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Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Voice

The other night I dreamed about a voice.

The voice told me everything I wanted to know.  Go this way; it will lead to success.  Try this out; it will make you feel great.  Do you want to know the secret?  Lean in close; I will tell you.  The voice spoke silently in my mind, was audible in my house, and directed my life.  It was a strange voice, one I didn’t recognize.  The voice made me feel like everything was going to be okay.

It was an eerie sensation, yet I wasn’t afraid.  The voice promised me that life was about to get abundantly better, that I hit some sort of cosmic jackpot without even playing the lottery.  It gave me everything I wanted but didn’t ask for or deserve.

I had things that made life easier, knew things about the future that made me worry less. 

Then, just I was beginning to get used to the idea of a life like this, just as I realized that if I followed this voice I would have everything, I felt a hint of dread in the bottom of my heart.  Something wasn’t right.

I began to question the voice, and distrusted it.  Although it was friendly, it was still strange.  I didn’t know it, didn’t know what the motives were.  I had the feeling that soon I’d be expected to give something I wasn’t prepared to give, that something bigger than the ease of life was brewing under the surface.  Something sinister.

Suddenly, there was another voice.  It told me to wake up.

I came to almost-consciousness with the same feelings of fear and dread when waking from a nightmare, and as I was half in, half out of the dream, I prayed.

I asked Jesus to get rid of the voice within this dream.  Within seconds, the heavy feelings vanished, and I went back to sleep.

As a kid I was scared of spooky things.  We lived in an old farmhouse that had seen several generations, and I loved a grandfather who died before his time.  I had seen my share of ghost stories on TV and in the movies, read enough stories that gave me chills.  I was afraid of apparitions, disembodied voices, floating specters, and figured our old house was a prime place for all of them to hang out together.  At night, I raced up the stairs to my room and leaped onto the bed to outrun any spirits that might follow me there.  I prayed to God that if ghosts are real, that they leave me alone.

So it wasn’t a shock that when waking from a dream where a voice spoke to me out of thin air, I would feel spooked.  Even today I wouldn’t welcome a ghost sighting, and hearing things is on the top of my list of undesirable events.  It was more than just a leftover feeling from my childhood, though.  

It was that this voice would so easily lure me into thinking that I could have it all, that I deserved it all.  And that I knew, even in my dream state, that this is wrong.

As a Christian I have heard my share of “God spoke to me” stories.  “God spoke to me as clear as day,” people say when sharing their faith.  “I knew what he wanted me to do.”  “I heard a voice that said ‘stop,’ ‘go,’ ‘turn around,’ ‘it will be okay.’”

I’ve never had this experience.  God has not spoken to me audibly; I wonder if given my past fears about the spirit world, that so far he has chosen different ways of guiding me.   However, if he chooses to speak to me directly, I trust that I will know that it is him.

The voice of God is distinct, and yet we can confuse it with the voices of our own desires.  When we contemplate our direction, we can hear the voices that call to us – they are heard and discerned within our hearts, in the ways we feel.  Are we comforted by the way we are led, or do we hesitate?  Following God’s voice is always the right thing to do, and although it may be something that we’ve never done before, we will know when we are doing his will if we ask for his help in discernment.  We can trust that he will bring us down the right path, the one he laid out for us even before we were born. 

We can trust God’s voice, every time.

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The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.  Deuteronomy 30:10 (NLT)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!  But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.  John 10:1-10 (NLT)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Least Resistance

“Hey mom, something’s dripping.”

I followed my son’s voice to the living room and saw that the pool of water that had formed on the ledge of our Palladian window was waterfalling down the window frame and splashing onto the hardwood floor.  Outside, raindrops slapped onto the glass and the wind whooshed through the opening that betrayed the dry warmth of our house.  I got some towels and mopped up the water, stuffed one into the leak, and instructed the kids to continue getting ready for school.  This would have to wait; it would soon be time to go.

Later, a couple of internet searches revealed a few things.  The leak fix would most likely not be costly, amounting to little more than a line of silicone caulking around the outside of the window.  I exhaled in relief.  I imagined tens of thousands of dollars in window replacements, black mold, the fa├žade of our house crumbling.  I am nothing if not a little theatrical.  This was feasible.  Most troublesome was that the fix could only be applied when the rain stopped, and it was forecasted to continue all day. 

Through the next several hours the leak got worse, and I thought of the truth that water will find a path of least resistance and continue until the source stops, creating something new in the process.  I thought of wide river beds, stalactites, the Grand Canyon.  What would happen here?

I wadded up more towels to stem the flow and put the now wet ones in the dryer.  My mild alarm about the leak turned to fear.  What do I do?  I can’t stop the rain.  My feelings surged.  I was scared, confused about what to do, and angry.

My husband was out of town for work on the other side of the country.  Although he maintains that traveling for work is not as glamorous as it seems, the idea that he was sleeping in a warm hotel room, all of his needs taken care of, meals served and bed made, and it was even warm and sunny there, for the love of everything holy, made me jealous and angry.  He wasn’t dealing with this.  He never dealt with this.  These things always happen when he’s conveniently away, peacefully oblivious and blissfully unable to help.

Hateful thoughts mingled with the fearful prayers I hastily threw God’s way.  Please stop this rain.  Please help me do this. 

The next hour was spent hauling our impossibly heavy metal ladder out of the garage, locating a roll of plastic sheeting, trying to figure out how to attach it to the outside of our stone-covered house in the driving wind and rain, finally using the flat edge of a screwdriver to push the plastic into the crack that I could now see was the culprit.  The wind threatened to blow me off my slippery perch, and as I braced myself, soaked in jeans, boots, and a winter coat, my hands red and raw, I was determined.

And mad.

Obscenities and declarations of “I hate everything” filled the texts I wrote to my husband later to tell him what was going on.  It was early morning where he was.  I imagined his sleepy face, his calm walk to the shower, to breakfast, to golf – whatever it was he would be doing that day, only being concerned with himself.  I hated the rain, our house, the stupid window, his job, my life.

I was an awful sinner that day. 

My anger found the path of least resistance, and it spilled out into my thoughts, my words, my behavior.  I was not gracious, or peaceful, or calm, or Jesus-y.  Those things were too hard.  It was easier being jealous, hateful, and angry.  Like a trickle of water eventually carving a wide riverbed, anger was transforming me into a nasty, mean person.

At the end of that day, I was exhausted.  But the beauty of life is changing perspective: the house did not crumble, and the water slowed down enough so that I could keep ahead of it.  It was not supposed to rain heavily for the next few days, allowing our house to dry out so that I could seal the crack.  I humbly asked for forgiveness then, and I know God absolved me of my sins, just as he promised he would through Jesus’ sacrifice, just as he promises he will for the rest of my life.

I feel bad about my attitude that day – a terrible consequence of sin is the memory of it.  It haunts us, reminding us of how low we can go.  But God forgives, and despite my sin, my path of least resistance, he has healed me and wiped me clean with the blood of Jesus.  I am so grateful.  My work is in trying to do better next time, in sinning no more.



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Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (The Message)

Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8: 9-11 (ESV)