Stories of Him

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It was January, 2004. An awkward place in my story. A tired place in my story. My passion for God and doing what was right was drying up. There wasn't anything for me that January but the same old pain and longing that had been wrenching me around for three years.

Oh, well, actually, there was pain and longing and curiosity. Curiosity about a God who was bigger than I could imagine. A God who had let His heart be broken by those He loved. A God who had feelings. A God who was a Person.

Have you ever read the Bible in large chunks at a time? I don't mean just chapters and individual stories of people; I'm talking about books.

That January, I read from Genesis through Job in five days. Stories that had just been facts, trivia, and moral lessons melted together in the context of God's plan for redemption. Great heroes of the faith were revealed as human beings who made mistakes, tried to figure their own lives out, and believed God. On page after page, as the characters changed, as the times changed, as the cultures changed, a main character emerged - God Himself.

I got to see His heart - His heart for Adam and Eve, His heart for Abraham and Sarah, His heart for His people, for David, for the widow woman who gave Elijah oil, for Hagar, for His creation, for His glory. I stopped trying to figure out what I could learn about being more perfect from the mistakes people made; I began to praise God for the love and compassion He had. I began to see that redemption is for the imperfect, for the human, and that walking with God was an amazing, incomprehensible, individual journey.

For some time, I have believed that the best way to relate to anyone is from who I am as a person. Once I realized that God was - is - an "anyone," I was faced with a dilemma. John told his followers that Jesus must become greater and he must become less. For years, I had wanted to be one girl who followed God and chose the right and changed the world. When I encountered Him, I realized that I couldn't be about the "one girl" anymore. My life, such as it is or is ever going to be, was about the one God, the only true God.

Eternal life is knowing Him, and Jesus Christ whom He sent. It's not an everlasting harp-fest on the clouds. And it's not a reality that is far in the distant future after I die. Because of His Spirit, our Comforter, the seal of our redemption and His promise to return, I can know Him now. I do know Him now. Here. In my place in His story.

Reading the stories of His people in the Old Testament that January opened my world. I no longer had to be the only one on the right track. Who knows what God will use to bring each of us to Himself? He loves each of us so much, and He created us - who better to know how to relate to us? I love that He didn't standardize His work with David to match what He did with Moses, or evict Hagar from His heart because Sarah, the mother of Abraham's promised son, hated her. I love that He knows what is behind our actions and reactions, that He knows our inmost being (well, okay, sometimes I don't love that part :-P), and that He Himself will be faithful to complete the work He began in us.

Since reading the Bible that January, I read other books and blogs differently now too. I no longer look to see if someone believes what I believe and accept or reject what I read on that basis. We are all human. I grew up trying not to be human, trying not to feel things that I felt, trying to make the right choice every time and be like God. Now I'm learning how to be human. I don't have to exclude others from my heart or my life to keep them from seeing what I don't know about myself. I don't have to wear a mask of perfection or be spiritual or set myself apart to prove I am God's. His Spirit does that.

In learning how to be human, I learn how to be God's. I don't know how an identity can be to belong to someone, but I am totally, completely, inexorably His. Sometimes when my dreams are dying and I watch them go, this is all I know about me, and it is enough. Sometimes it is not enough, but He is still I Am.

Madeleine L'Engle shares in her book, Circle of Quiet,
A winter ago, I had an after-school seminar for high-school students and in one of the early sessions, Una, a brilliant fifteen-year-old, a born writer who came to Harlem from Panama five years ago, and only then discovered the conflict between races, asked me out of the blue: "Mrs. Franklin, do you really and truly believe God with no doubts at all?"

"Oh Una, I really and truly believe in God will all kinds of doubts."

But I base my life on this belief.
I learn from the stories people share now. I learn about humanity, about myself, about life. As I read (or listen), I learn more about God and about His heart as He changes me to help me love others. As I see more of who He is through others in my life, I learn more who I am - and who I am not.

There is hunger in my unanswered questions about Him, but He promised the hungry would be filled. I smile a little remembering that He didn't explain just then that He Himself would be their portion.

I share some of what I know from my place in His story here on my blog. I share some in emails to friends. I share some with my husband and my family. But the only Person who knows the whole story is the One who knows where I fit in His plan for His glory. I still want to be something big for Him sometimes, but if I never am, I know He is still big. I resent that sometimes because I want to be God like every human (thanks, Adam!), but because I am "the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus" (2 Cor. 5:21), the only leg I have to stand on is Jesus Christ.

It keeps me humble, I think. And it keeps me listening. Because I know that nobody else is God either, and He must love them as much as He loves me. And I wonder now what place He has for them in His story and what He is doing in their hearts.


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