Do you hire contractors to do the work God has offered to do for you? How’s that going? Perhaps the landscape of your life looks a bit like this? Scattered bits of this and that, unconnected and unfinished, untouched, and unpacked?
The pause that came to me in today’s readings – and bringing this comic by Dan Piraro to mind – was early and in the psalm. If you read this blog with any frequency you know that the Holy Spirit pauses me frequently at the morning’s psalm sometimes having me linger there before I get on to the remaining three passages.
So it was this morning with Psalm 37 – a psalm I have reflected upon often – a psalm from which one verse has been given to me by friends, spiritual advisors, colleagues, therapists and prayer partners to encourage me in a time of trial.
4 Take delight in the Lord, *
and he shall give you your heart’s desire.
Many of my reflections on Psalm 37 have focused on distinguishing ‘my heart’s desire’ with respect to vocation from God’s desire – God’s will be done. Indeed, whenever I received this verse from someone, it was to encourage me to stay the course – that as long as I was committed to the Lord’s way, trusted the Lord, my heart’s desire would be forthcoming.
But it wasn’t this verse that stopped me today.
It was here, just the next verse, where my eyes lifted:
5 Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, *and he will bring it to pass.
And truth is, it was only the first part of the verse that touched me, made me smile, pause, and receive the blessing of an encouraging word.
Encouraging in part because I realized the Holy Spirit had allowed me to skip over the ‘heart’s desire’ promise for the first time in a very, very long time. I realize I’m over it – past it – ‘my heart’s desire’ is not what I am in charge of figuring out or piecing together, it is not a DIY project. And I am not committed to the Lord so that He will bring me my heart’s desire, but His for me.
It was a second bit of encouragement I’ve received in the past 24 hours. Love the way the Spirit works.
Just yesterday after sharing my story related to vocation with a colleague – a colleague who is encouraging me to stay the course despite all the stops, starts and detours – he asked, “What a mess! How are you keeping this altogether? What is it you are doing in this season of trial to not lose it?”
I answered, “I’m not sure I haven’t lost it on more than one occasion, and yes a mess, but one I believe I was lead into by God’s hand. And frankly, it is the day to day discipline of dwelling in God’s word.” Simple, but real. It is my testimony, I suppose – that the place I know saving grace is in dwelling in God’s word and in worshiping with God’s people. The daily discipline of grounding a day and even an hour in scripture, in God’s story, followed up with a weekly discipline of worship, has kept me from obsessing over my own story making futile attempts to assemble all the scattered pieces into a life that looks like my heart’s desire.
I know I have been committed to God’s way and I know I trust the Lord to lead me through the life He has created in me and for me.
I think the question my friend posed to me yesterday ‘how are you coping in this chaos, these set backs, disappointments, rejections, this mess?’ set me up to receive the blessing of the God’s word this morning – to be paused at the one verse that could affirm me and my journey – the one verse that would remind me that I have been committed to the Lord, that I have trusted, Him and His way.
I decided a long time ago to let Jesus take the wheel, to not hire out the job of constructing the life the Holy Spirit would have me live.
Letting go and letting God is another way of expressing the same idea. Doing so doesn’t ensure smooth sailing. Indeed, I believe I was lead into the mess of the life I was describing to my friend just so God could put me back together again – His way.
My life’s landscape has looked a lot like the Bizarro panel I inserted at the top of this post. And for a time, while in the midst of the mess I walked into, I sub-contracted – hired out in a sense for someone else to make sense of ‘my heart’s desire’ as a way out of the mess. I sought affirmation from others and was devastated when it didn’t come my way. And I was stuck in the mess for a long time just trying to discern ‘my heart’s desire’ – what was it? did I know? was this God’s will or mine? did others agree or disagree?
Mid-way through I was moved to move off that dime – by God’s grace – and prompted to focus simply and beautifully on God’s story, God’s heart. For me, for you, for all of God’s people.
I let go again and returned the reins to the Lord, let God, trusted God. And there I have remained ever since. Dwelling in God’s word, worshiping in God’s church. Walking with God’s people. And trusting. Trusting Him all the way along.
That’s how I’ve coped, friend. Dwelling in God’s story. Letting God do the work He has intended to do, so that I may do God’s work as He intends.
AM Psalm 37:1-18; PM Psalm 37:19-42
Amos 9:1-10; Rev. 2:8-17; Matt. 23:13-26