Today at church the pastor talked about contentment in all situations…and Phil 4:13…the I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me verse. The sermon portion of the service was actually quite short so that most of the time we spent today was singing our praise or sharing our thankfulness or talking about what we are looking forward to…prayer requests.
But his thought about the secret of that verse has stood out to me today. The secret of doing ‘all’ things through Christ is the reality of sensing God’s presence at all times in my life, in plenty and in want. He talked about how we often are much more aware of God’s presence in desperate times…clearly this is how we’re wired. I know I cling to God and could probably trace a line of heart beats over the past 20 years based on times when I was most desperate for the presence of God in my life. He talked about how it’s sometimes quite challenging for us to feel God’s presence in plenty. When we are comfortable, when our needs are met do we still feel God’s presence?
It’s funny the thought wasn’t a new one or even deeply profound. No new mysteries of the faith were unlocked and yet…I know in looking at my life the last few weeks, especially in the last 10 days this small truth, the awareness of my need for God is key.
Let me explain.
This is a trite example but go with me here.
Normally I make a grocery list on my fridge all week long, in fact sometimes it goes longer than a week. Normally we have to make due until it’s grocery day if we don’t have it. We actually sense some holes now and then and are able to live with it. In the past 10 days I’ve run to the store far more than I normally would. And any time I’ve run to the store I’ve made sure to get whatever is on that list, so instead of having to wait for those needs to be met I’ve met them almost instantly.
I just woke up from a nap. In fact all three of us just woke up. I was incredibly warm and cozy, the christmas lights glowing, the candles in my new centerpiece on my coffee table burning beautifully, and I had this incredibly feeling of security and peace that all is well, that I’m not out of control, that my entire house is stocked up and prepared for the first blizzard and that we could be content in our home without any needs for quite a while really. I took stock of how much toilet paper we have on hand:).
I laid there and thought about how nice it felt. How good and peaceful. And then I laid there and thought about my relationship with God. It’s been a little dryer lately for me. I didn’t go to church a week ago, since I was sick. I didn’t go to Restore group twice this month because one time Lydia had way too much homework for us to cope with and one time I was sick. The last time before today I had been in church I worked in the kids area. I realized that all of a sudden I felt really dry in my relationship with God. It was still there, always is. But I just felt like I had thought no new thoughts in a long time. I felt that I hadn’t really dug into any scripture in awhile.
My point is this…I think I’m in a phase where I’m in the plenty of the want vs. plenty equation. And I think God is calling to me to still be aware of His presence in plenty. Plenty to me is not always about money. My plenty can easily be about my time. I’ve just come through 10 days off from school. That’s a pretty good chunk of plenty to me!
I woke up feeling cautioned about my strong desire for this sabbatical. If I just want it so that I can not be overwhelmed and just sit in plenty and not feel stressed or desperate what does that tell me about my internal state and how I am trying to build walls and situations where I can do all things through Ruth’s strength? I’m not sure that’s how it really is but the thought played in my mind today.
I want my sabbatical to be about an increased sense of God’s presence, not a lessening of it. As a teacher, all week long I cry out to God in my classroom because I’m in situations that are far beyond me, dealing with hearts and lives that I don’t always have wisdom to deal with. I’m very aware of how much I need God.
It’s not comfortable to be in that kind of need. Sometimes I feel a little left out to dry when things don’t go well. God is faithful. I recognize this and believe it to be true but in desperate times sometimes we are called to cling and to hold onto even if things don’t get any easier for us.
I want to make sure that even if I take myself out of the classroom, even if I put myself more in situations that are in a sense easier for me, like being home and having time and not having to deal with hoards of children all day long that I still have to cling and hold on to God.
If we make our lives too easy…to secure…to sheltered we lessen our need of God. I don’t want to do that.
We all need havens and shelters in the storm and I consider Thanksgiving break a good one for me because when I walk into school tomorrow I walk into five programs in the next two weeks. I will have great need of God. I just think that maybe I need to be careful how much I desire the haven and the shelter.
One time I thought about being a pastor. I even talked with my pastor about it. Was trying to puzzle it out in my brain, wondering if this was a direction God wanted to take me in. I started to think that maybe I just wanted to do that because it would be so much easier than teaching. If I change occupation though for any reason…I know this, I don’t want it to be just about Ruth trying to make things easier for herself. I know I can learn contentment too in all situations. For the most part, on most days I have.
I was just reminded today thinking about Paul in prison writing the book of Philippians on joy and denial and taking up one’s cross and being content and not being anxious about anything and doing all thing through Christ that, I know this is the life I want too.
I want to sense God’s presence at all times, in all ways, in all things. I want to always be aware of my desperation before God. Someone shared in church today about their desperation and my pastor said true words…”We are all desperate. None of us deserves a thing.”
I know for me I will be tempted to meet our every little need as a family on a whim without waiting if I let myself live that way when I’m not working. I can’t do it when I work fulltime. I don’t have the time or ability to do it. But even when I’m not I don’t want our every need to be met so easily and quickly. There is something beautiful about waiting, about having holes, about needing God. And I don’t want God to feel that I must learn that lesson the hard way. In times of plenty I want to be just as aware of Him.
Yes my house is warm, and our tummies are full and our pantry is stocked and things are pleasing to the eye and heart…I’m grateful and this warmth and love, peace and joy is worthy of celebration. But I still desperately need God. For my very next breath. And God, even when their are holes and we are in over our head and things are not right and at peace in my home I want to just as equally realize my desperate need of You. For my very next breath.
The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.