Hope, Take III

Let’s just continue the theme here.  I have obviously been dwelling on this thought!  But it keeps coming back up.  I guess it could be my own mind interpreting everything in light of what I have been thinking of, but who can really say?  Either way, I believe that God is really just trying to drive it home…to root it firmly in my soul as truth.  And not just as the word “truth” – I mean, as truth that is something to live by.  There are a lot of truths that I hold in my brain that never make it to my heart and my actions.  I think God is trying to make sure this is not one of them. 

Every verse I read has been about hoping in the Lord or waiting in the Lord.  These words are often interchanged between different translations…what is “hope” in one translation might be “wait” in another, and vice versa.  As a conglomerate, it is like the Word of God is screaming at me, “Put your belief, what you are waiting for, in the eternal, and the promises you seek will be realized.”  I have to list a few verses (and maybe commentate a bit on them along the way).  To have their full effect, you should go read them in context, but I’ll leave that to you and just pull out a few.

Psalm 39:7 – And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in You.

This one hit me particularly hard.  The psalmist’s question in the first part of this verse is a question simply asked to make a point.  He is trying to say that he does not wait for anything, because he HAS the thing he is waiting for…it is fulfilled in God.  In God.  He seeks nothing past God, because God holds all things.  What a disservice I do to God when I tell Him that He is not enough!  My attitude says, “I know I have you, God, but I am still not satisfied.  I need you to make MY plans come to pass.  You who created the universe – you must not know what needs to happen in my life.”  I seem to have forgotten about the verse a little further along in Isaiah 55 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”  He sees and knows more than I do…infinitely more, and I still seem to question His methods and doubt His wisdom.

Isaiah 55: 1-2 – Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come buy and eat.  Yes, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.

Here, it speaks of our striving…striving for things that pass away and do not fulfill.  He says that God does not even require your desperate striving…He is giving you what you need without any cost and because of nothing that you have done.  It is His to give, and He is giving it, but we have to take Him up on it.  I believe this speaks not only of salvation, but of all of His promises.  His abundance is there, but we have to accept it.  We can choose to spend our souls in squalor on this earth even as Christians if we do not choose HIM first and step out of the world…He is “what is good.”

Matthew 6:33 – But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

This is the most obvious, and also the most succinct of the verses with this theme.  It is surrounded with verses telling us not to stress, not to hold onto the things of this world – telling us to trust the Most High God with our every worry.  This verse also means something particular to me because about 5 years ago God gave me a dream about this verse.  In this dream, I was given a gift.  I was an adult, but I was back at the church I went to as a child for some special thing, and one of the older members gave me a gift.  I went home and opened it.  When I opened it, I could not tell what it was supposed to be.  There were no instructions in the box.  It was a bunch of pieces of stirofoam that were obviously supposed to be put together.  There was also a presence with me – a presence that I never looked at, but that was helping me try to piece the gift together.  I was conversing with it as I went, and it was guiding me somehow, although never speaking out loud.  As we began to fit the pieces together, all of the sudden I realized that they had now changed from stirofoam to plastic.  I still had no idea what it was supposed to end up being, but we continued to try to make sense of the pieces.  And as we continued, they changed to wood.  I thought for a moment that it was going to be a wooden wall shelf, and thought that was a pretty good gift.  But we continued to work and it continued to change, and I realized that it wasn’t.  And then it turned to stone.  And when it turned to stone, it was no longer in my hands, but outside my window in the ground.  It was a tombstone.  Only I was not looking directly at it.  I was looking at it through the reflection in a mirror.  In the reflection, I could see myself, a clock, and the tombstone, which was engraved with the words, “Seek Ye First.” 

Now, if you can’t interpret that on your own, I’ll do it for you.  I’ve had 5 years to analyze the subtleties and infrequently take it to heart.  When I was young, a gift was passed on to me – the knowledge of the true God and His saving grace.  When I received it, I did not fully understand it.  It’s implications were not formed or sturdy in my life.  I was not taught how to fit it all together, but along the way, God’s presence was always there with me, patiently guiding me, watching my clumsy attempts.  This understanding grew more sturdy as God continued to guide me.  It became something less breakable (plastic) but still something that I did not know how to make use of.  Time went on, and it became something stronger yet (wood) and at this point, I sort of thought I saw it taking shape.  I only just, in typing this, recognized the significance of thinking it was turning into a wall shelf, and being satisfied in that.  A wall shelf…a thing never used for much except to look pretty – to put your decorative things on display.  I would have settled for using God’s salvation as something to look at, something for others to look at, but still serving no real, functional purpose in my life.  But God did not let me stop there…and His gift turned to stone.  Solid.  Immutable.  And then it was no longer mine.  When I understood the gift, it was not even something I was supposed to hold on to…it was something I was supposed to let go of – my life.  It was truth.  It is not something inessential and decorative like a wall shelf.  It is gritty and real and hard, but true.  So true that it makes you only do things that matter.  And of course, the clock and my own reflection – my days…man’s days…are numbered.  The only thing that matters is to seek God first as it says and to do the following:

To die to self (I Corinthians 15:31 – I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.),

Realizing that my days are numbered (Psalm 103:15&16 – As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes, for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.)

And recognize that only God’s purposes will have any lasting value as Job does here (Job 42 2-5 – I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.  You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’  Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  Listen, please and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and and you shall answer Me.’  I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.)

I love what Job says there.  He says he said things, questioning God about things that he did not understand…things too wonderful for him to understand.  God’s plans are so great and so good and so far above our heads that we can’t even fathom the magnificence of them.  In other words, the God “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)  And then Job says he finally gets it.  He says, in effect, “I had heard about You before, but now I have seen You…now I KNOW You.”  He got it. 

I’m not sure I’ve “got it” yet.  I’m not sure what stage I am in from that dream.  I like to think I am getting close to a place where God’s place in my life is so grounded and real that I live it as the Word of God says we should in I Corinthians 7:30&31 – …those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not mis-using it.  For the form of this world is passing away. 

To buy but not possess, to use but not mis-use.  And to stop waiting for anything, realizing that God is THE good thing (as illustrated in the passage from Isaiah above) and possessess all other good things in His hands, where He is also holding me (John 10:28 – And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.) 

May I learn to not be as Martha in Luke 10:41&42 who was “worried and troubled about many things”, but may I be as Mary who chose “the ONE thing that was needed” – to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear His words.  That is where hope is found.

Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, unity.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Where these is darkness, light

Divine Master, grant me that I may not so much seek,
To be consoled, as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love,

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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