Looking Up

Yesterday, my pastor delivered a message about idols that stopped me in my tracks. It caused me to pause, think, and reflect – to search my heart and ask myself what the idol in my life was. I knew there definitely was one, just like I knew the message was for me. He addressed the idol of self pity and how complaining about our circumstances can land us there very quickly. I thought, ‘I’ve definitely been there.’ Self pity is an idol that I’ve buried time and time again, only to dig it back up each time that grumbling and complaining would make their way back into my heart. Speaking God’s Word and His promises are the only weapon against this idol which always tries to ressurect itself back into my life. But, as he continued on in the sermon, the more subtle, yet most prominent, idol became more and more exposed. He was shedding light on the area I had placed above God. I hadn’t done it on purpose. Yet, despite God’s first and greatest command to have no other gods before Him, I had unintentionally  gone ahead and disobeyed.

As my pastor recounted the long, hard journey of the Israelites, I couldn’t help but see myself – wanting so desperately to reach the promised land, but unwilling to leave the past behind, desiring fully to trust God at His word, but too scared to simply be still and wait on Him. As he talked about how the Israelites delayed their own progress because they wanted to do things their own way or how they couldn’t receive the daily provision of God because they were too busy trying to store more for the next day, I identified some of those very same behaviors in myself. But, it was this revelation that was, perhaps, the most powerful… One of the reasons the children of Israel couldn’t get to the next place was because they couldn’t let go of the last place. Wow. They were rejecting the place that God desired to bring them – a prosperous land flowing with milk and honey – because they were being held captive by a false sense of what Egypt had been to them. They had adopted a skewed reality of what it was they had left behind. They had forgotten all of the pain and suffering and hardship they endured while under the rule of Pharaoh and somehow remembered a better life.

Then and there I realized that  yesterday AND tomorrow had become my idols. Could have been’s and should have been’s had made their way into my heart, along with what will’s and ‘how will’s. Like many of us, the Israelites wanted to enter the Promised Land immediately, to be instantly gratified, and if they couldn’t have it immediately  – they would rather have gone backwards than wait any longer. They were unwilling to ‘be’ in the here and now; dissatisfied with the process, tired of the journey, and doubtful towards God, the Israelites wanted to quit.

I’ve been there many more times than I’d like to admit. Losing a child can leave you feeling like you’re in limbo, much like the children of Israel. Limbo is an uncomfortable and uneasy place to be. It’s where you are when you’re leaving one place and heading to another, when you’re saying goodbye to something, but haven’t really said hello to the next thing. For a parent to say goodbye to one of their children is very unnatural. Life becomes drastically and immediately different whether we are ready or not. It’s hard not to look back to what life once was and create an exaggerated happiness. What once was, well it can become perfection in our minds, like a land of euphoria never again to be obtained. And, once we gain the courage to come to the realization that we can never visit that place again, the future is what we begin to obsess over. We want to get better, be better, do better, and live better. We become desperate to make our lives count. For me, it was almost immediate. I became desperate to keep my son’s memory alive. Just five months after he passed away, I began working on a foundation in his name. I also became desperate for his life AND his death to count for something. But it was all being done in my own strength, and there wasn’t a whole lot of that left. I was making my own plans and fighting a battle that could never really be won in the way I wanted it to be. Nothing would ever bring him back, and nothing would ever suffice in what I considered making his life and memory matter. There was no finish line in sight for me.

When God started to reaveal His plans for our lives, it was less about Christiano and more about Him. It was less about us and more about what He was doing in us. It was less about our journey and more about Him being glorified through our story. Of course, trusting God for all of this is a daily struggle. I want to know how it’s all going to pan out. I want to get a glimpse of the Promised Land, so that I can keep going each day. But, God wants me to trust Him; He wants me to flow in His unforced rythm of Grace, to ‘be’ here in the now. Instead of looking back or looking to see what’s ahead, I must look up to the One who holds me right now. It’s amazing that He can lead me to write a blog on something then just a couple days later confirm it through the words of my pastor. But, his love doesn’t stop there; He gently shows me how I need to shift my focus back to Him. He says, ‘Yes, my child. You’ve gotten some of it. You’re learning to be here in the now – to be present in the moment. But, there’s more I need from you in order to get to the next place. Keep me first. Stop looking back and lusting over a life that will never be. Going backwards will only lead you on a path to destruction. Let go of needing to to see and do not be consumed with getting to the next place. I need you to trust me alone with your future, to abide fully in me. Getting ahead of me will only bring you more heartache. Stay with me. I’ve got you.’

And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:1-3

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge me and I will direct your path. Proverbs 3:5-6

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20a

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