Rock

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.  (John 2:24-25)

I have not been constant.

Looking back over the years, I’ve been a colour spectrum of paint-chip samples one might find at Home Hardware:  first, mutating in tone, then intensity, then shifting in shade altogether. I recall the tastes and attitudes and opinions of my youth – Rick Springfield, black eyeliner, pink everything, religion is for the odd and weak – a cold, clammy embarassment washes over me. Then onto the navel-gazing, over-introspection of my young adulthood. To think that I might have saved the world twice over had I more altruistically used those seemingly eternal days of the twenty-somethings…Then the thirties – a blurr with my new-found salvation and trying to be a Christ-follower but not having the faintest idea how to do it, a new marriage and child-bearing. In the flurry of activity, my life hid with Christ suffered, resulting in making many mistakes in my Christian walk, causing hurts not only to myself but also to others, and to God. I have no doubt that I presented as one of those at the Passover Feast in whom Jesus did not entrust Himself (John 2:23).

Now, having walked with the Lord for nearly 20 years,  I chance to say that I am no longer traveling through the kaleidoscope of life at break-neck speed. Although I continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, awakening to new and exciting revelations at a pace commensurate with the time I spend in His company, I believe I have come to a more stable place of character (not quite “cruise control”, but not the whiplash of my early, gear-shifting, engine -flooding attempts either!). Self-awareness is no longer a crapshoot of “how I feel” at a particular time and space; now, I have made a comfy home in the Word of God to which I might measure the soundness of my thoughts, attitudes and behaviours.

Now I also find myself in a place where I am forced to engage more with people in my evolving and broadening sphere of influence. I have found myself in situations where a kindness offered has been met with inexplicable cruelty or otherwise irrational responses. More and more, I find myself in fellowship with Jesus’ dilemma: how to love people while not fully entrusting them with my heart, my life. It is not an easy thing. Our tendency as human beings is to desire empathy and connection to our fellow sojourners.

But Jesus warns us not to put our lives in the hands of man. He did not entrust himself to them, and neither, I deduce, should I. Admittedly, this sounds cynical. Should I, then, go through life, not trusting a soul?

The NIV Bible says, “…Jesus would not entrust himself to them…”   The NKJV Bible uses the word, “commit”, but when I looked up the dictionary definition of this word, “to entrust” is used in the definition of that word, therefore I will base my understanding on the use of “entrust”. I do not position myself as a scholar in etymology, but I believe that the words “trust” and “entrust” carry two very distinct connotations. In the dictionary, “trust” is defined as “to place confidence in; to rely on, to confide or repose faith in.” The word, “entrust” is defined as “to trust to the care of”.  The word, “trust”, connotes, to me, a certain active will to place confidence in a person by sheer hope and faith.  On the other hand, the prefix “en” is taken from the Greek, “within” or “in”. The word, “entrust”, connotes an abandon of sorts, a relinquishing of personal control, to put one’s well-being entirely  into the care of another.

Jesus trusts me. He has chosen, by His perfect will, to put His confidence and faith in me, to hope for and to believe in the very best that (He knows) that I can be.  But He is no fool.  He knows that, by nature, I am weak. And when He was walking the earth in human form, He also knew that even His beloved disciples were not worthy to entrust Himself to. And on the night that He was betrayed, we see that he was spot-on in his assessment (Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-52, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:2-11).

Similarly, although I must believe the very best in people, hope in them, trust them and put my confidence in them as being made in God’s image, I must not entrust myself to them. The world is a fickle place, and so are the people in it. Our emotions, changing circumstances, our pains and hurts, our pride, can affect the way we react and interact with the world. I have seen it, time and again. People becoming embittered, cold and angry, even suicidal or violent, when the world does not stack up to what pretty pop songs and happy Hallmark one-liners have extolled it to be.

It is a hard truth to accept. But to deny it would leave us naked in a blistering icestorm.

But we can take heart. God is our Rock and our Saviour. The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me…Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever more (Hebrews 13:6, 8).   

May I trust man, and hope in him with all my heart, as Christ does towards me, and by doing so, may I pray for my fellow human being with the kind of compassion that only a Perfect God can inspire in me.

But may I only entrust myself to, abandon myself to, the One who loved me before the beginning of time.

I pray that as as the years pass and I come nearer to His throne in heaven, He will find me increasingly entrustworthy. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities…

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting…Bless the Lord, O my soul!

(Psalm 103: 1-3, 14-17)

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Ocean 

The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters.  And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (Genesis 7:17-23)

I have always been fascinated by the ocean. It’s strength. It’s depth. It’s unfathomable beauty.

I am both terrified and awed by it.

