Construction on our home had begun, and our builder could be counted on to show up at the lot first thing every morning. Checking the clock, knowing that Rick was probably there, I dashed out the door hoping to catch him before he left. Rick was cool in those days—a bit distant, professional and polite—far different than later when we became friends. It was the beginning of a new project, and he was very serious about keeping costs in line with his projection, but we were already running into serious difficulty. As his crew worked to put in the foundation, blasting rock and excavating tons of rocky fill, Rick was not able to find a place to dump it. And the farther out from Atlanta he looked, the more the truck time would inflate his cost.
As we stood together on the lot that morning going over his concern, a word washed over me, “tell him you are going to pray that I will show him the place to take the fill.”
Rick was explaining how the need for fill was always cycling—sometimes people would pay you for it, and sometimes you couldn’t pay anyone enough to take it. We seemed to be in one of those times when no one wanted fill.
Working to get up my nerve, I swallowed hard, “Rick, I feel like I’m supposed to tell you that I’m going to pray that God will show you the place to take our fill.”
Rick couldn’t help it. The poor man rolled his eyes before he could catch himself. Awkward! Compressing his lips to keep himself from saying anything more he nodded slightly before excusing himself . . . but the look on his face said it all, “Oh, no, she’s one of those.”
Living only two doors away from our construction, I noticed the constant truck traffic coming and going over the next few days. That Friday evening, Rick dropped by to update Bill and me on our week’s progress. After running through a litany of details, and never mentioning the fill, I asked him how that had worked out.
“Oh, yeah. I was driving in on South Cobb Drive approaching the perimeter, thinking about your fill, when I suddenly remembered a buddy of mine who builds tennis courts. I had his number, and called him. Turned out he was sitting in his office less than a mile from where I was, and told me to come on over, so that I could check out the chasm right behind his building, where he just happened to need a lot of fill. And, what’s really lucky for you guys, it’s less than 10 minutes from here, which saved us a ton in truck time.”
“Rick!” I couldn’t help bursting out. “That was the answer to my prayer! Remember when I told you that I felt like God was telling me to tell you that I was going to pray that He show you where to take the fill?”
Without missing a beat, Rick coolly responded, “Yeah, sure, if you really believe that God cares about your fill.” The sudden chill put a hard stop to anything more I might have wanted to say.
* * *
It wasn’t about the fill. The God that Scripture describes was trying to connect with Rick—the same God who walked with Enoch, who warned Noah, who made Abraham His friend, who called Moses, who made and fulfilled His personal promises to David, who held Saul sternly accountable for choosing religion over Him, who spoke through His Prophets declaring beforehand what He went on to fulfill, who flashed as blinding light upon His chief persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, so that Saul—like all of them—would know Who He Is. It was not about the fill, but something infinitely more precious.
God had orchestrated mirroring events
to help Rick better estimate [i] Who He Is and what He is like.
He wanted to infuse confidence into Rick that no problem was too small for Him to be involved. He wanted to breathe bright awe into Rick’s soul as he began to realize that he had been led by the Spirit of God, as He had thought His thoughts through his own. This was the reason God told me to tell Rick ahead of time, that I would pray about the fill. He was bending down and scooping up the ordinary everyday-ness of rocky fill with no place to go—breathing into it—then throwing it upon the air to fall as light, bathing Rick with the evidence of Who He Is.
But an eclipse took place instead.
The light was shining, but Rick’s entrenched opinion contrary to the truth functioned like a dark orb eclipsing The One he was meant-to-see. Rick’s perception (the ground upon which the light was falling) could not receive the light God was sending. The eclipse created a zone of darkness that not only kept Rick from seeing the blatantly obvious, but it created an air of superiority that arrogantly scoffed at what it did not know. [ii]
More than a thousand heartbreaking times since, I’ve witnessed the same eclipse in myself or someone else, when a deep-seated prejudice or wrong judgment has kept us from seeing what is really taking place.
We would be wise to rethink our mantra, “perception is reality”.
Rick’s perception (the ground upon which the light was falling) failed him where the darkness kept him from seeing events as what they were. Reality was shining down on him, but his preconceived ideas kept him from that reality. The ground of our perception is like the retina of our eye—it determines how we see. But where a foreign body comes between our retina and the light, we will not see. Reality is not what we perceive it to be, but what God sees it to be.
What we believe directly affects our ability to perceive God.
Many millions deny the existence of ultimate truth, never suspecting how their denial is eclipsing Ultimate Truth from them. It is said that we create our own reality—and paradoxically we do—but the reality we create for ourselves is only and always the inverted darkness of a truth denied, of defiance believing what it will, no matter how much evidence comes to plead the case from the other side. And that darkness always smacks faintly of hell.
In the battle for our minds the stakes are high. And as any of us know from real life experience, when someone digs their heels in, no amount of reasoning is going to make a dent in their entrenched defense. An eclipse formidably blocks every direct attempt to reason with it. But in the battle for our minds, God has a way of getting around the entrenched defense of our eclipse.
God will make an end-run around our strongest defense
when He is fighting for our mind, against the eclipse of our heart.
David, the shepherd king of Israel was a man after God’s own heart—but even he reveals the scary lengths to which we will go, the depths to which we will sink in order to protect our entrenched position against “any threat” that comes to reveal “the wrongness of our reasoning.”
