Posts tagged hearing from God
Years ago, I remember reading a profound little book called Gifts from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh. I was a new Christian, a wanna-be writer and a newlywed. Her book was so deep and so grown up, I missed much of her wisdom the first time I read it.
It seemed surreal that she would leave her family, or could leave it, just to go to a beach to unwind and write. And yet, here I am — waiting, seeking what the ocean might bring to my distracted soul; here I am yearning for the presence of God. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Like my sister from generations passed, I am disentangling myself from the daily demands of family, work, ministry, and life. They are beautiful cords that weave through and decorate my life. Yet I confess the tautness and pull of them sometimes knot up my mind. (I suspect I am not alone.) Ann Morrow described a woman’s life being the hub of a wheel with responsibilities and relationships emanating outwards in constant motion. That said, it required so much trust and courage to step out of the circle of motion and to take the time to unknot myself. Oddly, I find it is the very lack of pace that leaves me uncomfortable.
What do I do with my time? Now that I have removed all excuses and counterfeits, what is best done with my sabbathed energies and emotions?
Yesterday the word was affection. We talked about hearts. But not sea shell hearts, although I have found many. He showed me hearts in the sand, hearts outside crab holes, hearts in sea foam, in the clouds, in tree leaves.
His love is everywhere. Will I simply see it and receive it?
His love is everywhere. Is there anything more present or powerful?
His love is everywhere. Am I walking in the boldness of a well loved woman?
As I look back on my God journey, I realize my soul was awakened by the ocean. From a child who giggled at first sight, to a twenty-something who stood by the sea and cursed my life for its bitterness and loneliness, to a young married consumed with “what would be one day”, to a wonder-filled diver who explored the glorious underwaters, to a forty-something who realized that I was not alone as I picked through the trinkets of the sea — God had been there, was there, would be there. He is here. Now.
My conversations have changed over the years and the beach trips. This time together, we dream and enjoy and ponder. The conversations are as diverse as the tides that roll in differently every day. One day it is fierce and windy, leaving me breathless and slightly off center; another day is warm with gentle waves urging me closer.
Every day there are different lessons and perspectives. But always, always is the “voice of many waters”. Always is the rushing energy, the pounding roar, the blue visual feast that stretches out beyond my comprehension. Every day is the welling up in my spirit, in my deepest heart that often goes overlooked or undernourished when I am in the “hub mode.” God is for sure the center of my life, but life itself is draining as “the wheels on the bus go round and round.”
So to pull away, to hear him, to laugh and muse, to tease and argue, to deeply intercede for others in a focused way…it replenishes me in the same way the dry sand hungrily soaks up every drop as the waves wash ashore.
What do I do with so much time with the God of the ocean?
Soak Him in.
Find your place, your beach, your sabbath. Find your spirit again.
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
The rain in the night brought rough waves and ocean gifts the next morning. As the tide rolled out it left a trail of treasures like opened toys on Christmas morning. The large lump on the beach drew special attention. Walkers swerved to look at it and continued on their clipped pace. Children, held firm by watchful mothers, stopped to gaze from a safe distance. Even ever-hungry seagulls took a tentative peck at it. For more than an hour it was a topic of wonder and sadness— another jellyfish washed ashore.
It was my friend, Heather, who kept going back to it over and over. Finally she leaned close —observing, waiting, watching and then she bee-lined it back to our lounge chairs.
“I think that jellyfish is still alive,” she said, slightly out of breath. In a moment I was sitting there processing data:
It may have been alive, but its now been out of water too long.
Do we care if a jellyfish is alive? After all, that is one less potential sting in the gray Atlantic water.
How does one rescue a jellyfish?
She looked at our non-response, perplexed. “I see things moving on it,” she insisted, as if we had not heard her or believed her. “Its gill things are flapping.”
“It’s trying to breathe, I guess.” I said out loud. Something about that statement shocked me into action. A flurry of activity followed. With a float, a small umbrella, and smaller courage, we marched back down the beach to see our potential patient or corpse. It was a cannonball jellyfish but its normally dome head was flattened on one side like a ball that had lost its air. Still its wavy fringes remained a deep red. I slid the jelly onto the float with the umbrella, walked knee deep into the water, and slung the gellish blob back into its salty home. And we waited.
It bobbed in the water on its side the same way it had landed in the water. A wave rushed over it and then we only saw the dome head. I expected it to come back toward me in the tide so I stepped back out to ankle deep water. But instead of coming toward me, it went deep and was gone.
I stood there in a holy moment. Why had I just let that creature lie there for so long suffering? Why had I assumed its condition instead of investigating? Why had I been so slow to respond to my friend’s urgent face and plea for help?
