Alive to God

  

A divine dialogue links the rise and fall of nations as surely as it threads the ups and downs of our lives.  Sometimes its scale is so large that you can only understand what God is saying against the backdrop of centuries. Other times, its scale is so small that you mine its gold from the minutest details of your life.

Following the thread of this divine dialogue makes you alive to God . . . alive to the Person communicating with you from the other side of your oblivion.

Our ability to follow this thread is self-selective.  We will see God’s hand at work in our lives, able to follow His lead and “get” what He is presently teaching us,  when we honor rather than discount,  even the smallest of engineered correspondences (coincidences) as a word from Him.

 

Overcoming our oblivion

It had rained that night, and the boughs of the spruce and fir trees glistened as the morning sunlight beamed through thousands of tiny droplets. But one droplet stood out, refracting the light differently.  All the others shone silver, like tiny Christmas tree lights . . . but this one glimmered gold with bronzy red edges . . . the only droplet precisely angled between the sun and my eye to turn gold among the innumerable silvery rest.

I stopped everything to consider that one droplet engineered to stand out from all others. Having arrested my attention, its Architect waited to see if I would unwrap its meaning. After a moment I understood. That droplet, precisely angled to shine gold among the innumerable silvery rest, was an illustration of how God positions some detail in our life to become a word that will catch our eye.

We are continually inundated by words, God’s thoughts toward us being more than we can count. (Psalm 40:5) There is silvery instruction rising from the pages of our Bible, the wisdom of a mentor, the message of a well-written book, the thesis of a thoughtful sermon, a striking image from a dream, a soft realization in the heart, a direct observation from a friend, the haunting refrain from a song. So many words . . . most of them passing as little noticed as the radio waves penetrating our airspace.

But if we’re going to be alive to Him, God has to overcome our oblivion by making His words noticed by us, arresting us long enough to consider their meaning and follow the thread. The way God puts us on track with Himself is by the unfolding of His words as light in us . . . but for this to happen . . . a word has to slice through our oblivion and penetrate our heart, and we must be moved to unwrap its meaning.

When Moses saw the bush burning with fire, and yet not consumed, he turned aside to see.  And when he turned aside, the Lord began to speak to Him.  It is one thing to have our attention arrested, and another to turn aside to see what it means.

Unwrapping the meaning of a word

That one droplet clinging to the branch gleaming gold for me was uniquely angled between The Source of light and my eye, to stand out.  It was a gleaming bit, precisely positioned to gain my notice and entice my unwrapping of its message.

We unwrap gleaming bits of divine dialogue by asking the who, what, when, where, how and why of investigative discovery . . . what are You showing me, God? Why this word? Why now?  And most importantly,  “How does this connect with where I am right now?”  The word God wants us to hear is precisely calibrated to catch our eye in our present situation . . . uniquely angled between our Source of light and the place where we are.

Understanding the illustration of the droplet, my heartbeat picked up with anticipation for the first time in weeks. Sensing the beginning of a thread leading to more, I eagerly turned my eyes from the gleaming boughs outside my window to the fresh text before me. Among the silvery words I was about to read, I knew that one was going to be uniquely aligned between God and me, to glisten gold.

 

Where are you?

Greatly saddened by Adam’s disobedience, the Lord came to him, calling, “Adam, where are you?” God was not seeking information; God wanted Adam to reflect on where he was.

Oblivion is like dementia, leaving you lost and confused, not knowing where you are, out of touch with yourself, cut off from your life.  It is the far country where we try to hold on but find ourselves confused about God. Oblivion is disorientation. It is the “death” that comes upon us, not because we ate forbidden fruit, but because we have believed a lie about God.

As long as we are in these bodies, we are vulnerable to oblivion. Sometimes I fly so high that I forget oblivion has ever had any hold on me. But, then, I will find myself lost, disoriented, wondering what happened, and why God doesn’t feel as near to me any more.  The surest mark of disorientation is that we become afraid of God, losing our confidence with Him, plagued by an uneasy sense of separation.

When oblivion sets in, you lose the thread of the divine dialogue. You are not sure how God feels about you, but you suspect you must have done something wrong,

He sees us fogged in by our oblivion, and He sends a word to find us, to bring us from where we are to where we are meant-to-be . . . bright, clear, following the thread, fully engaged in the dialogue . . .  fully alive to Him.

God overcomes our oblivion by sending us words. No detail is too small to serve His purpose as He positions it to gleam gold to our eye. If we unwrap it, it will break open as light in us, releasing the power that melts our oblivion away.

We receive God’s power in our life through words . . .

words whose meaning we grasp.

  * * *

 

In need of a word

When we begin to think wrongly about God, we become the prey of another voice.

