if grace is an ocean

Thursday, September 4, 2014

O14A0456For the past month, I’ve been arguing with God. As if I know best. I’ve been telling Him all the things that I need, that I want – telling Him what I do and don’t want to do, what I do and don’t want to be. I’ve told Him over and over how flawed I am, listed out all the ways I’ve been screwing this whole thing up. Lest you think that the God I speak to isn’t real – well, I can’t disprove your experience, but you can’t disprove mine either, and I’ve been experiencing God in a whole new way this month.

 

God often speaks to me through His Word. Sometimes in ways I don’t want to hear. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer myself. Maybe it’s because reading has always been my favorite subject. Maybe it’s because there is nothing in this world that makes my heart cry glory like a well-put phrase or a well-chosen word. God speaks in all kinds of ways to all kinds of people – through others, through the Holy Spirit in our own souls, through circumstances, through signs or miracles or what have you, but as for me, it’s always been the Word where God does the hardest work in my life.

The study that a friend and I have been doing on Hosea could not have come at a better time than right now. I’ve read Hosea 85 gazillion times due to my teenage infatuation with Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, but it has never ever struck me like it has this particular time.

…so when I read Hosea 2:14 about God speaking tenderly to us in the desert, I am reminded that no matter my faults, no matter my sins, God does not treat me as I may deserve. He shows mercy. He showers grace. He speaks tenderly.

..when I read Hosea 2:23 where God says, “and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’”, I am reminded that God has made me part of a People. Not an individual. I’m part of a group. I can’t do this all on my own. I can’t even process all the things on my own. I need my people. When I’m faithful to talk to my people, you know what? They are faithful to tell me hard truths and ask me difficult questions and help me figure my life out.

…when I read Hosea 4-6 about Israel’s sins and unrepentance, I can see that mirrored in my own life. My unfaithfulness to the One who always shows Himself faithful. My clinging to worthless idols instead of clinging to One who can truly give me what I need. My arguing and crying and whining about the things He’s asked me to do instead of just being obedient. All of that ugliness is just washed away in the waves of His mercy. It sinks in the depths of His grace.

 

God continues speaking even when I’m not expecting it. I was caught off guard when I found Him speaking rather sternly to me, even in the middle of a book I’ve read before, in the middle of a story that I thought didn’t apply to me:

“Perhaps this applies to you, too, good reader. God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet….There is a horrid beauty in following God slightly blind. The victory later is sweeter, the prize more valuable than breath. Obviously, we are Americans; we like a plan, we like assurances. But the ways of faith exist so far outside of our tidy boundaries, it is a wonder we can ever receive its mysteries at all. As it was, we could only hold loosely to something we didn’t even understand, and that put us in a position of faith and terrible humility. We can wreck the spirit of a mission by prematurely focusing on the strategy. When the “how” eclipses the “why” too soon, we create a positional shift to defend and execute rather than listen and receive…”
Jen Hatmaker from Interrupted, revised and expanded

 

Umm. Listen and receive? I want a plan, thanks. Following God into the great unknown is so much more glamorous sounding than the panic that I find settling down in my life to stay for awhile. I don’t want to hold loosely. I want cling tightly. I want all the things to be in order and figured out and progressing along a certain trajectory. Even if that trajectory calls me to do really, really hard things, painful things, things that require more of me than I thought I could give – frankly, I still only want to do it if it’s the trajectory that I plan for. This unknown stuff? Shove it.

 

I’m in the middle of these hard, yet somehow still tender, truths, in the throes of wrestling with the One I love in spite of it all. Perhaps it’s time to lay down my arguments and my defenses. The minute I think I’m ready, I find myself taking up arms yet again. At odds with the One who calls me, yet steadily, if somewhat reluctantly, moving towards Him. Every time I think I have this whole ‘follow where He leads’ thing figured out, God calls me deeper still. Every time I think I’ve sacrificed enough, He calls me to lay down one more thing. Every time I think I’m can rest on my laurels and take some time off, He gently, yet firmly, prods me onward – reminding me yet again that this isn’t all about me. Further. So even though tonight, quite honestly, finds me fighting against the waves, I know if I let go, I can sink in the ocean of grace.

Now, to match my head with my heart. Press on.

 

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn,
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

 

 

[image: death to the stock photo]

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