Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Road Back to Blessing

While I had been struggling over the issue of relationships (thanks to Hope, Cassie and Connie's kind responses), I went into church on Monday to pray through it on my own. While I was there I stumbled across this passage in Jeremiah 31:

"I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning:
'You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the LORD my God.

After I strayed,
I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.'

Is not Ephraim my dear son,
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him,"
declares the LORD.

"Set up road signs;
put up guideposts.
Take note of the highway,
the road that you take.
Return, O Virgin Israel,
return to your towns.

I know I'm guilty of moaning at God. I know I was led to the wilderness for a reason, I figure maybe I was exiled from relationships for disobedience. A long time ago I was in a serious relationship and I didn't get out when I clearly should have; so intent was I on fixing the other person's life scenario, that I neglected my own well being and spiritual/psychological health as a person. I was woefully ignorant of God... trying to flog a dead horse. By his grace and his mercy, God pulled me out of that situation and sat me down for a deep talk. He convicted me, he challenged me, he spoke of promises and even gave me hints of things to come. I was impatient and chased them down and God led me into the wilderness. Last year he tested me bitterly, to see if I would choose selfish desire over obeying him. Those of you who were with me at that time, know that it was an extremely hard time for me... but I came through. Since that time I have been through periods where I'm great... and other times when I moan at God... just like the tribe of Ephraim in the above passage.

I have learned some of the lessons that God required me to understand before moving on... but by no means would I boast of having learned them all.

I feel God wants to return me to a place of blessing, I also feel he is challenging me to look into the events in my life that led me to exile in the first place. When Jeremiah revealed the above message to God's people... it was just prior to the exile. He was in effect telling them to leave practical markers in the desert to help them return when their period of discipline was over. Obviously I can't physically go back in time and do that for myself, but I feel that God wants me to examine my past and look at the points that led me out into the wilderness. There already are emotional markers laid down - psychological, spiritual and physical events that shaped my walk until now. By backtracking and praying through them, I hope to be restored to a place where The Lord can fulfill his promises.

I was also encouraged by reading a short story by Max Lucado in "When God Whispers Your Name". He pointed out the practical aspects of Moses' exile in the desert. Moses as you may recall was a man of authority in Egypt. that all changed when he killed an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew. Moses was forced to flee out into the desert. He resigned himself to living a quiet life - that of a shepherd, out in the wilderness. however as Max pointed out... Moses learned the crafts of the desert while living in the wild. Moses as a young man was hot headed, arrogant and inexperienced. Moses as an elderly man had learned patience... and despite his frailty had a lifetime's knowledge of desert survival... not to mention the newly acquired assurance of God.

Just looking at some of the things I said about relationships when I was younger, I was arrogant. Watching my friends stumble and fall, I proudly said to myself that I could show them how it was done... as if it was my job. How pompous was I? I've stumbled. I've been picked up. I'm in a place where the receipt of such promises seems to fade into the distance day by day... but God is as good as his word... even if I am not.

Romans teaches us that Abraham received what was promised through faith... even though his body was in the Bible's words "as good as dead". Abraham wobbled but never fell down. He always hoped and trusted in God's fulfillment of his word. Sometimes he tried to force the issue and messed up... but he always trusted good would come eventually. When God speaks... the debate ends.

Sometimes hope seems distant and just a blur on the horizon... but hope is never forlorn where the Lord is concerned.

If you are in the desert, take heart.

God bless

Nick - hopefully homeward bound.

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