Sunday, June 1, 2014

14. "Not Know! But My Father Does!"

(This is a series that was adapted from my life-story, Child of Mine, which is at  On this blog, it starts at the bottom of the June posts with “Like a Child.”)

            To me, to be able to trust God in our worst times and with our biggest hurts is a true picture of what it means to really know Him as a Father.  But we can only get to that point when we have become humbled and broken before Him.  I want to look one more time at the scene of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Because in Him, I see the ultimate picture of what it means to be broken.  Humbly broken.
            If you read the passage in Matthew 26, you’ll see that Jesus was sorrowful and troubled as He was getting ready to face the cross.  He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”  (And in this, He illustrated the importance of leaning on others by reaching out to His disciples for support and comfort, asking them to keep watch with Him.)  In His flesh, He didn’t want to go to the cross.  But He didn’t hide these feelings from God.  He poured them out honestly.  (I already went into this a little, but it’s worth repeating.) 
            “Going a little farther, he fell on his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26: 39)  Can you imagine how difficult that “job” must have been to bring Jesus to His knees, actually . . . to His face? 
            He was torn up inside.  Yet, He didn’t do what I am always tempted to do when I face difficulties; He didn’t put on a brave face and act like He was a super-spiritual giant who could handle it and didn’t need anyone.  Instead, He poured out His anguish.  He admitted the uncomfortable feelings and that He didn’t like what God was asking Him to do.  He begged to have the plans changed.  (Yet, He knew that He wouldn’t actually walk away from the cross.  Because as He said, He could have called down the angels in a moment.  And He never did.) 
            But it wasn’t about getting out from under the cross He was asked to bear.  It was that He knew the importance of all-out honesty and transparency with the Father.  And He illustrated this for us.  I never really understood that.  I was so concerned with “doing it right” and with being pleasing that I couldn’t be transparent.  I didn’t know how to (or even that it was okay to) express unpleasant feelings or deep desires that seemed to question what God was doing in my life. 
            But Jesus did.  He knew that honesty and transparency was crucial to a close, trusting relationship with the Father.  It is a necessary part of humility.  Anything less is just trying to deceive God.  Any kind of covering-up or lies or self-deception puts up a wall between us and the Lord.  As Jesus showed us, we can be full of pain and anguish and disappointment and still draw near to God. 
            Matthew 26:42:  “He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  When I look at this verse, I am struck by the humanity of Jesus coming through here.  He didn’t just plead with the Father once and then accept the cross.  He went back a second and a third time, saying the same thing.
            I get hard on myself when I struggle too long with giving an issue over to God.  I feel like a weakling, like a failure, like I am displeasing for not handling it righteously.  So many times, I bring an issue to God and leave it in His hands, only to take it back again and wrestle with it some more.  And then I wonder what kind of pathetic Christian I am and how little my faith and trust is.  Surely if I had more faith, I would leave it in His hands once and accept His Will bravely, right? 
            But even Jesus, in striking vulnerability, wrestled with accepting God’s Will.  He knew that He wanted to do God’s Will above all, but He still had to wrestle with His feelings and His own will to submit them to what God wanted.  So maybe I’m not such a horrible Christian, after all?  Maybe it’s just a part of the process.
            And something that really strikes me is that despite His deep anguish and incredible desire to live, Jesus could still call God “Father.”  I think this is amazingly beautiful.  Jesus’ human side didn’t want to do what He was being asked to do.  He was in torment over it.  But He still knew and loved God enough - and knew God’s love well enough - to call Him “Father.”  He trusted Him enough to say in the end, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”  More than getting what He wanted, He desired to see God glorified by His obedience.  His goal in life was to glorify God and please Him because He lived in a relationship based on love. 
            This, to me, is the pinnacle of brokenness.  To live our lives in God’s love, not in our fears.  We don’t have to like what we are being asked to do or to “feel like it” in order to glorify Him with our obedience.  But when we have seen ourselves as we really are - tiny, but fully loved by our amazing Father - we would desire not so much that our wishes are granted but that He is glorified in and with our lives.  We would want to please Him, not out of fear but because of love - our love for Him and His love for us.
            And when we have gotten a glimpse of Him as He really is - His holiness, His glory, His love, His goodness, and His trustworthiness, then we would be able to genuinely rest in Him, even though the storm rages around us.  We would be able to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.  I will cling to You.”  No matter what comes our way! 
            And even if the journey is long and the path is dark, we would believe that He is there with us, even in the silence.  Because that is what kind of a God He is.  This is the amazing security that comes with being humbled, the joy and peace of being sweetly broken.  It’s knowing that we can just be still, because He is God.  But more than that, this glorious, holy, magnificent God is our good, loving Father! 
            (I want to say this here so that it’s known, because I can’t say it when it’s too late.  When my time on this earth is up - which I am not planning on anytime soon - I want four songs played at my funeral:  Manifesto by The City Harmonic, Blessed Be Your Name and Hallelujah by Newsboys, and, of course, my all-time favorite, Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle.  What a way to go!)      
            Well, this takes me to the end of my story.  Well, the end of this chapter of life, at least.  And it has been my privilege to share it with you.  While it has been a rough road, I have learned so much over these past years with God’s gentle, loving help.  Through His silence and the pain, through long stretches of waiting (and I’m still waiting), through His Word and through His children - the Israelites - and through having my own children. 
            And I’d like to leave you with one more story, from the small devotional book, Our Daily Bread.  It’s about one more little child that helped teach me about what it means to be a child of God.  In fact, if I could sum up my whole journey to brokenness in one little example (besides Jesus’ ultimate example of brokenness in Gethsemane), it would be this.  So, let me leave you with this short story written by Dave Egner about a little boy named Max.
            Two year old Max was securely buckled in his seat in Grandpa’s pickup truck.  He was waiting for Dad and Grandpa to stop talking so he could go for a ride.  His mother poked her head in the truck and said, “Where are you going, Max?” 
            “Not Know,” he replied, raising his little arms.
            “What are going to do?” she asked.  “Not know,” came the answer again.
            “Well,” she asked, “do you want to come back in the house with me?”
            “No!” came the quick reply as he settled himself more firmly, waiting to begin his adventure.
            “That little boy taught me a lesson I needed right then,” his mother Sheryl told me later.  She was soon to give birth to another baby, and she had reason to be unsure of what was ahead.  “He didn’t know where he was going or what he was going to do, but he trusted Grandpa completely.  Max’s confidence in Grandpa is the kind of trust I need in my Heavenly Father.”
            If you are in one of those periods of life when you don’t know what lies ahead, or you don’t know what to do about some critical issue, it might help to think about it that way.  God wants you to have the confidence in Him to say “I will trust and not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2).  We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.

