“God loves until what he loves is pure.” Love and War, John and Stasi Eldredge
“When the Holy Spirit speaks, His words come with such sudden, passionate authority that they will produce a holy amazement in you. The authority of His message will strike your inner man with such a blow that it will shake loose your old agenda and replace it with His new one.”
Discerning the Voice of God workbook, Priscilla Shirer
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So there I was hating God, rebelling against my Father and my King. Well, anybody who ever disobeyed their daddy knows that bad behavior won’t be permitted to last. My husband and I had been married three years when we bought our first house, and I was in nesting mode, wanting to doll it up, host family and parties, and find anything that filled the emptiness. Mine, not the house’s. Eight months into my plans, God revealed his own. My husband was being transferred to company headquarters in Indianapolis, over 800 miles away from everything we knew.
During the moving process, a deep, supernatural peace overwhelmed me. That, I am sure, is due to my mother’s prayers, because I sure wasn’t praying for it. When the boxes were at last unloaded, and we’d been settled for about two weeks, the peace receded, and for the next two years I was scared and alone. Yes, I learned to lean on my husband and value him in ways I never would’ve otherwise. But in so many facets that I could not explain even to him, I was alone, and I was dying inside. Shriveling up, withering to a husk. That’s what it felt like.
Much of pain came from the fact that my beloved sister was starting her family. Shortly after we moved away, she became pregnant with her son. And, selfish thing that I was, all I could think was “Not now, I’ll miss it! I’m missing all the most important things.”
My sister kept me updated as well as she could through email, but what’s an email compared to being there during the ultrasound and hearing that baby’s heartbeat? Near the end of her term, I flew home for a month, so I wouldn’t miss my nephew’s arrival, and God was good to grant me that gift. But then it was back to Indiana again, and I feared that my nieces and nephews would grow up and I would be the stranger they shied away from when I visited. The thought broke my heart.
Now, some years before, my mother had given me a copy of Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, saying, “Wow, you really need to read this.” Whatever my polite response was, the thoughts in my head were far different. Complete aversion. Hnh, yeah, right. Shoved that book fast into the drawer of my bedside table, where it remained until one fateful day.
You know those little urgings you get deep inside, that quiet, gentle little voice that prompts you to do this, don’t do that? Yeah, I heard that still little voice for years. “Just read it,” the voice whispered, nudging gently. Hnh, yeah, right. Screw off. Well, here’s the turning point. You won’t miss it, I promise.
An email arrived from my sister. My nephew was five months old and he had reached one of those wonderful benchmarks, like sprouting a tooth or speaking his first word. Whatever it was, reading about it from 800 miles away broke me in half. One minute I was cooing at the pictures. The next I was keening, rocking back and forth, wailing in tears. My body felt too small to contain the pain. “Oh, God, help me!” I kept saying. In effect, I was running up the peace flag, surrendering the war. I couldn’t fight him a second longer and survive.
That’s when God shouted at me. In Bible stories we read about a voice like thunder or like “many waters.” I would compare it to someone breaking a wooden baseball bat or a strong, sturdy tree cracking right through. It was positioned about two feet from my right ear, yet I did not hear it with my physical ear. The most startling, bizarre experience, so it’s difficult to describe. Yet the words in the voice were unmistakable. “READ IT!”
I can tell you I stood straight as a pole, stopped crying on a dime, made an about-face and whipped that book from the bedside table. I was crying again before I got through the dedication page: “This book is dedicated to you. Before you were born, God planned this moment in your life.” How I needed those words, to tell me that I was worth something. That God had not given up on me, after all. So the tears I cried at that point were very different tears. They came from a welling joy, even more indescribable than the voice. My white knight had swooped in with that sword, which is the word of his mouth, and cut me loose.
I was free! And I was terrified that it was temporary. “God, don’t let me go back there,” was my prayer for months.
When the healing process started, I realized how deep in the darkness I’d been when I found myself feeling like a new Christian must. Nervous, shaky, scared of screwing it all up again. This little girl who used to feel so comfortable, so happy in the presence of Jesus now felt as if she approached a stranger. Or, rather, I felt as if I were the stranger to the party, approaching someone who was asking me to dance. Uncomfortable, odd, but excited to be accepted.
A couple of years later, while I was studying Beth Moore’s Daniel, I realized what I had gone through was a Biblical exile: the rebel is uprooted from her place of false refuge and is removed to place where she is exposed and alone, and it is there that God gets her attention. Only six months after that turning point, God moved us back home.
Our God is wise beyond comprehension. He knows us inside out, what will grow us, what will shape us. I’ve heard so many parents voice their worry over children who are walking downward paths, dark paths, and no matter how they plead with those children, the children continue on. If I had heeded wise advice all my life and done what my parents and scripture told me to do, my obedience would be empty, as would my devotion to God and my faith in him. He allows us to have our fits, even years-long fits, for a very good reason. It must be a hard way to grow somebody; it must pain him greatly, and I’m glad I don’t have his job. But the results, he knows, are going to be well worth it.
When we are in the middle of the dark places, we have a hard time seeing the whole picture. But looking back, I can see what God was doing.
Consider what he could have done. In Acts, he caused Ananias and Sapphira to drop dead because they withheld part of an offering and lied about it. He ordered Achan and all his family to be stoned to death because Achan kept some plunder of war and hid it inside his tent. In other words, God could have made this kind of example of me. But he chose something else. He chose to use my rebellion to show me how persistently he pursues those who belong to him. How unconditional and undying his love is for us. How gently he can bring us back into fellowship with him despite our violent and prolonged hostility toward him. That is the picture-perfect display of undeserved mercy and undeserved grace.
So the moral of the story is this: You cannot outrun God. He’s right there with you, loving you all the way.