I had been dodging, fleeing from and parrying blows with that voice in my head, which told me that God was mad at me, that I was not working hard enough, that I was not the Christian people think I am, that I was slacking off, that I was failing God because I was not writing, that I was in deep trouble because I’m the kind of steward that buries his one talent instead of investing it. But like an old tired horse that can’t get up to pull the plow any longer, no matter how hard you whip him, I couldn’t make myself write.  The fire had gone out, and no amount of poking the dead coals was going to bring it back.

I went AWOL.  And frankly, it felt wonderful . . . I walked away from my post, escaping into the blissful distractions of my garden, my emails, my friends, my chickens, an online course on permaculture, watching a late night movie with my husband, sleeping late, taking the longest hottest showers of my life, indulging in a frozen chocolate chip cookie every night . . . things I don’t normally allow myself much of. The voice told me I had become a “worldling” . . .

That stung.  But, too tired to outwork that voice any more, I received what it said . . . “Fine, I’m a worldling.” And from that moment, I went into exile, bearing the assumption that I had created a deep rift between God and me. But I had no stamina left to man my post.

During my time of exile, my daily Bible readings plowed through the life and psalms of David, the shepherd king of ancient Israel.

He was just a kid out in the fields caring for his father’s sheep, when the prophet, Samuel, came to secretly anoint David as the future king of Israel . . . and David immediately manned his post:  slaying giants, serving as armor bearer to the king, learning about monarchy by living in Saul’s court, winning the people’s hearts by slaying Philistines on the battlefield. But Saul’s jealous antipathy quickly surfaced, and David was driven away, forced to live as an outlaw in the wilderness.

Something responded in me as I identified with David’s weariness from dodging, fleeing, parrying blows with and slugging it out against Saul’s relentless pursuit.

But even as he was hounded by Saul’s constant attempts to destroy him, David didn’t seem to lose the thread of divine dialogue. No matter how challenging his situation, he remained alive to God. His insatiable hunger to keep close to God kept his times of oblivion to a minimum. God kept coming through to him. Despite great difficulties and human injustice, David trusted God’s goodness and power to redeem him out of all his trouble . . . even his sin.

I was struck by David’s confidence with God, despite the horrific murder of Uriah and his blundering failures as a father. The man remained remarkably free of guilt, once he had recognized and confessed it.  No matter how dismal or hard his circumstances, David lifted up his soul to God . . . telling his soul to consider God’s goodness. With passionate metaphorical descriptions he praised God as his rock, his shield, his provider, his defender, deliverer and redeemer proving Himself faithful, present, and powerful, constantly delivering David from Saul’s relentless pursuit.

It was an odd contrast: David’s aliveness to God and my temporary loss of that aliveness, even though I am born again and a spirit filled believer in Jesus Christ.

God knew I was in need of a word. And that morning of the golden droplet, it came. As I turned from the glistening boughs outside my window to the fresh text before me, I plowed deeper into David’s story. . . and I was shocked by what I found.

I couldn’t believe it. David had just been vindicated and delivered from yet another of Saul’s assaults.  BUT instead of joy and exultation . . . DAVID said in his heart,

I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape into the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any more within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.   So David arose and went over with the 600 men who were with him to Achish son of Maoch, king of Gath.

I Samuel 27:1,2

This was not the faith and reliance on God, that I expected from David. He was abandoning his post. Who is this? What about God promising to protect him and make him king? Has David lost heart? His mind? Why is he giving up?  How is God going to feel about this? Where is he going to live? Among the Philistines?  You have got to be kidding! He is going over to the worldlings . . . ?  

 

It was a tiny detail perfectly aligned to gleam gold to me

among the innumerable silvery rest of David’s story.

 

In this detail, there was a timeless mirror reflecting David in me . . .  and my present moment in his ancient moment.  God had precisely placed it to catch my eye, calibrating it to where I would be in that exact moment of time.

David had begun to believe something wrong about God: that God wasn’t going to keep protecting him, that God wasn’t being much help,  that he wasn’t going to be able to hold out much longer and he would soon perish by the hand of Saul. As this thinking took hold in him, David went into exile. 

 

In David’s story, I was seeing my story. But it is also God’s story . . .

giving me the incredible experience of unwrapping the word

to see my exile from God’s perspective.

 

David was battle-weary, so very tired from dodging, fleeing and parrying blows with Saul. He was worn out and eager for escape. BUT God wasn’t “mad” at him. Nothing in the record indicates that David was doing something wrong. It was a change in strategy. God knew he needed the change. God was not mad at David for going to live among the Philistines, and He was not mad at me for indulging in the blissful distractions that had temporarily taken me away from my work.  With a gulp, I reached for the thread of the divine dialogue . . . drinking in its sweet assurance.

