Learning in the Isolation
I want to try and explain hitting the spiritual wall through the lens of what has been happening to us as a nation, as a global community during this coronavirus pandemic.
It is day, I- don’t-really-know-what-day-it is-because-all-the-days-run-together, of the lockdown that we have been placed in.
There is much that I have learned from this unusual experience; some good, some bad; some wanted and some unwanted. One thing I can say with absolute certainty:
There is revelation in the isolation.Tweet
It has been a crash course in a classroom of harsh reality with God as the consummate teacher pointing to the scripture on the blackboard:
If we are good students, we better be taking notes.
And so I scribble things in a journal I will probably never read again, and the bell rings and class is dismissed.
I stay in my seat in an empty classroom. It’s just me and God now. I look at my Teacher for permission to leave, but I don’t.
I don’t because I see the look on His face and it frightens me; although somewhere deep down into the core of who I really am, I know that He doesn’t mean to frighten me.
God is looking at me as if He wants to put the kettle on the stove and talk to me over a cup of tea. He wants to tell me things, important things; the way that my grandmother did whenever we shared a cup of tea.
As the kettle whistles and coughs white steam, God holds a teabag and whispers, “A teabag is just a teabag. Its strength only comes when it is placed in hot water.”
A sinking feeling fills the pit of my stomach because I know, and He knows, and I know that He knows, that I am not hot water nor am I cold water, I am the worst kind of water—I am lukewarm.
I don’t want to be lukewarm, but I am. I don’t want to be lukewarm, but I know that I am choosing to be. And, like Paul, I do the things that I don’t want to do, and I don’t do the things that I know I should do.
And this time alone is like a giant mirror of self-reflection that I can’t escape from.
Here is what I have discovered—I am a runner. Lest you think too highly of me, I don’t mean that in the good way. I mean that in the most cowardly of ways.
I run to avoid.
I am like the mouse in a labyrinth that knows there is a wedge of cheese as a reward waiting for me, and I run halfway and then stop and hide in the corner; pretending the cheese isn’t there.
What am I so afraid of?
Taking me Deeper
I love the ocean.
Living in the Midwest, going to the beach once a year is like opening the best Christmas present ever.
The closer I get to the water, the air changes and so does my soul.
I love the sound of the waves as they crash again and again in their predictable pattern, the scream of the seagulls, the tangy smell, and the way the the sand squishes between my toes.
I don’t, however, go into the ocean. I stand at the shore and allow the frothy water to cover only the lower portion of my legs… but no more. It so large and so powerful. As much as I love it, I fear it.
And so I only go so far and no further.
I like the way my feet sink deeper and deeper into the sand each time the waves roll in and out. The longer I stand there, the more I become anchored in that place and I feel in control.
The shore makes me feel safe.
I am grateful in that moment that the Lord said to Job;
“Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?'”
I know Jesus is calling me out into the deep. I sing the words of the song, with arms raised, and eyes closed, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. Where my faith would be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” (from “Oceans” Hillsong United.).
And I want to mean it…but I don’t. I want to mean it…but my actions prove otherwise.
Lyrics can be sung with your mouth and not felt in your heart. I can sing all I want to and still get it wrong, and then a song is just a song.
What am I so afraid of?
What I Have Discovered
You see what I have discovered in this unprecedented time of aloneness is that I will only go so far with Jesus and then I stop.
He wants to waltz with me through this one life I have been given, but He can only lead me when my feet are willing to dance.
Typically, my life is so busy that I can keep these truths at bay. I can fill my day and my time with the frivolity of life that seems so important and I can avoid what is really important.
I fuel my time with the things of this world and I put the things of God on the back burner.
In the night watches, when sleep eludes me, I should be running to the Light of the World.
Instead, I run to the light of the cell phone screen.
Now the busyness has all been taken away and I am forced to ask myself:
Why won’t I let Him in? Why won’t I surrender? What am I so afraid of?
Every time I get close to the breakthrough, I hit a spiritual wall.
The Spiritual Wall
I know that many people hit spiritual walls.
But I believe that most people despise the wall. They beat hard against the wall with their fists.
They dig through the Word of God to find spiritual hammers they can use to strike, rip, break, fracture, and tear down the wall.
I have always found solace in the wall. The wall is a welcome reminder that I haven’t gone too far. Some walls are there to keep things in. Some walls are there to keep things out.
Each one of us must decide which of these describes our spiritual wall.
And then… the virus came.
Things Are Changing in Me Because of the Change in the World
Miraculously, I am coming out of this quarantine different than when I went in. This virus has scared me, but in many ways it has scared me straight.
Oh what the devil meant for evil, the Lord truly does use for His good!
Time, like toilet paper and loaves of bread, was something I took for granted; something I thought would always be there for me.
The luxury of “waiting for the right moment” has disappeared like large gatherings and eating at a restaurants with friends.
I have come to a place in my relationship with the Lord that I have never been before. I have walked deeper into the ocean; I’m still only knee-deep, but it’s farther than I have ever been.
My feet are ready to dance. I am running toward the cheese. I am breaking down the wall brick by brick.
When I had it all I didn’t need Him. In this time of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, I realized that He was all I had. I have cried out to Him like never before. I have leaned into His Word like I never have before. I love Him like I never have before.
What was I so afraid of?
Avoidance was my normal.Not getting too close was my normal.Wanting to be in control was my normal.
God is breaking through when I was broken down. I am experiencing a NEW normal with Him!
While we were shutdown, God opened me up!Tweet
Amen, God bless, and may you learn to fully surrender to Him. The first step into the deep is the hardest, then you lay back and float.
All photos courtesy of unsplash.com
All scriptural references are from the English Standard Version (ESV)