After a five month layoff my wife started a new job this week. Being laid off from a job she loved, in a community she enjoyed with people that had become like family was difficult, but God, in His infinite generosity prepared her and strengthened her through the process and the details. The five months that she spent at home were far more than “the bright side” they were a joy creating gift. She got to do things she had always missed out on like having breakfast with our boys every morning, picking them up from school, going on field trips and even having lunch with me or one of her friends from time to time. The benefits of the time “out of work” far outweigh any financial detriments, at least that is how I have seen it.
A few weeks ago one of my wife’s brothers called her and said the company he works for is hiring, he didn’t know anything about the job, the pay or anything else but said she might want to check it out. She decided to do just that, sent a resume and was quickly called for an interview that went so well that she was offered a job on the next business day. She still didn’t know a lot about the job but she really enjoyed the people she met and worked with at the interview, she liked the very initial description of the job and she felt great peace about the process and so she accepted the offer and this week she started back to work a little excited and of course a little nervous.
On Monday morning when she was getting ready to go to her first day of work I stopped her so we could pray. As I prayed I thanked God for her, for the time she had to rest, for her last job and all she accomplished there and all God did for her in that place and for all that He has planned for her in this new season. I was about to ask God to protect her and provide for her when I slowed down, actually, I stopped. I sat and thought for a few moments before I went any further and I asked God to awaken her to His protection and His provision throughout the day. I’ve spent the last few days thinking and praying about that prayer, about my need to be awakened to what God is doing in me and around me.
I’ve been using the book of Deuteronomy as a backdrop for my preaching for the last few weeks and have asked our congregation to read through the book together during the course of February. The results have been very encouraging. I keep hearing reports of what people are learning but they are not learning about the commandments or the history of Israel or the personality of Moses, they keep sharing with me how much they are learning about God’s character, about His Fatherhood toward us. I believe that the book of Deuteronomy is a lesson in being awakened to God’s character rather than pleading for God’s action. I actually believe that is what the totality of Scripture is about, it’s not God’s message for us nearly as much as it is His message to us, it is God’s divine revelation of Himself to His children. Moses writes things like every commandment is for our good and so that God can protect us. He shows that God is so faithful that He forbids Israel to cause any harm or take anything from the descendants of Esau or the descendants of Lot because God had made promises to those men that He would not break not matter what their offspring had become. He shows that God is so concerned with our wellbeing, so committed to provide for and protect us that He leaves no detail uncovered. A great example of this is found in Deuteronomy 22 when God commands that if you come across a birds nest that has young birds or eggs and a mother in it that you are not to take the young or eggs and the mother but you are to let the mother go and take the other for yourself. Many times we read something like this and think that God just loves rules but the truth is God just loves us. Why is this command important? Because if we take the mother and the young we are not allowing for sustained nourishment, by leaving the mother she can reproduce again, feeding us again. God is our Father, His character is love and He is faithful to provide for and protect us, His commands are not to test our allegiance they reveal His character toward us.
What would happen if, each day we began asking God to show us, to awaken us to His loving kindness, to His protection and provision for us, to His nature and character toward us? Wouldn’t it change our attention? Wouldn’t it change our focus and wouldn’t it prepare us to see God work? Maybe it’s just me but I feel like we often live life completely unaware of God’s presence and work on our behalf that is happening without our asking. How often do we ask God to come, plead with Him to move and call on Him to take notice of what we were just faced with? What if we started every day with an affirmation that God is with us, God is for us, and that God is already and always protecting and providing for us? What if we reminded ourselves that God will not be surprised by anything that happens today so I can rest in His knowledge and I can trust in His character that while I may face circumstances that I feel unprepared for, He will not and when I face those circumstances He will be with me and He will be for Me because He has chosen to love me? I believe everything would change. I believe we would begin to learn how to rest in God’s character rather than always feeling as if we are calling on His power. Not that calling on His power is wrong or not necessary but it has to come from a sense of trust rather than fearful desperation. What if I set my focus so fully on the character of God described in Scripture that I continually was able to see what I was sure of rather than feeling surrounded by questions I can’t answer and fears I can’t possibly quell?
Martin Luther said “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.” I don’t believe that we can ever come to rest in this statement until we have come to believe that willingness is a part of God’s Fatherly character toward us. We don’t need Him to come rushing in and prove Himself again, we need the veil lifted from our eyes and our hearts, we need an awakening to the presence and character of God that is always surrounding us and even dwelling within us; I don’t need God to do more I need to see more of what God is doing. Today is the traditional beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to the Resurrection of Jesus. I am not from a tradition that celebrates or practices Lent but today I’ve decided that I want to challenge myself. For the next 40 days I want to prepare my heart to celebrate Passover, Good Friday and Resurrection Day by praying for a daily awakening to God’s character in and around my life. I want to change my outlook on life and my response to life, I want to live day in and day out challenging myself to see God, not because He is hidden but because my eyes are dim and my heart is often set on lesser things. We often pray for and talk about discernment, it has recently occurred to me that discernment is only an awareness of what is not obvious or clear. In a sin tattered world suffering and pain and death and disease and rejection and loneliness and anxiety and fear are obvious, it takes no discernment to see those; I want to spend the next 40 days praying every single morning for the discernment to see grace and mercy, hope and love, generosity and kindness, gentleness and joy, truth and life; I want the discernment to see the presence, character and Person of God within and around me. I am praying that this Lent will be a season of awakening my soul to see that the Lamb who was slain for us is always and forever Emmanuel, the God who is with; I don’t have to beg Him to come, I can ask Him to awaken me to the reality that all of His actions are only the result of His abiding presence. He never leaves.