God, Are We There Yet?
Reading the book of Job today reminded me that God has a plan and He is righteous so we must trust him. The problem that I struggle with most is that God doesn’t keep time. He doesn’t even have a watch. No, not even an Apple Watch. And that is at the root of my struggle with Faith. Although for the record, God made me a control freak. But look what I’ve done: I’ve started in the middle of the story! So let me backup and share today’s mind-meandering journey that starts with Job and ends with a GPS-ME.
It was when I read Job 34:35-36 that I realized time was my issue: “Job speaks without knowledge; his words are without insight’ Would that Job were tied to the end.” My mind drifted back to something I read in Lee Strobel’s book The Case For A Creator: Cosmologist William Lane Craig, PhD, ThD, explains that space and time were created by God, at what we call the Big Bang. So, God transcends time and space. Ok. Cool. Wait - transcends space and time? HUH?! To help me bend my mind around this concept, I turned to the vast and unstable GOOGLE-sphere for an explanation. I settled on this, from “FRIEND,” in an anonymous post: “Beyond boundaries of space and time. Since both are temporary illusions associated with this present-temporary physical state, time and space do not exist. They only appear to. Eternity is not a continuous line of time that extends forever. Eternity is the complete absence of time. In eternity, it is impossible to tell the difference between 6 seconds and 87 billion years because there is no actual difference. Space - or distance - is also an illusion. ‘Reality is a mere illusion, albeit a very persistent one.’ -Albert Einstein.“ Ok, this time I think I got it. This clarifies how God is truly omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time - answering my question as to how he can hear the prayers of everyone at the same time), omniscient (having unlimited knowledge - way cool), and omnipotent (having unlimited power - such as the creation of time and space).
I already confessed that I am a control freak - the predicable result of times when my independence and impatience collide. Let me give you an example: After praying for an answer or a solution to a problem - big or small - as the “Amen” is still on my breathe and my eyes are starting to open, I am already scanning the walls for Divine-Written-Instructions. IN NEON. When none appear immediately, impatience leaps upon me, ever the opportunistic predator, and my fight for Faith begins. This takes place in one of three acts.
First Act: Asking God again (and again) and/or asking God for bigger, clearer signs (convinced he already answered and I missed it).
Second Act: Seeking a second opinion (before getting the first) from friends, family, books, or a new personality test (and interpreting God’s silence as uninvolved/unconcerned/unaware).
Third Act: Striking out on a path of my choosing before the way is clear.
I use the predator metaphor for my impatience, as the Bible often uses a Lion to depict those who rely on self, rather than God (Psalms 34:10), “The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing,” and as a sign of the wicked (Ps 7:2). “O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rendering it in pieces, with none to deliver.” So the reference in Job, “The roar of the lion, the voice of the fierce lion, the teeth of the young lions are broken. The strong lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.” reminds me that even the mighty lion - the King of the Jungle -cannot rely on himself.
Which leads me to this Bible passage, “Behold you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.” Job 4:3-5. So, as a lion, I am learning that to really give up control takes place in stages.
First, physical. I have to stop physically working hours that run down my mind and my body, and erode balance that is essential to spiritual health.
Second, emotional. I have to give my anxiety about balancing my life up to God.
Third, planning. I have to be more mindful of serving today vs. planning my path tomorrow.
Fourth, spiritual. I must remember that growing in my spiritual journey trumps all. True faith is peace and happiness, even joy, and that is a journey I want to enjoy.
Now let me be clear: God has always answered my questions and provided perfect guidance when asked. It may take 2 hours, 2 days, 2 years, or longer (much longer), but He always answers. I do have complete Faith in Him. It’s just that the fight to maintain my Faith begins anew with each question and waiting period. And, as I am human, and as humans need God always because we are not the omni-trifecta, I always have some number of “floating” questions or requests. So my Faith is always being tested - sometimes as a brief annoyance (swatting a fly) and sometimes to the depths of despair (chains without hope).
I believe the darkest times feel like chains without hope of freedom because we cannot see what lies ahead. Even one moment beyond this exact instance cannot be known to us - it is as impenetrable as darkness. This is why so many people are tempted to turn to false spirituality such as mediums and psychics - we desperately want to know the future. We can make plans to take control if we just know what lies ahead. But that’s the whole point: We are not God and the future is not for us to know. We must live in faith and trust that He is in control.
And past experience informs almost all of us that life can literally change in an instant for the worse. I call these moments “Getting. The. Rug. Pulled. Right. Out-From-Under-You.” Divorce, unexpected job-loss, facing life-threatening illness - these are rug pulls I know. And with this knowledge, whether optimist or pessimist, comes hovering fear and uncertainty to all of us, in some measure, as we move into the future.
Yet past experience also informs most of us that most dark journeys come to an end. Think back to a dark time: What was the first moment that light broke through? Wasn’t every step after that moment a bit easier? With this knowledge, then, comes hope that “time heals many wounds.” Or, as Job reminds us,“you will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.” Job 11:16-20. The struggle is that in the depths of physical and emotional suffering, our spirituality may weaken as well. The fight for trust and hope joins the fight for faith. This is in fact the essence of Job - an otherwise “blameless” man, who in his physical suffering becomes the lion - trusting in his own Integrity over that of God’s.
In examining my own impatience, I realize I am essentially asking God, “Are we there yet? How much longer?” as if I could endure being confined to my worldly backseat with dignity if only I knew these answers. Even children know that all long journeys end, but in the 7th hour of the trip, hope starts to fade. Note to Shannon: God doesn’t wear a watch, so stop asking. Trust that He is at the wheel and doesn’t need a backseat driver. It’s hardest to let go of control during the darkest times, but that’s when we need to do so the most. Remember, God transcends time and space and can see
our entire path - past, present, and future - as a whole. This is a breathtaking realization. Let’s look at an example to make this more clear.