I wonder about the sea, the vast depths that, at the very deepest, is over 36,000 feet below sea-level. If Everest were planted at the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest part of the ocean yet measured by human beings found in the western Pacific – there would still be nearly 7,000 feet of water above its peak. Scientists estimate that only about 5% of the ocean’s seascape has been explored by human beings. That is a lot of unseen territory. But what we do know about the depths is pretty fantastic: lifeforms impervious to crushing pressure and total absence of sunlight, daily, violent volcano eruptions, deep-sea hotbeds that can reach temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, waterfalls as tall as 3.5 kilometres, and the existence of chemical substances that are yet to be understood, to name but a few. Humanity has vastly more knowledge and understanding of outerspace than they do of the myterious deep.

Recently on vacation in the north Pacific, I enjoyed watching my children frolick in the crashing waves that seemed to rough house them like a playful Saint Bernard. As a non-swimmer, I was extremely vigilant in keeping watch, shouting, “Closer, please,” whenever they inadvertently ventured further from the shoreline.  At times, they would stand up straight to reassure me by revealing the relative depth of the water. But I would not be fooled: I’ve heard of violent undertows and, by instinct, am wary of that which I do not understand. The vast mysteries of the powerful deep, although breathtaking in sensual beauty, can also be literally breath-taking.

My husband and son are captivated by sea lifeforms. Much of their time in the water was spent decked out in breathing aparatus that allowed them to spend long periods of time under water, chasing various species of fish and other wildlife. I watched them in amazement, rear-ends sticking up above the sea-surface in hot pursuit, oblivious to life above. Indeed, what lies beneath is wonder-ful.

As I re-read Genesis with my children last night, I came upon this verse, captioned above. I am seeing something that I have always read, but have never really taken note of before: God used the waters to destroy sinful humanity and the earth’s surface, defiled by man’s presence. But He did not destroy the creatures of the deep, only those that dwelt on land and those of the air. Why, exactly, is this such a revelation to me?

I am, once again, struck by two things:  the wonder of His Creation, and the inerrant truth of His Word that reveals, more and more, the realities of our physical world. The mysteries of the deep are no mystery at all when I contemplate the ways of the Almighty. When I ponder the lifeforms of the deep – an estimated one million species (although only about 230,000 have been observed), I marvel at how many of these might have existed since the day of Creation, never before seen by the human eye. I am amazed by their survivability, their indestructability. I wonder about God’s untenable instrument (the word used in the literal sense, not figurative sense, as in the French, “tenir” meaning “to hold”), singularly chosen for life and for destruction. I stand in awe of the power of the ocean, so acutely congruous to a mighty, unstoppable God.

By day’s end, I could stand it no longer. The refreshing draw of the glistening, salt-clean waters beckoned me. I jumped in. The surge of each wave lifted me up and threw me onto the sand like driftwood, entirely indifferent to my humanity. I had no control, could only succumb to the unspeakable force that could conceivably snap me in two like a twig. But as I realized that, this too, was the work of God, I suddenly became more at ease. I admired it, reveled at it. Respected it and revered it. Prayed for safety in it. Then, rejoiced in it.  Jesus commanded the waters to be calm (Matt 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25). Indeed, even in this, He is in control.

Alas, I laughed.  Laughed long and hard as this miracle of God bobbed and tossed me about, throwing me safely back to the warm shore almost as soon as it had dragged me out, like a child given momentary reprieve from a tickling onslaught. My children and a few of those around us watched me in wonder, suddenly transformed from overly-cautious safety marm to giggling peer.

All I can say is, it was wonderful.

He gathered the oceans into a single place;       He put the deep water into storehouses. Let all the world fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.   

(Psalm 33: 7-8)

Thank you, Lord God.

 

 

Speak

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”                                                             (Proverbs 18:21)

God created the world by speaking it into existence. (Genesis 1)

By speaking it forth, He healed people, forgave their sins, raised them from the dead.                   (Mark 2: 1-12, Luke 7:48, John 11:43)

I don’t know exactly how it works, but there is no denying that there is power in the spoken word. This is not just some silly superstition. It is evident throughout the Bible. Jesus, Himself, is called the Word (John 1:1). 

Countless verses in the Bible deal with the tongue. Countless. The tongue brings life and brings death. When in doubt, we are told to remain silent. Better silence than a tongue misused. (Proverbs 17:28)

The bad guy knows this. This is why his deadliest temptation of human beings comes by our tongue. Not lusts of the eyes or body.  But our tongue. Deadliest because it is an innocuous little muscle, employed unobtrusively in daily functions. The mole you would never suspect.

I have often wondered why, when I get angry or frustrated, a dam breaks inside of me and all I want to do is shout curses at the top of my lungs.

Bad drivers. Inconsiderate people. Difficult colleagues.  A fender-bender. A leak in the roof – again. Plain old meanies of life.  

