Ok, I know it is not Sunday, but this past weekend was a pretty big day of learnin' for this little lady and I wanted to share.
I know I have said before how much I love my church, but it's true. I really do. Not is in an idol way, but in a way that recognises how God uses the teaching and more importantly the community to shape me, and teach me, and gently mold me into someone more like him.
It has been a long time since I have been able to hold back tears during worship. Jesus and I are in a tough season right now, as my desire for a family, the grief of loss, and the struggle of finding hope and trusting in God all meet in one uncomfortable place. I love that I can stand hands held high, singing, claiming the truth of God's love surrounded by our church family. Tears streaming down my face do not need to be hidden. They do not need explanation. They can be fall on my cheeks and heal my heart as they do. Each week the tears come as I struggle to lay down my will and submit to His. It's sucks and it is beautiful all at once.
This week, the message was titled 'When Prayer Is Wrong' and was taught from Joshua 6 & 7 and looks at the story of the Israelites and their battle against Ai. God had already shown the Israelites that obedience to Him would give them the victory. They had already experienced the miraculous victory He had granted them in Jericho. God instructions had been clear, but unconventional to say the least. They were told to march around the city, blow horns and shout...and when they did this the walls of the Jericho fell and they took the city. God had given specific instructions that they should not spare anything in the city, but destroy everything (except Rahab and her household - but that's another story) and do it as an offering to the Lord.
Well, some smart guy Achan decided that some of the loot was too good to destroy and he kept some for himself. I bet Achan wished he had heeded the warning found in Joshus 6:16 a little more reverently. "Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on all Israel." - because look what happens next.
The Israelites fought a small town called Ai, and were totally defeated. Not what they were expecting after the whole Jericho victory thing. They became paralyzed with fear, and were very confused. So Joshua and the other Isrealite leaders desperately called out to God in prayer and asked him what was going on. Why had he let them be defeated?! (I am paraphrasing, but please bear with me) God answered and told Joshua to "Get up" and asked him why he was praying and asking for direction, when the Israelites knew the answer - they had sinned against Him by taking items from Jericho that were set apart.
God explained that He would no longer be with the Israelites until they had purified themselves by getting rid of the items that were supposed to be burned, and the person who stole them. Eeeek! Poor Achan?
He was brought out, with his whole clan and destroyed them along with everything they took. Then the Lord was once again with the people of Israel as they went into battle. When they went back to Ai, they destroyed the city in the strength of the Lord. And here is the kicker of the story - this time God told them they could take whatever they wanted. If only Achan hadn't been so impatient and greedy he would have been given the loot from the city of Ai with God's blessing.
This is a crazy story, but it is one I find myself a part of more often than I even realise. That is why it is hard for me to fully condemn the actions on Achan because I know I am guilty of the same actions in my life.
There are many morals to this story to pick up but I will focus on just a couple that have got the old cogs spinning. Firstly the story illustrates the reality that our sin not only affects us, but it has consequences for those around us. Sin is not private. As we refuse to be shaped by the Lord, or do not give or receive forgiveness we impact the lives of others and the work of Jesus on earth. We can pretend our additions or idols have no baring on the lives of others, what we do on our time is just about us right? WRONG...Ask the Israelites who were defeated in Ai, or ask Mrs Achan pretty sure she felt the effects of her husbands sin when she was stoned to death!...or today ask those who you are unable to truly know and love you because your sin or shame is preventing them from getting too close.
Life is full of sticky situations but God's plan is perfect. When it works we are blessed in our communities with new believers and healing and powerful testimonies of God at work which bring hope. So when we prevent it from working because we hold too tightly to our sin, we lose out on so much, but so do those around us.
The other lesson which struck home hard for me was the message of trust, obedience and dependability on God. When we walk in faith, God's path for us is not necessarily an easy one but we can know His peace with us at every step. I know sometimes I get nervous that God forgot about me, and that we have been left alone to make the decisions about adding to our family. I get panicked about the weight and enormity of the choices and feel the need to cover all my human bases in order to just make this happen already! I truly felt God's calling to dependence on Him loud and clear this Sunday. I do not have to fumble around piecing something together - that will only lead to my destruction. I must continue to walk on the path God is revealing with a patient heart, depending on His peace and trusting in His character to carry me to the family He has ordained. When I stop scavenging in the rubble for leftovers, trying to fill my need in my own way, and release myself and to dependency on Him, He will give me the best he has.
As we move forward on our journey to be parents, we recognise our own sin in trying to force this to happen in our time. I must seek forgiveness for a lack of trust and a truly impatient heart. I believe God is asking us to give Him our time-line. Have I fully surrendered that to him? No, I am channeling a little Achan there. I am trying to make it happen my way and in my time. That's almost laughable. With each passing month my anxiety rises, time is passing too quickly, is this ever going to happen? And the mental scramble begins in earnest.
Our days are passing filled with anxiety, not with peace. Our home feels like a place of disappointment when it should be a place for hope and joy. We have so much to enjoy and appreciate and waiting for our baby to come must be something we fight for fully in God's strength and God's way.
I think we lost sight of today in the desire for tomorrow. Tomorrow will come soon enough and without any help from us...but who we are today and how we live our lives can determine the peace and joy and LIFE we experience in this moment.
Lord, please forgive me for trying to force your hand. For setting myself up for more disappointment and for thinking I know better than you what I need when I don't. Thank you for the life I have, and the people in it who show me your love and speak your truth - even when it is hard to hear. Thank you that your plan works best with our obedient dependency on you, please help me loosen the grip I have on the steering wheel of my life, and hand over the keys to you.
Thank you for your grace and forgiveness when we fail. Please fill our home with a family - in your way and in your timing. We will (try really hard to) wait on you, and be obedient to your voice. Please plant your peace in our hearts.