It was just one stupid jellyfish. Who cares? But it wasn’t. It was me, and my friends, and all of us lying on the beach. Someone had taken the time to stop and look at us. Instead of leaving us for dead, or looking at our misery out of curiosity or warning, or trying feed off our helplessness, someone took the time to lean down, get close, and look for signs of life. Someone bothered to bring us back to the Living Water.
After high-fives for our heroic rescue, Heather told us that the brain is in the jelly’s dome. “You could see things working and moving in there.” she said with wonder. The true wonder is that she had to get close enough to see that. She had to risk herself to rescue it.
Rescue. God’s heart beats with a desire for rescue. Take time today to look at people around you. Who lies helpless on the beach in need of someone to get him or her back in the water of life? Don’t assume you already know the diagnosis. Look for signs of life.
You don’t have to take them home to raise. Just give them a push back in the right direction so they can breathe again.
Be the person that makes a difference. Be the person who responds to a cry for help. You never know whose life will be saved. It might be your own.
Photo by Heather Terflinger
Marriage is a relational Rubik’s cube
I love this mind-tester. You keep moving the squares trying to get one color lined up and then the other side is jacked up. So you spend time trying to get that color matching and… well.. you know the rest. One silly square out of place. Is this frustrating or fun, or both? Am I crazy? stupid? And of course there are always the “smart ones” who slam it down completed in 12 seconds or less. Yeah. We hate those people.
Marriage can look a lot like this. It’s heart- tester if you will. You work on this part of your relationship and then something (or someone) else gets out of whack. So you adjust hoping to “get it all together” at one time. Sigh. And much like the toy, there are the couples who say, “We have never had a fight.” Yeah we hate those people too. (Just kidding. Sort of. )
But hope rises with practice. As with the Rubik’s cube, it takes skill to master the myriad of relationships. I really thought in our marriage it was just me and Chuck, two sides, two colors. No problem. In fact, our families were not in our equation of marriage, or so we thought. However, idea of “just the two of us” got pretty crowded pretty quickly. Turns out you can’t get rid of your roots. It was me and Chuck and my family and his family. My friends and his friends. My teachers, enemies, old lovers, and role models, and his as well. Then you add children. The colored squares just multiplied. Again.
These ghosts of past, present, and future really impacted our ability to connect, trust, and listen to each other. The way our respective parents would fight, make up, handle money, do God — all that was sitting at the dining room table with us when we were trying to fight, make up, handle money, and do God.
One day in the early years, this came into full view. Chuck and I were fighting (for you couples who “don’t” that means the two of you disagree loudly) and he looked at me and said, “I am not your dad. I am not your ex. I am not your brothers. I am not your professor. I am not any of those guys…”
What courage and insight it was for him to lay it out for me so plainly. I wasn’t even listening to what Chuck was saying. I had gone into auto-pilot reaction as if I was confronting one of them.
This is true whether you had a great life history or not. We have been relationally trained by others, for better or for worse. And we have to learn how to relate in a loving way to our mates. Here is a newsflash.
It takes time to learn to be truly present and listening.
Not recalling old wounds, offenses or disappointments. Not thinking of your to do list or rebuttal. Not letting old triggers cause you to react instead of engage. But instead, really listening to the present need or issue of the moment. Really lending your heart and spirit to the moving parts of the relational Rubik’s cube”— it’s called relationship. Friendship. Companionship. It’s not easy but worth it.
Honesty, patience, safety, hope. These four qualities totally change the condition of most marriages. They are not something you demand from your mate, but something you cultivate with God and then pour it out on your mate. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes God.
“I never thought marriage would be this much work.” How many times have I heard this? Ever tried to work a Rubik’s cube? That’s a toy. This is for life.
Marriage has shown me my lack of grace, my need for grace, and the reality of God’s grace.
I have these random memories. Like puzzle pieces, God put things into place long before I was even aware He was working on me. One memory is of my arrogant self telling our supposed pre-marrital counselor (snort) that “I am a great catch. And I don’t need Chuck, but I choose him.” (Poor counselor. Poor Chuck.)
“Would you quit your job?” he said looking me dead in the eye without flinching. He had nailed my pride, independence, superiority. Shocked by the suggested sacrifice, I had to sit squarely and solemnly in the reality of being a liar. I wouldn’t really do ANYTHING. I only wanted to do enough to make Chuck act better for me. After a great deal of gnashing my teeth with God, I realized that He could and would do ANYTHING — if my heart was humble before Him.
So I did. It did. God did. I quit my job and launched my marriage in a different direction. God was up to something better for me, for us. My marriage radically changed when I saw my lack of grace for Chuck and I acknowledged my need for grace to let go of ideas and actions that were poisoning my marriage. It is one thing to say you’re committed; it is another thing to act committed —especially when those acts require sacrifice. Jesus knows all about the cost of sacrifice, and it’s why He offers us His loving grace to do it.