All I need to do is open my mouth and…how easy it would be! Instant relief, right?

And I’m a rational person. A nice little Christian school teacher, mother of two who prays daily and has even taught Sunday school.  Yup. Confession time.

As if ugly words could fix the problem.

But they are not merely ugly words.The Bible makes it clear that the power that raised Jesus from the dead also lives in us, those who believe. (Romans 8:11, Ephesians 1:19-20)

This is not good news on a bad day.

The bad guy knows that spoken words are powerful. This is why the temptation is so great. Greater than other sins because our tongue is so easy to use! No “on” switches or login passwords. No locks or combinations. No messy physical evidence. Just let loose.

“If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.” (James 3:26)

There is nothing that makes me feel more ashamed or further away from God than when, out of one side of my mouth I have uttered fragrant prayers to My Lord, then with the other side of my mouth, I proceed to do bloody violence.

What good is it that we teach children in Sunday school, feed the poor, visit the orphans and widows if, with one strike of our tongue, we can bring sulfuric rain upon the earth, killing all that is in its path?

Our tongues make it so easy for the bad guy to pack it in and call it a day. God hates hypocrites, after all.

But there is a flipside, too.  The life-giving part.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

Indeed, it is easy to “know”, this little secret. We all know it. But will we use our “rudder” to bring ourselves and others to heaven or to hell?

I am too weak. Too given to sin. My body does what I don’t want it to do, and doesn’t do what I want.

But I have another secret weapon.  He Who is not too weak. Whose Word is Strong. Mighty. Awesome. Wonderful. Invincible.

And He lives in me.

When that dam threatens to break, I will shout it out at the top of my lungs:

“Lazarus, come forth!”  (John 11:43)

 

 

Seen

“Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'” (Genesis 16:13)

Oh to be Seen!  Known.

By someone who loves and cares for you.

At the start of every new semester at school, I make an effort to learn the names of all my students – eighty to ninety of them – on the first day of school. I make each one of them repeat their name every time I ask for it on day one, then I let my eyes rest on each one of them, mentally repeating their name, everytime I ask them a question.

At the end of the first class, I repeat all their names to them, even the more obscure ones of a different ethnicity. By day two, I can usually still remember at least 99% of them.

Imagine the look on their faces when I say hello to them in the halls by name throughout the first week!

I love it. The look on their faces. That look that says, “Wow – she knows my name!”

It is difficult to believe that the God of the Universe knows each of us by name. And not only that, but that we have His undivided attention. At every second of the day.  We are not merely His student. We are His child.

Hagar was an Egyptian slavegirl, given to Abram by his wife, Sarai, to conceive a child. I cannot imagine being told to marry someone who owned me, and then forced to have a child with a man who did not even love me. Add to that indignity being treated like a piece of trash afterwards, taken out to the curb – not just me, but my child as well.   It is too much to bear.

But God – the God of Love and Compassion –  sees Hagar in her despair. He first gives her practical advice for a pregant slave woman in her situation: go back to her mistress and submit.

In her gratitude, Hagar cries out, “You-Are-the-God-Who-SeesYou-Are-the-God-Who-Sees!”

I recall a time before I became a Christian, a time when words cannot describe the sense of loneliness and bewilderment I felt. I was a young person, far from home, struggling to understand who I was and whether there was a place for me in a fickle and often unkind world. 

I was sitting on my bed, eyes entirely blinded by tears, with my textbooks open in front of me, when I suddenly stopped. I heard a voice in my heart that said, “Just keep going.” And it was as if my vision cleared, right then and there, and a sense of hope was restored in my spirit. The words in my textbook suddenly made sense, and like Hagar, I submitted to the voice I heard in my heart. I knew that somewhere out there, Someone, cared about me.

I did as I heard. I kept going.

When Hagar later gives birth to a son, things get really rough. She is cast out by her masters, along with her child. Basically left for dead.

But she is not forgotten. The God who loves her, who has seen her, opens her eyes and she sees a well of water.

I have always wondered why God would show such love to Hagar – a non-Israelite. Not much else is said about her except “God was with the lad,” (Genesis 21:20), her son, presumably because he was Abram’s son also. As for Hagar, herself, who knows? Did she continue to nurture a relationship with God based on her encounter with Him, or did she go her own way, falling into sin without a Saviour?  I do not presume to fully understand God’s relationship to Gentiles before Christ, and my research is unclear.  What I do know is that God sees us – then and now.

I am so thankful that He saw me, alone in my room, in my affliction. He knew me, even when I did not know Him and wondered, like Hagar, “‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'”  But God continued to speak to me numerous times throughout those years, continually reminding me that He knew my name, until finally, I knew His.

My prayer, today, is for all people to know this. This exquisite knowledge:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17)

He knows me!