He is with us
I have been writing day and night, until the muscles in my back have frozen and my mind is numb. Often waking before three in the morning, torrents have streamed my mind, making it impossible to lie in the dark. Slipping from our bed, I’ve been driven past my quiet time straight to my computer, lest I lose what is fresh in my mind. The elusive strands of this week’s message are buried in more than 46 pages of text, from which only a few paragraphs will make the final cut. I feel like a painter putting his whole heart into his work, but having painting a thousand hallways, finds he has yet to begin the only room for which he’s been called.
Coffee in hand I resolutely take the steps to my cellar study, telling God that I’m not sure how long I can keep this up. “Something has to change! I can’t keep working this hard, chasing what’s eluding me. Please, Jesus. I need You to shorten up the process, helping me get there faster.”
This morning I don’t go straight to my computer. Instead I reach for a small book I have neglected for a long while . . . It is an old favorite, one of my devotionals written as if Jesus was speaking. I randomly open to this message:
“Demonstrate your trust in Me by sitting quietly in My Presence. Put aside all that is waiting to be done, and refuse to worry about anything. This sacred time together strengthens you and prepares you to face whatever the day will bring. By waiting with Me before you begin the day’s activities, you proclaim the reality of My living Presence. . . . draw near to Me. When you need to take action, I will guide you clearly through My spirit and My Word. The world is so complex and overstimulating that you can easily lose your sense of direction. Doing countless unnecessary activities will dissipate your energy. When you spend time with me, I restore your sense of direction. As you look to Me for guidance, I enable you to do less but accomplish more.” [i]
Bowing my head, I marvel at the clear correspondence between my prayer and this message. It is my Lord and God. He is telling me that I need to sit quietly in His presence, laying aside the work that needs to be done, in order to do less but accomplish more. I hear this. But even more, He is telling me what I cling to most—that He is here with me, The passage in my devotional mirrors back the prayer that has just flowed from my lips—so that He can tell me He knows, He hears, He sees exactly where I am and what I need.
This is what binds me to Him
Not creed or doctrine, but knowing
He Is with Me.
I cling to the moment, utterly awash with the conviction of His presence. Yet I seem utterly unable to render the faintest portrait of Him. No matter how hard I try, I cannot will His image to emerge upon the page.
For a fraction of a moment, I dimly wonder what He might want me to record there.
But just as quickly I turn my thoughts back to my reading, to the story of Hagar.
Curled in despair, utterly alone, Hagar is swallowed by an endless stretch of unforgiving wilderness. Her only comfort lies in the spring beside her crumpled form, as she weeps, one hand over her womb. Hagar has run away to escape the cruelty of her mistress. As her belly has swelled with child by Abraham, the Egyptian maid had begun to despise her mistress, lauding her pregnancy over the aging barren body of Sarai, Abraham’s wife. It was a mess, with no way to undo what was done. Broken to the point she could bear no more, Hagar has fled into the wilderness. But then, “The Angel of The Lord “ comes to her.
As He finishes speaking with her, Hagar knows beyond a doubt that It is God who has been with her. From the depths of her soul, she cries out her name for Him—The Living One who sees me. (Genesis 16:7-14) In the strength of what has passed between them, Hagar rises to return to the tents of Abraham, holding tight to the promise of her future and the destiny of the one in her womb. She is transformed by her realization that the living God actually sees her and cares for her.
She is utterly bound to Him,
Not by creed or doctrine, but in knowing
He Is with Her.
Twice this morning, He has given me this same message. First there was my immediate personal experience of God mirroring my prayer with the answering devotional. And now Hagar’s story reiterates the same experience of God coming to show her that He is with her . . . that He sees, cares and knows.
My heart beats faster as I realize the correspondence between these two events.
I‘ve agonized over the portrait I would paint of Jesus, not able to settle on what aspect of Him to choose. But He is gently taking the brush from my hand and with a few deft strokes shows me what He wants me to record—He is with us.
Having Cheapened The Truth
For many years in my research and writing about the Divine Dialogue I felt the tingle of gooseflesh running down my spine at a string of coincidences defying chance. My delight was in the private speculation that a chance meeting was meant to be, in the quiet certitude that there were specific turning points in our lives, when God’s hand was on our shoulder…. I understood that in moments of raw beauty or pain we glimpse truth we never forget. Such glimmers have permeated the life of every man, in every culture, through all time. Experiences like these comprise the Divine Dialogue unfolding gently in our lives. They belong to the mystery summoning each of us to a pilgrimage that is meant to bring us from where we are to where we are meant to be.