David did not have to prove his faith or himself by continually defending himself against the one who hated him . . . the one who hounded him, intent on destroying him. . . Saul . . . the ruling king with an evil disposition . . . the voice in my head I’d been struggling against . . . who kept coming after me, who would not give up.  My exile was not the abandonment I had thought it was!  My exile was a change of strategy, a time of retreat, to release me from the constant battle of trying to outwork that voice in my head.

 

Ziklag

Keenly aware of David’s fall from Saul’s favor, and Saul being their mortal enemy, the Philistines welcomed David as the proven enemy of their enemy.

Having nearly a thousand people with him, David did not want to strain relations with his Philistine host. So he approached the king, asking that they be assigned to any small town out of the way.  Achish sent him to Ziklag.

Ziklag was a small town allotted to the Israelites by God in Joshua’s time, but the Israelites had never conquered it. In his exile, David was being given what Israel had never been able to gain by military effort. God was giving Israel something she was supposed to possess, but something that had eluded her up until then. God was redeeming David’s time in exile, expanding Israel’s conquest of Canaan.   [i]

My eyes burned as I realized what God was telling me. My time of exile, my time of running away, my time of going AWOL — God was redeeming it,  to give me something I was supposed to possess, but which had eluded me up until then.

My Ziklag.  What does Ziklag represent?  For me, it is that sheer delightful confidence with God that I saw in David. It is supposed to be my possession, but it has eluded me.  David did not have to outwork the accusations of some voice in his head.  He had sheer confidence with God no matter what, no matter how bad he had been, no matter what a failure he proved to be in some area of his life.  I wanted that!

The sweet irony is that God was giving me what I could not gain myself, not as a reward when I was manning my post faithfully, but when I had given up and gone away thinking I was defeated.

* * *

God of wonder speaks so poignantly through His precise alignment of the intimate details of our life. We are so small, and yet He does not think us insignificant.

And so . . .  the smallest details, the minutest correspondences . . . they are worthy of being honored as words from God. They are worthy of our taking the time to turn aside and unwrap their meaning. By them He gives us the sun of revelation that burns away the fog of our oblivion, revealing His true heart for us. By them He gives us the thread of divine dialogue so that we can eagerly follow it through our moments and our days. By them He puts us back on track with Himself.

God, our God, causes the word we need in a particular moment of time to gleam gold among all other words, enticing us to turn aside and see. And when we have unwrapped the meaning of that word, it releases His power into our circumstances, to accomplish what we never could on our own.

. . . making us alive, so very alive, to Him.

 

 

 


[i] The New American Commentary, Copyright © 1991-2007 by B & H Publishing Group. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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  1. Mary says:

    Valerie,
    Thank you for the encouraging word today. Your insight about David’s confidence in God’s love for him ( no matter how much David had messed up ) was a sweet inspiration! As was your notation that God gave David a gift ( one promised long ago, but never fully possessed) when David was taking a break from the challenges of his post.
    I love how you weave scripture and personal stories together to gain truths that bless your readers. Thank you, my dear friend.
    Mary
    PS no one who knows you and knows your schedule would possibly call your last two months anything like ” taking a break.” It’s been full of serving and giving and loving others and blessed time with children and grandchildren! :-). All of those are important parts of your life, your gifts and your legacy.

  2. Martha Wolfe says:

    Oh, my goodness, Valerie. I had been wondering where you were. When I read this new piece I drank it up like a giant sponge soaking up water. My sponge had gotten a bit dry and so I could relate to so much of what you wrote. During this time when areas of my life have seemed arid and parched, in other parts of my life The Lord was talking with such revelation from His Word that it seemed I was given a depth of encouragement I have not known before. He was taking the initiative. I was just soaking up what He began to reveal. Waiting on The Lord, no matter the length of time, is worth all that you go through in that time of leaning in on Him, when all that He is teaching you at the time is not clear. The Lord took you to places in the Word that I certainly would not have picked. But your heart and your circumstances were ripe for the revelation of those passages. When you endure, Valerie, and how you endure, God always blesses 1000’s
    who need the breakthroughs and insight the Lover of you soul gives you. I send much love. Martha W.

  3. Sue Webster says:

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    I love this…It gives the testimony to the faithfulness of our Father, when we are confused, doubtful and unaware of His unfailing love and goodness toward us. It really is His story. Such relentless love toward weak and weary humanity. Thank you…sue

  4. Martha Wolfe says:

    I would like to say one more thing loudly and gratefully, “profound, profound, profound.”

    Martha Wolfe

  5. Shella Black says:

    i love the image of unwrapping the revelatory “gifts” God extends to us in the coincidences, as “He gives us the sun of revelation to burn away the fog of our oblivion.” A precious image for us to hold onto as we wait expectantly in the clouds of confusion or chaos.

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