Nothing is wasted.

You know those sermons you are listening to and you feel a little creeped out?  I don’t mean the speaker is being creepy, because that’s obviously not okay.  I mean the sermons where you find yourself looking around and over your shoulder to make sure the whole room isn’t just staring at you because you feel like every word the pastor is saying is directed right at you- maybe that’s just me?

Well I found myself in this situation a few Sundays ago.  I was sitting in a church service next to my mom and the more the pastor spoke, the more all of my emotions were welling up.  After a while, I wasn’t quite listening to the pastor anymore and instead the Holy Spirit was leading and guiding, as is the Spirit’s nature.  I was listening to my Father connect these stories throughout His story in a way I had never seen before.

The message was about Miriam, the mother of Moses, a story I had heard many times before, I mean I owned The Prince of Egypt VHS tape, okay?  But this was a part of Miriam’s story I had never really focused on.  At the time, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and the Egyptians were fearful because of how fast their population was growing that the Israelites would rise up and revolt against them.  So, the ruler of Egypt, Pharaoh (a word I’m still learning how to spell) made a law that whenever a male Israelite was born, he was to be thrown in the river.  Absolutely terrible.  [Side note while I’ve got you here.  Feel how angry you are that those baby boys were thrown into the river.  This same “gendercide” is still happening in China due to the 1-child, now 2-child policy.  Families would rather have boys to “continue their family” so they don’t keep the girls.  Learn more at http://www.allgirlsallowed.org/gendercide.]

So Miriam, a young Israelite mother was pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy she named Moses.  She knew she had to follow the rule, that there was no way to keep him in her house and raise him.  So, she built this awesome waterproof baby basket, wrapped Moses up, and put him in the river.  What happens next is the coolest part to me.  So Moses’ little raft/basket floats down the river and over to Pharaoh’s palace.  Pharaoh’s daughter happened to be out there to find the basket.  She called for ladies to help her rescue, nurture, and eventually raise this baby and guess who one of those ladies was? Miriam, mother of Moses.

miriam

It took an act of bravery, sacrifice, using her good judgment, and listening to the Lord, but through that risk, Miriam was able to raise her baby.

And Miriam’s story is so encouraging and awesome, but also not isolated in scripture.  And the Lord began to reveal to me this pattern of people sacrificing and believing, and taking small brave steps to let go of what they loved most in order to end the end receive it.


I thought of Hannah in 1 Samuel who wanted a son so desperately she was praying on the steps at the synagogue and weeping to the degree the Rabbi walked up and asked if she was drunk.  After praying and petitioning with God, she finally said that if she could have a son, she would give him to the Lord.  Soon, Hannah conceived and gave birth to Samuel.

I thought of Abraham who was promised to be the father of many nations, yet his wife was 100 years old and still hadn’t conceived.  Finally, after much testing, Abraham and Sarah had Isaac.  But God eventually called Abraham to go on a journey, lay Isaac on an alter, and kill him.  This son he had prayed for for so long, who was given to him to fulfill the promise of God.  So he went and as Isaac was lying on the alter and angel came and stopped Abraham from killing his son.  So Abraham becomes the father of the nation of Israel.

I thought of the widow who was making her very last piece of bread with the little flour and oil she had so she could share it with her son and die because the famine in her land was so bad.  But the prophet Samuel asked her to give him her last piece of bread- I mean, those aren’t really great manners, Samuel.  And when she did, she had enough oil for her whole village and didn’t die, but had food in abundance.

And God enters into this journey with us, as He gives and sacrifices His Son He loves so dearly, so that by giving His Son, He may redeem all peoples of all nations, that will believe in Him.


So what do we do with all of this?

I think first of all we understand that God seems a little crazy sometimes.  My Old Testament professor talked about this yesterday and I was thankful, that this Hebrew scholar could say what I’ve been thinking for some time.  Like, God what?!  You can do all things, why do your plans not run more smoothly or cohesively?

I was reading the Desiring God article this morning about Jacob who wrestled with God in order to receive His blessing.  And I think this is what God does.

He tests us so we grow and humbles us so we know where the power and authority comes from, and it’s in this place of growth and humility we can truly receive the height, depth, width, and breadth of what He has for us. 

We are not always ready for what we desire.  This one is still hard for me to swallow so hear me in this.  I’ve struggled for a long time with the verse of “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Because sometimes I am doing absolutely everything in my will to try and delight in the Lord and those desires are still unmet.  And I’ve asked myself what I’m doing wrong or what I’m holding back and all I have been met with is that God’s timing is perfect and He is faithful.  And sometimes the waiting, lacking, and needing is a season we would never desire but the very best thing for us, like the Israelites’ 40 years wandering through the desert from Egypt to the promised land.  These seasons of refining and dependence are hard and feel never ending, but necessary all the same.


I spent time last night with a mentor and friend who is in the hospital.  She is pregnant with her fourth baby and has been experiencing some complications.  She spent months in the hospital with her third who was born extremely premature.  It has been a journey that Jessica has been beautifully raw in sharing with me.

