Thursday, May 15, 2008

Still Working On The Fruit Thing ...

"Pray all the time. If necessary, use words."
--Max Lucado

I often have several books that I'm reading all at once. Sometimes I'll just dip into a book and find that I've got another one more pressing on my heart at that time. so I'll set the one aside until it calls to me again, and in the meantime I read the one with the louder voice. I still haven't finished "I Dare You" with Joyce Meyer, but I did end up rechecking it, and it sits in my room, though at the moment it is quiet, awaiting its turn to be opened again. The past few days, I've been working my way through "When God Whispers Your Name" by Max Lucado. Like most of his writing, it's pretty good, and like most of his writing, it speaks to me.

I've loved all of what I've read so far, though it's a little different from his style from what I'm used to, but from what I've read, this little short quote stands out to me. The quote above. It sticks out because it makes real the idea that you can pray without words. The idea that you don't have to actually speak to be speaking to God. The idea that since He knows my heart, my every thought to Him or about Him can be heard by Him and qualifies as prayer.

It means that every "Father-help-me" and "Thanks-for-allowing-me-another-day-even-though-I-really-blew-it-yesterday" and "Please-remember-to-give-the-breath-of-life-to-my-daughter-today" is heard. It means that all the silent thoughts of my heart become like prayer, just short of becoming action in the eyes of my Lord.

It means that all my impure thoughts, all the silent cursing (and all the loud cursing), the anger, the judgement, the occasional lust, the envy ... whether I can hide it from others or not, all of it is seen in the eyes of the Lord, because no thoughts are truly silent if they are uttered within a Christian soul, within a body that professes to house the Spirit of God.

Surely there are also kind thoughts in this heart of mine; love and loyalty and charity all reside within me. But lately I'm feeling a very real pressure to make myself more open to God's work in me, to try harder to heed His calls, to try harder simply to hear His calls. To take a harder look at myself and the ways I'm going wrong. The little places behind me where I can see the trampled grass from where I've stepped even temporarily off the path I walk with Jesus.

The places in my life where I've sinned. The places where I still am sinning. Being a Christian isn't about suddenly being perfect, it isn't about walking around and showing everyone how holy you are and what a clean and sinless disciple you can be. But as a Christian I am called to examine myself and my life, to try hard to become more Christ-like. To inspire others with my life and my actions to follow and serve the God that I serve. To trust in my salvation, and in the reality that is Jesus Christ.

And it's not like, "Okay, I'm a Christian now, life's going to be great and simple from here on out." Because it isn't. And it hasn't been." But He said it wouldn't be. It isn't about the world suddenly becoming perfect for me and everything going my way. Because the world isn't perfect, and things rarely go my way. I heard once that the best way to make God really laugh is to make your own plans. And honestly, I've found that to be true. I make plans, and God seems to smile and say, "Girl, you're kilin' me here! Stop with the jokes, hon! Don't you know I've already got plans for you?"

And that's okay. I know that God can see my life in a way totally different from the way I see it, because He can read the minds and hearts of all those in my life. Especially mine. I know that He had a plan for me, a plan and a life developed for me, especially for me. And that plan was hatched long before I was. But that's okay. And all the trials in my life are okay too, not easy, but okay. Maybe they are all lessons meant to bring me mentally to where God needs me so that He can use me more effectively.

Like Moses. He was born, he was hidden by his family so that they could keep him alive, only to have to eventually place him in the basket in the reeds and give him over to be a son of the Pharaoh's princess. They kept him alive only to lose him anyway. And what happened? He learned to be an Egyptian, not a Hebrew. He learned to think regally, he learned to be treated royally. He learned to fight with the best of the soldiers ... He also learned how to relate to those whom he would eventually be facing in battle. He learned the strengths, he most likely knew the weaknesses. He knew their language, their customs, their people.

And then he killed someone. That's right, Moses was a murderer. But God has a way of using people who are undeserving of his presence ... since all are unworthy. "All fall short of the Glory of God."