David had no idea of the eclipse taking place in him, causing him to walk in darkness, though those closest to him saw it and mourned. Yes, he felt the pain and fear that might have prompted him to choose another way, but he had long since rationalized the unfolding of events—making it deadly for any evidence that might incriminate him.
Nathan Rebukes David
Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb, which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”
Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!
2 Sam 12:1-10, NASU
The Lord had anointed David king over Israel giving him houses and wives, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah along with all their treasure. But David had despised the Word of the Lord, and in the darkness of that eclipse did not recognize how wrong it was to take the wife, the only lamb of his servant Uriah. And when Bathsheba found she was pregnant, and his contempt for the Word of the Lord was being threatened by the light of exposure, David’s darkness was such that he did not hesitate to have Uriah struck down by a sword.
In the darkness cast by David’s eclipse trouble was breeding, which would plague him for the rest of his life, his family, and his kingdom. For David’s sake, for the sake of everything God wanted to protect, He had to get David to see the dark orb of contempt that had taken its position in David’s heart.
God makes an end-run around our defense, when He comes at the issue not directly but from a place where our defenses are down. He creates a story to arouse our righteous indignation—so that we fully align with Him in our sympathy about something wrong—and then He whispers to the wrongdoer, “It is you.”
David was treacherous, yet he is called a man after God’s own heart—because he faced his treachery honestly. And his heart’s cry after that was for God to show him his hidden faults, to reveal whatever wrong attitude was gaining ascendency, to keep him from another eclipse in his heart. He wrote in the Psalms:
No one can see his own errors; deliver me, Lord, from hidden faults! (Psalm 19:12)
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. (Ps 51:6-11)
David dreaded more than anything that eclipse that would keep him from being able to experience the presence of God’s Spirit.
When we least expect it,
God will make an end-run around the ignorance
that is causing an eclipse in our heart.
There was a small stretch of time when Bill and I first retired to Montana, when he became emotionally distant and preoccupied. I felt shut out and shut down, lonely for his companionship. Finally, when I had all that I could take, the drama queen took over—stomping to the closet for my backpack, I crammed it with my books, threw them over my shoulder, and slammed the door taking off for the woods alone. As I hiked up the narrow dirt road to the clearing, I complained bitterly to God, out loud, about how poor a companion Bill was being to me. Finally reaching the brow of the mountain above our home, the trees cleared and the sky opened up. Sweaty and slightly out of breath I hauled my backpack up onto the huge welcoming rock, from which I could see forever down the valley between the Swan and Mission ranges. I grew limp with gratitude for the wide-open space whose beauty begged to be embraced. Opening my devotional, a soft breeze ruffled the page.
“HOLD MY HAND, and walk joyously with Me through this day. Together we will savor the pleasures and endure the difficulties it brings. Be on the lookout for everything I have prepared for you: stunning scenery, bracing winds of adventure, cozy nooks for resting when you are weary, and much more. I am your Guide, as well as your constant Companion. . . [iii]
It was an end run, where my defenses were down, and He was making a point. Oh, dear! I got the correspondences—the stunning scenery, the wind, the cozy nook, and that one word I had cried out loud with an ache in my heart the whole way up the mountain—Companion. My frustrated longing for Bill to be more of a Companion was a picture of what I hadn’t seen, on the other side my ignorance.
In my ache for a better companion, I could understand that He wanted to be that Companion to me.
A bitter dark orb had been gathering for days, as I increasingly blamed Bill for the pain I felt on the receiving end of his emotional distance and preoccupation. But in that terrible moment my rasher of ill will melted away, as I heard the whisper, “It’s you.” I suddenly realized God had been on the receiving end of the same from me. But His response was nothing like my own—no bitterness. He was using a text that asked me to just hold His hand and walk joyously with Him through that day.
I took His hand, in the wordless intimacy of sharing the same pain—that pain that comes when you realize you hold a low priority in the life of one you love. He experiences it every day. I felt no sorrow or guilt or shame—just His pleasure in making an end run, sweeping past the strong defense of my eclipse, so that He could score, helping me see what my ignorance had kept from me.
A strange little verse in Colossians describes filling up the suffering of Christ. (Col 1:24) In part, I think I do this, in the wordless intimacy of taking His hand, knowing that the pain I am enduring is a small but manageable picture of His own. There is nothing that I have ever had to suffer, that He has not shown me He suffers too.
* * *
Right about that time I heard the sound of Bill’s truck slowly grinding up the hill. Feeling embarrassed, I looked straight out at the scenery, pretending to ignore him, but he kept coming closer. Rolling down his window, he said, “Mind if I join you on the rock?”
“Go away, I got here first.” I told him, not quite ready to make up, but a smile giving me away. How could I resist? How could I continue to be mad and hurt and incensed by him, when I was far guiltier of the same thing?
One of the most obvious tests of our relationship with God,
is how we respond when correction comes.
Giving in, I slid over to make room for my husband on our rock, reaching for the book with the passage I wanted to read him. As I finished he grabbed for it himself, “No way that was written for today!” Looking down at the dated page, he saw that it was.
[i] To glorify God, in the ancient Greek of Scripture means to give a right estimate of. We can only glorify God when we are giving a right estimate of Him.
[ii] During the 18 months Rick built our home, he not only recognized the summons coming to him, but responded with his whole heart.
[iii] Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, 2004, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood TN