            (Dave Egner, Our Daily Bread, Copyright 2006 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.)

            Little Max didn’t know where he was going or what he was going to do.  But he loved and trusted his Grandpa enough to go with him anywhere.  And maybe that’s the point of this whole “life journey.”  It’s not about the destination or knowing where you’re going.  It’s about strapping yourself in and saying, “I’m going wherever You’re going, God.  I trust You!”  But for the longest time, I was too afraid to even get in the car with God, unless I was in the driver’s seat.  I would rather just wait it out, standing on the side of the road until I knew more (and frankly, sometimes I still do that).  But I’m learning.   
            Faith came easy back in my younger days.  But it was a surface faith, an untested, weak-stemmed faith.  But years of stormy, windy trials - years of bending it to the point of nearly breaking - have strengthened it.  And it has caused me to put down deeper roots in the only thing that I can really rely on, my Heavenly Father.  And I am so thrilled that I can actually call Him that and mean it now.  He is my Father!  A good, loving Father with open, waiting arms, who is always there, loving me . . . for me!
            I know that I don’t always have the kind of faith that Max has, but I want it.  I want to be able trust in His love and goodness so much that even when the path is dark, I can say to Him, “I don’t know where You’re taking me.  But if You want me there and You’re going to be with me on the journey, then I want to go, too.” 
            So what is my next step on this journey?  What does He have in store for us?  Will He answer my prayers and get us out of this rental soon?  I can only think of one way to answer this, one way that can put my anxious heart at ease . . . “Not know!  But my Father does.” 
            Take care and God bless!