did I know, in placing a love for lilies in my heart, God has given me a promise for times such as this: a time of growing, stretching, trusting, seeing my need like never before. Lilies, in this season, are becoming a reminder of God’s faithfulness and care.
We are standing face to face with a decision that can easily provoke anxiety in the most courageous person. We are willingly giving up financial “security” (and a car, health insurance, etc. among other things) to follow Jesus. In the West, we hold tightly to the promises we think that money, a “secure” job, a career make to us. This master’s voice is seductive, but it is not trustworthy. After all, you cannot serve two masters: the Lord and money (Matt 6:24). But if I’m honest, money comforts me in times of trouble and helps me to sleep at night.
I’ll admit, it is scary. Now that the time has come to follow through with the decision, second-guessing comes naturally, but we both know that it is what we’re supposed to do to follow in the Lord’s footsteps. So, we will follow Him.
In Matthew 6, Jesus reveals the root of all anxiety: unbelief. He graciously gives many promises to strengthen the believer’s faith. Jesus could simply have said, “You fools, do you not get it by now?” but instead, he graciously approaches His followers by elaborately using promises and metaphors that pointed them back to His character. He knows that we are but dust, He knows that we need His reminders. This book is full of reminders.
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Soloman in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
John Piper adds, “Compared to the flowers of the field you are a much higher priority for God, because you will live forever and can thus bring him eternal praise. Nevertheless, God has such an overflow of creative energy and care, he lavishes it on flowers that last only a matter of days. So he will certainly take that same energy and creative skill and use it to care for his children who will last forever.”
So, we throw ourselves at the feet of a faithful, caring and powerful Master. One that doesn’t fail in His promises, one whose voice we can trust. The seduction of His voice lies in His proven faithfulness. We pray with confidence, knowing that our Master knows our needs and cares for us. We pray, More of You and less of me, Your will be done, be glorified, let us worship you.