Let’s talk about one of my favorite Bible stories: When Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery as a young man by his brothers, he faced early and certain death. How dark was his path to Egypt? He must have suffered physical agonies - heat, thirst, hunger at the least - as well as untold emotional agony - betrayed by his own brothers, separated from his beloved father, knowing his father would suffer terribly at his loss, terror at his dark unknown future. Surly hope had no room to survive this journey. And yet after a long and arduous path, God eventually raises Joseph up to be the second most powerful man in Egypt. After many years when famine drives his brothers to Egypt, Joseph’s words to them are, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now, do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land for two years, and there are yet 5 years in which there will be neither planting nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive. So it was not you who sent me, but God.” (Genesis 45:4-8). Goodness, that gracious of Joseph. He acknowledges that God had a plan and he accepts his role in the bigger picture without resentment or blame.
This lesson reminds me of the times I have fussed and fumed, even rebelled, when forced down a difficult path, only to find out later that the path was the only route to something amazing-beyond-my-imagination. Thank the Lord, literally, that He loves me enough to keep me on the right path despite my stubborn ways. Joseph’s path was very, very dark and troubled - but look at the ultimate meaning and purpose God had for his life: he saves his father, his family, even the future of Israel. Whoa! Had he been allowed to choose to stay with his family, all would have been lost. How many times have I looked back and rejoiced that God led me away from a path I wanted to pursue, a path that would have ended in complete disaster?
So, I knew it was “time” for a new paradigm: a GPS-ME. I envision God has something of a (really cool) GPS showing a dot for my birth and a dot for my death, and I am a third dot, blipping along the path of my life, carefully chosen to end with meaning and purpose. I imagine that God is always watching my dot (and all the dots), and when I veer off course, he is kind enough to throw an obstacle in my way - sometimes a traffic cone as a quiet warning to avert danger - sometimes a boulder that totals my car because I ignored the previous 6 warnings - but always because the short cut that I (proudly) found on my own will end badly.
Ok, you are probably wondering how Free Will plays into this scenario. Me too, actually. So let’s look at another of my favorite Bible stories: The story of Abram and Sarai, which puts all of this into perspective. Let’s start with the acknowledgement that we are a bit omnipresent in this scenario, as we already know the whole story even as we read moments of the story. Clearly, God has a plan and a path for them. And like lions, they take a few independent detours.
Let’s start with Sarai, who in her impatience, decides to problem solve on her own and says to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant: it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” When this goes badly, she blames Abram by the way, even asking God to judge him. No surprise, after all, Original Blame started in the Garden of Eden, following Original Sin by about a millisecond.
Anyway, let’s move on to God then telling Abram, now Abraham, that Sarai, now Sarah, will actually bear a child. Eavesdropping, Sarah says to herself, laughing, “after I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” And God says to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time, I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” 18:12-15, which made me laugh by the way. I mean, I am sure she was afraid - she just got called out. BY GOD. Which proves the omni-thing. Totally.
Now let’s move on to Abraham, who basically veers off the path by letting Pharaoh take Sarai as a wife, prompting God to bring a plague to Egypt, forcing Sarai’s ousting. 12:17. When I read, incredulously, that Abraham later lets the King of Gerar marry Sarah, I literally slap my head and say, “Oops - he did it again?!?” This act prompts God to throw another boulder in the path - this time telling the king directly what happened - so Sarah is returned again to Abraham (who, by the way, then has to pray for the restoration of wombs of the women of Grear 20:17).
All of this is hard for us to understand - from our omni-viewpoint, right? We see the whole story and we cannot understand why they won’t just trust and obey. And yet they can’t see the future: They are struggling with impatience and the need for control. Sound familiar? My realization is that if I were a Bible character, you would be reading my story and you would be slapping your forehead frequently, saying, “Oh no, she didn’t! Why is she so stubborn?!”
I obviously can’t answer all the questions of the universe, but I do believe in Free Will. I don’t know that God has dictated every step of my life, but He does transcend time and space so he can see my life already laid out before Him. And I do believe He sends ways to re-direct me in my own best interest. I can ultimately choose to ignore those redirections, though, and have done so with less than desirable results.
So what’s my point in all of these musings? This is the love that God has for me (for us all): He will try to ensure that my life will end with meaning and purpose despite the fact that I have lost my way, I’ve had doubts and fear, and I have stubbornly gone it alone (or tried to anyway - ha!). “If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation. And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.” (Job 8:5-7). As I learn to give up fear, one layer at a time, Faith flows in to fill the spaces. And Hope flows from Faith. In my darkest hours, I’ve had to release control and ask for help, literally crying aloud for Jesus to take the wheel. And almost immediately, He lets in some light.
I am learning to embrace this strange and surreal journey - with its darkness and its light - with gratitude. And as I blip slowly down my path, I realize, that I am ever moving towards more and more light. I have even twice celebrated the dark path with joyful worship, seeing a glimpse of the meaning and purpose taking shape ahead through the murk. As I practice Faith, ever more fear is spilling away. So I write these sentences with tears streaming down my face - for I truly realize that God loves me more than I will ever comprehend. God doesn’t wear a watch - He doesn’t have to. He is all space and all time at all times. God sees your blip. He knows where you are and where you are headed. Stop asking, “God, are we there yet?” and start practicing Faith that He’s at the wheel and if you let Him drive, you can relax and enjoy the ride - or at least stop white-white-knuckling it.
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