But for many years, in my exhilaration and fascination, I failed to see Him.
I fondled the glove, but barely acknowledged the hand.
For so long I cheapened The Truth.
In my early twenties I began to notice the uncanny match between my inner thoughts and the affirmations or challenges that came back to me through happenstance. Seemingly unrelated events would often collude to tell me the same thing. It was exciting, and I recognized that this was God. I realized that He was drawing me, teaching me how to be with Him by listening to and interacting with what He was speaking into my life. I would think a question, and the answer would come…and I recognized it. It became a dialogue. It became a way of being with Him, as He began to reveal Himself to me.
He was with me even then
Long before I was a believer, there was the day I was running through Woolworths and stopped dead in my tracks to gaze at a wall of college banners, where one dark blue felt triangle emblazoned with 4 white letters seized my attention. And then that night at dinner, my Dad asked a question that made my heart lurch, “Valerie, I’ve given you a month to do some college research. What schools should we schedule a visit to?“
I had not done one second of college research, and Daddy had already carved out the weekend he wanted to make the trip. Knowing how he was going to respond to my ingratitude and procrastination, dinner was turning ominous.
Suddenly that blue banner with the 4 white block letters sprang to mind. “Duke, Daddy. I’m thinking of Duke!” From there I could reel off a few facts, and the next thing I knew I was interviewing on the campus, and soon after that opening my early admission acceptance. I saw the glove, but I did not know or love the hand.
One night the week before I left for college, I was packing my trunks, sorting though my past life, trying to determine what would go with me into the new. Feeling exhausted, I gave up for the night, turned off the light, fell into bed, and a short time later was dreaming. The dream was so real that it caused me to wake up with my heart pounding. I tried to still my heart, but even then, wide-awake, the boy’s face I had seen in my dream was fixed before my eyes. I finally fell back to sleep, and oddly, did not even remember the dream in the morning.
Two weeks later, having just finished one of my first classes on West Campus, I pushed the door open to leave the sociology building headed for the main quad. As the door softly thudded behind me, a long shaft of sunlight slanted through the huge trees onto the green grass. My stomach plummeted. My dream instantaneously came back to me. It had begun with that same thud of a door closing behind me and this same shaft of sunlight slanting down through trees onto grass. With every step I took I knew exactly what was coming next. When I turned left onto the sidewalk I came to a macadam road and stepped across it. As I stood in the crowd of people milling around me, the bus pulled up on my left, just like in my dream. And then I felt someone looking at me hard from over my right shoulder, just as in the dream. I thought I was going to faint. I was afraid to look. But I remember thinking that I was going to somehow mess with destiny if I didn’t turn to look. Turning slowly I met the even gaze of the boy I had seen in my dream. . . standing just as I had seen him. . . holding his books against his hip as he grinned broadly at me.
Fleeing , I leapt into the waiting bus that would take me back to my dorm on East Campus. That boy would become the love of my life and the father of my children, but of course I didn’t know that then.
God was teaching me about Himself—that He engineers the circumstances of our life, in even so minute a detail as a blue felt college banner seizing our attention in a drugstore. He wanted me to see that He is afoot in the unseen current threading the remarkable series of occurrences that suggest a plan and purpose moving beneath the surface of our circumstances. But I didn’t understand that He was teaching me about Himself. I didn’t care enough to put it together back then.
I saw the glove, but I did not love or know the hand.
I AM The One Who was always there. . .
Do not make the mistake of thinking that God gave me that dream because I am special or gifted or more spiritual. I am not. He gave me that dream because He knew that I was going to be highly challenged in marriage, by my off-the-chart emotional immaturity. And it was important to Him that I grow up, get healed, working my way through to the place He had in mind for me. Bill was a rock against whom I flailed for years. And during that time, that dream served as a sentry watching over me. Every time I wanted to flee and run away because it was too painful, the dream would remind me that I was messing with my destiny. I knew God had given me that dream as a sign, and that signs are to be obeyed. And so I stayed.
FINALLY the day came when I looked beyond the glove and loved the hand.
It was no longer the dream that stood as a sentry over me, but Jesus. It was no longer a sign that I obeyed, but my Lord and healer asking me to put His will before my own. It was no longer an unseen current threading a remarkable series of circumstances, but the dreams my Lord had been dreaming for me from before the foundation of earth. I began to love the hand when I realized that it was always Jesus.
What binds me to Him is no creed or doctrine, but
Knowing He Is with me.
[i] Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, TN, 2004; p 252.