From years 10-15, there are lots of memories and journal entries of “when Lord, when” or “why Lord why” or “help, Lord help.”
Funny now to think of it all. I don’t how God carried us, but He did. Every day. 8030 days. Sometimes we walked with Him. Sometimes He carried us in His arms while we were sleeping, or weeping, or too sick to walk. Sometimes, He pulled us along, His firm hand clamped around ours, as we kicked and screamed down the road He had determined. But He was there from the start in all the chaos, dreams, and questions. From the start He was planting life and hope and renewal. And as we went along He whispered…
“Look at Me.”
“Expect Me to Change Things.”
“Believe for Good.”
I know folks married 30 – 50+ years are laughing at me. In that world of marital staying power, I am only a youngster. But if you are under the 20 year mark, you need to know that God’s grace really is yours. It’s not a pithy church statement. It is a divine fact, a gift, an investment. He pours in to us what we cannot manufacture on our own. He never gets tired, frustrated or quits. We might, but Jesus doesn’t.
His grace is always available, and it comes to those who know they need it. Chuck and I have grieved over our hard-headedness and hard-heartedness. Why did we wait so long to humble ourselves before God and before each other in so many sticky places?
Our goal now is to shorten the recovery time. After this many years, we are learning to bypass the manipulation by silence or anger or emotional explosions. We are more eager to get to the heart of the matter…. Really, the Heart of the matter. God’s heart. Chuck’s heart. My heart. “God what am I missing here? I am committed to this person more than I am committed to being right, so give me grace to see what you see.”
Even in those times when one of us was more eager for health than the other, Grace happens. I have found that many times the only reason ONE person is still holding on, is because God’s grace is at work. With so much marital collapse all around, we shy away from clinging to His grace and our vows. Yet I believe it is a sure promise for those who desire to cross the finish line.
Truly, His Grace is all sufficient. For every need, He is there.
Here a few Ah-has about the journey of becoming one. In light of all the chaos and brokenness surrounding marriage today and in celebration of my anniversary on April 13th of 22 years of marriage to Chuck, I thought this holy experiment warranted a few words.
Marriage helps me become my true self.
Chuck and I were looking through our wedding pictures last night. I wanted to laugh out loud and cry out loud. We had this delusion of change on the horizon. We talked about how our “love is here to stay” and marriage was forever. We promised we would never change our commitment and passion and drive. We talked a lot about “all we would become” in those early years. Somehow we thought we “knew what we were getting” in each other, but we were woefully unprepared for real life. “Change” was coming at us like a freight train.
First came the total spiritual overhaul as we became believers the first year of our marriage. That is enough change to wreck the average couple who is confident of their marital choice. Our entire world system— beliefs, hobbies, friends, work, even politics—was turned on its ear. But this was only the beginning. Then came the awareness of all the addictions, coping, hiding, lying and blaming we had brought into our marriage. Our ideas of relationship were turned to dust. Change came crashing in as our selfish ideas of love could not survive the reality of day to day life with another human being. We didn’t truly understand our counterfeit selves until we began living with someone who could see who we really were. Really see. I mean like in Avatar, “I see you.” God’s presence gave us a supernatural peek into who was really living inside the shells we called husband and wife. Not only was there more dysfunction than we could imagine, or handle, there was far more God potential than either of us dared to believe. Twenty two years later, we stand amazed. How did God do that? We have a whole new definition of love, worth, and honor.
Another shock was the roller coaster of physical changes. Looking at my skinny self was hard on my heart. Over the years, I have gone through a lot of physical changes— pregnancies, weight gain and loss, sickness, etc. I am grateful that Jesus has given me such freedom and acceptance of myself now. But looking at our own marriage journey, and those newlyweds around us, I don’t think people ever talk about the physical changes in marriage. We dreamed, planned, projected, hoped, and guessed. But all the while we were doing that, our bodies kept pacing forward…toward the grave. Not to be morbid, but it is important that young women or couples know, best they can, that they are agreeing to get old together. That is a big commitment indeed. Talk about change…
Is it just me? Did anyone else think this wonderful life of change and growth was going to happen and you were going to stay young and lovely at the same time? Forgive my sarcasm. But. Marriage leaves no stone unturned. From attitudes to habits, from preferences to insecurities, from needs to longings, this journey of two becoming one is ever refining. We have learned to change our idea of acceptance, truly receiving each other: for better, for worse.
How did He heal so much? How did He reveal so much? Looking at our wedding photo, I thought to myself, “who are those people?” We are so, so different. And yet I have never felt more at home in my own skin. Going through the battles and the victories, the drama and the outcomes has stripped off so much sin and weakness and has deposited so much grace and mercy. We are indeed thankful for the God who has let us share in the “unveiling” of a man and a woman He knew was in there all along.