But God still had a plan, and didn't say to him, "You're a loser. And a criminal. How could I use you now?" No, he waited a while. Moses didn't think anyone had seen him when he murdered and hid the Egyptian who'd been beating a Hebrew slave. But someone did. Another Hebrew saw him, and the next day that Hebrew was fighting with another Hebrew when along came Moses.

"Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?" he asked.

And the man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?"

You know Moses must have been thinking, "Oh crap. Busted. Someone knows, someone saw ... Oh no! Does anyone else know? Is it getting around? Does everyone know how bad I messed up? What the heck am I gonna do now?"

So he fled. What Moses had done was getting around, people were finding out. Namely, the Pharaoh. So he fled. He ran away. Not just away from his crime, but from what had become his home, his people, his country. In those days, Moses was mighty, an Egyptian prince. But he ran.

Moses ran to Midian, saved some girl shepherds from some guy shepherds at the well, and was rewarded for his bravery by their father. The father gave Moses the oldest of the daughters ...
as his wife.

Through this wife and this part of his life, Moses learned the ways of his people. Traditionally, the Hebrew people before their time in slavery had been nomadic peoples, shepherds of their herds. It was the life they longed for, to be free again to wander and allow their herds to graze in wide and varied lands.

On the other hand, Moses turned into what he'd been raised to hate. A Hebrew. A shepherd. A lowly sheep herder. Get where this is going? He's learned to understand both ways of life, both peoples. And further, he's given a wife who then births a son. Now he's been a high Prince of Egypt, a lowly shepherd, a husband, and a father. Now tell me that there's a part of his story where he doesn't "get it". All of his life, this man had been enduring trials and hardships, none of which were entirely pleasant, but all of which led him to be the man that he became, and perfect in God's eyes for the job he'd been born for.

So it's like I said, God has a plan for all of us, and though our lives are often hard, it's all for a bigger better picture. I was raised shuttled back and forth between two cold homes, eventually placed in a children's group home, and then back to the shuffling. I would honestly have preferred by that point to stay in the group home, but that way not for me. My stepmother was violent and prone to mental breakdowns, my stepfather was often strung out, both on drugs and crime. One day he was playing "cops and robbers" with my older brother (who was in his early teens at the time) with bb guns in a mobile home ... and "accidentally" shot my brother in the eye. The eye is still there, and was somewhat repaired cosmetically ... but my brother is blind in that eye now. My mother is permanently ill because of things this man did to her. And I have dealt with much of her problems on my own, trying to counsel her and deal with her breakdowns.

I've been cheated, lied to, beaten, broken, and alone. I had to drop out of high school to pay bills because my mother wouldn't, I had to leave a husband that I no longer loved because of his drug problems, I have had at least one miscarried pregnancy. But without those lessons, without those tragedies, I wouldn't be who I am right now. I am being molded, I am being shaped, formed into the person my God created me to be.
And that's okay. Still have to work on it myself though, too. It's all not Him ... I get freedom of choice. I can choose to be useless to Him, I can ignore His calls, I can ignore His presence. Or I can be fruitful.

Here's what I think: A fruit-filled tree is much more beautiful than one that is barren, one without leaves and fruit. One without color, one without the scars of growth. I'd rather be scarred, I'd rather experience the growth of mind and spirit that makes me who I am. I'd rather be fruitful.

And for those of you out there who are still reading and yet are thinking that this whole idea is silly ... What if you're right? What if there is no God, what if Christ was just a man, a crazy man with a lot of delusions? What if there's no heaven, and Christianity is just a faith that frightened people cling to for comfort in today's cold world?

So what? In the end, I'll still have become a better person. Well-rounded, compassionate, kind and loving. Patient and caring. Whole.

But you ... what if you're wrong? What if there's more than this? What if you aren't working toward Him because you're afraid to look like a fool if you find out that he doesn't exist, that he died and never came back? What if you have to stand there before Him at the end, begging Him to have mercy on you, and He merely says to you, "Be gone from me. I don't know you."

Which chance would you rather take? Me, I'm through taking chances, I'm through worrying about it. I know exactly what my eternity will look like, and I'm happy in it. Fruitful, even.