One thing she continues to share is that when we face hard things we have two options.  We can tighten our fists and be closed off to God, or we can have open hands and receive the trial, the testing, the need, the lack and invite Him into that with us- similar to how when a woman is in labor if she holds her breath through the contractions they will only get worse and unbearable, even slowing down labor.  Instead, we have to breathe through contractions so the baby will deliver sooner.

So I am learning to have open hands and to breathe Him in through seasons of putting back in the basket or on the alter what I have been praying and hoping for.  Because even though He doesn’t always make sense, He is always good and always faithful, always seeking my good, and always preparing me for just the right time and just the right gift.  Because in His plan, no hurt, no pain, no waiting, nothing is wasted.  

Waiting, Hoping, Needing- ADVENT

I grew up in a church that celebrated Christmas very well.  Trust me, I had my fair share of experiences climbing out of a window wearing 20 pound wings to play the archangel in the live nativity- still a little bitter I never got to be Mary.  We packed shoe boxes for kids overseas and gave Christmas presents to families in our home town.  One time, the Grinch even came to AWANA.  I was so afraid of him, my leader had to take me to my mom.  But amidst all of this, there is one thing we never celebrated. One thing that brings so much more meaning to Christmas- ADVENT.

I had such a small idea of what this word meant that when I came to college I wasn’t completely sure if that was even a Christian thing to celebrate.  Oh but the beauty it interweaves into a quiet night in Bethlehem.

I knew about the Shepherds, the virgin Mary, the manger, the stable, etc. but what I had not pieced together was just how long God’s people had waited for this moment.  Generations of generations of Israelites had spent their whole lives hoping and trusting the Messiah would come.  Through the difficult times of wandering in the wilderness, of slavery in Egypt, of captivity in Babylon, they continued to place their hope in this one day.  This one moment when “Christ the Savior is born.” 

This story, this picture is so much more than a baby being born in a stable.  It is the fulfillment of prophecies and hopes of God’s people for preceding centuries.

And in the same way that they hoped and believed in the prophecies of the coming Messiah, we too wait for Christ’s return.  We long in times of unrest, in times of infertility, in times of terrorism, in times of loneliness, in times of doubt, in times of poverty, in times of hopelessness, in times of fear.  We long for the coming of the Savior to fulfill what we have hoped for from generation to generation.


 

I’ve been learning a good deal recently about the idea of waiting and longing, because honestly I don’t think we get it in today’s society.  We are not a people who have planted seeds and waited for a harvest.  We are a people who buy an app and it instantly downloads to our phones.  We have no clue how to wait and how to long.  I even reached the point of not being sure of how to interact with God when I have consistently prayed for something and that need has gone unmet.

How do I invite You into a pain I know You can heal?

I haven’t been able to answer that question yet.  But I do see that there is purpose in waiting, hoping, and believing.  When we think of stories in scripture of people waiting and hoping for what they were praying for, we think of how God met that need, but we in doing this we overlook the period of time when they were hurting and hopeless, unsure of God’s response.

I think of Hannah in 1 Samuel praying for a son.  She had prayed for so long and found herself at her wit’s end of waiting so she went to the Temple to pray where she was praying with such passion that the priest thought she was drunk.  How we have lost this art of waiting.


Over the past few days I’ve been able to help a friend with her newborn baby.  Oh my gosh is she the sweetest thing! But also, she has brought so many truths to mind for me about who we are and how we’re created.

I went into the room 2 hours after she was born and in her first few hours of being alive I was realizing that up until this point she has never felt hunger, never felt cold, or never felt scared.  Her every need had been met and provided for her.  She’s never had to work to be full, she’s just been full.  She’s never had to be wrapped in blankets to be warm, she’s just been warm.

And what our Gracious Father has taught me through this frail, beautiful thing is that we weren’t created for this.

  The space and tension that we feel between the things we hope for and the things we receive is the very space that proves to us that He has set eternity in our hearts.  Our longing to be whole and to be satisfied are what propel us to crave His arrival and His return.

Thus I come back to this idea that is so hard for me to swallow- Our every longing draws us back to the feet of Jesus.  This sweet baby I have been able to hang out with, of course cannot meet her own needs.  She can’t hold her head up on her own yet, better yet provide food for herself, clean herself, protect herself, or wrap herself in a blanket.  She is born utterly dependent on her parents.

In the same way, we are not satisfied.  At times we are lonely, hopeless, depressed, hurting, and empty and Christmas has a weird way of reminding us of that.  And in the same way that a baby needs her parents to keep her warm, fed, and safe, we need our Father, our Shepherd, our Provider to hold us and keep us.

So my prayer this Christmas is to feel the longing and the hoping for the arrival of our Messiah to enter into the hurt of unfulfilled expectations and believe that He is crafting hope and purpose.  And to embrace more than ever that He is IMMANUEL- God with us.