Is the band out of step again?

Arthur and Martha were getting to a certain age when things start to go wrong, and Arthur realised that Martha was growing increasingly deaf, “Martha, my dear” he said (being a Beatles’ fan) “time you went to ear savers to get yourself a hearing aid.’ But Martha, being female and always right, would not go. In fact, she told him that there was nothing wrong with her hearing. But life in their little neat bungalow (pale green carpets and eau de nil walls) was becoming decidedly tense, silences were prolonged, and Martha was growing more exasperated, just as Arthur was growing more exasperated. There were quite a few clattered saucepans and slammed doors.  One day he decided to show her how bad her hearing had become and when he returned from walking the dog, as she stood at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes, he stood at the front door and said “Martha, I’m home. What’s for dinner?”

There was no answer. So he walked into the hall:

“Martha, I’m home. What’s for dinner?”

There was no answer. So he walked halfway down the hall:

“Martha, I’m home. What’s for dinner?”

There was no answer. So he walked to the kitchen door:

“Martha, I’m home. What’s for dinner?”

There was no answer. So he walked right up close to her and said into her ear:

“Martha, I’m home. For the fifth time, what’s for dinner?”

For the fifth time, Arthur, sausages and mash.”

I’ve been Arthur for a couple of weeks. Blaming everyone but me, sure that I was right and they were wrong, determined to set things straight, to get stuff sorted. And just like Arthur I was looking in the wrong direction, outwards not inwards.

Funny, eh? Bonkers, human, blinkered.

My church had a decision to make and although the outcome was never a sure thing, I felt that it would go one way, and so glorify God, leading to a great harvest and new spiritual life in this little town. Because, hey, I know what’s what.

The decision went the other way.  Never has my flabber been so gasted.

I was battered in a storm of disappointment and sadness. I realise now that this came at a time when I’m already distressed about my family,  already on the brink of tears, and so a bit more vulnerable than usual. The decision made me very concerned for friends, sad for my church, certain we’d missed a blessing, defeated and …. well, sort of winded. It hit me hard.  But, you know, instead of taking it whole heartedly to God and laying it all at His feet, knowing and trusting that He was Sovereign, I reasoned with Him, pointed stuff out to Him, battled and swore and fretted and pleaded and cried. Stamped my feet. Spoilt brat. That God of ours, you know, He just needed me to sort Him out.  Obvs. Where had He gone wrong? How could everyone be so wayward? How come we hadn’t managed the whole thing better?

My state of mind and the bruises on my soul were everyone’s fault but mine. I sat on my prayer rock for so long in the freezing wind one morning that when I stood up I couldn’t walk for several minutes. I was with God but I wasn’t with God. You know?

Anyway, I’m back. Three weeks of reading Joshua and John, and listening – even  through waves of misery and rebellion – to the patient voice of God, and the good teaching of my church, and here I am. Older and a tiny bit wiser.  A whole lot humbler. About time.

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And you know, He never let me go. Even when I wanted to charge off, shouting and blundering into the dark, I knew He had me and that was a deep comfort in all the tumult. In a way, and this will sound perverse, I knew I could rebel because I knew He wouldn’t let me go. Does that make sense? I doubted everything but His love. I could still pray and marvel and write about His love, the birth and death of Jesus, the goodness of God the Father, I could still open the Bible and find those precious words. By His Spirit I knew I belonged to Him, even when I wanted to run away or poke someone in the eye, in the absence of a machine gun.

My prayers may have been confused and rambling, but the Bible was always crystal clear. Whatever riot was going on in my heart, the writer in me creating scenarios that never happened, there was sanity and peace in the Bible.

The Gospel of John is all about knowing God. The red letter words excite me. The writing excites me. It’s a conversation with Jesus and who wouldn’t be excited by that?

Then, Joshua is a wonderful lesson. Just wonderful. A strong leader, willing followers, a prayerful man,  miraculous provision, many obstacles, and a strong clear theme, ‘God leads, man follows’. I’ve read a few commentaries and they put it slightly differently but for me, right now, the living word in Joshua is that God leads and man follows. And yes, it’s heart breaking when it seems that God’s will and mission have been thwarted, but that’s just my cock-eyed thinking. Nothing can thwart our Sovereign God. Nothing. The miracles in Joshua are amazing, huge big booming glorious miracles – the River Jordan held back, armies routed, nations conquered, the sun standing still…. but in just the last two days I’ve seen… let me count them… 5 miracles. Tiny to some maybe but each of them beyond the capability of man. In the last two days 5 miracles of God’s saving grace, of His timing, of His love. Pulling me back, balm to my soul.

I’ve learnt this last three weeks that prayer is more than love and passion, it’s total submission, total trust. And I’ve realised at last, really fully realised and known in the marrow of my bones, that I can’t hope to submit fully on my own.  ‘Flesh gives birth to flesh but Spirit gives birth to spirit’. (John 3:6 ) That’s why I can’t even begin to submit as a created being should submit to its creator, for that I need God’s grace and enabling.  That means getting down on my knees (metaphorically, don’t be silly!) and daily, hourly, always, accepting Him as the Lord and Master of my life.  With God we find God. By His grace and by His grace alone, we pray.

A hell of a lesson. One I thought I already knew. I bet I have to learn it again and again….. and if so, that’s OK. I’m ready to learn, however long it takes, however many times I fall flat on my face, because I don’t want to be so busy sorting out the deafness of the world that I don’t recognise my own, so distracted by the missed steps of others that I wander out of line, so lost in my clamour of prayer that I never shut up to listen.

Tell you what, though, this learning lark is bloody exhausting. I’m really glad that when we get to glory we’ll be finished and perfect.

Hah! And that means none of you will recognise me. A win-win situation.

God is good. All the time He is good.  His compassion pours over us, engulfs us, like the endless power of the ocean it lifts us, buoys us, carries us, comforts us, endless.

If you don’t yet know the love of Jesus, look for Him. He will change your life and your eternity.

 

 

 

 

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