Thursday, March 29, 2012

the path marked out

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."
Hebrews 12:1-2


i heart sundays. seriously. they are my favorite day of the week. i love my church. i love worship. i love hearing a fresh word from the Lord spoken through our songs to Him, or the message from our pastor, or just His spirit in the quietness of prayer. the word is always good, but there are those sundays, just like those mornings in quiet time, where it is more than good - it is penetrating. as if the entire service and message has been coordinated by the heavenlies just for me. as if i am the only person in the room. there are those sundays when i go into church just prayerfully ready for it all and then there are those sundays that i walk through those doors absolutely desperate to hear from Him. a few weeks back was one of those Sundays. one of those mornings where i awoke in the painful awareness that my life is turning out nothing - and. i. mean. no-thing - like i'd imagined or planned... or dreamed. dreams that God planted in my heart often feel like just that: distant. faraway. dreams. dreams that need to be let go of, allowed to die or given up on - yet, even when i come to those conclusions in my own mind, my heart refuses. it's usually there, lost in midst of my own self-inflicted confusion and doubt that He speaks, and reconfirms all over again what i know is true. that He is who He says He is, He can do what He says He can do and He never changes. ever.

yea, so it was one of those sundays when i was desperately needing a word. most days, as soon as i get the message guide in my hand i sneak a peek, but this particular sunday i did not. i waited until it was time to open it. after worship. after prayer. i took a deep breathe in as i sat and unfolded the page, hoping. for hope itself. and i read just what you see above in big letters across the top:

"When life isn't turning out the way you'd planned, ______________________."

the blank was looming on the page and in my heart, flooding my soul with expectation. it was my predicament spelled out word for word before me and i knew that the Lord Himself was about to fill in the words to the blank space not only with encouragement for other weary souls, but with instruction. for me and for the path in which he has placed my feet...


"Don't give up on your dreams."


the service could've ended right then and there. i almost wish it would've so i could've went home and privately sobbed the tears of relief i was fighting back. oh, how i'd wanted to give up. and quite frankly, have given up, so many times before. i've ran myself ragged from running in circles rather than running the the race in which He has clearly marked out for me.


there is a path set before us. each and every one of us. it is our life story that He desires to weave through His story of redemption. the landscapes of each of our paths are as varied as each of us, but all of it He desires to use for His glory and i find myself no longer asking why or how long, but simply how - how he desires to use me, to use my story, for His purpose.


i'm humbly reminded - and thankful - that our God is far more interested in our character than our comfort; our holiness more than our happiness. and maybe, just maybe, the rocky path beneath my feet is more than the consequences of my past mistakes, but His divine design to teach me the things my heart longs to learn: patience. perseverance. obedience. faith. the kind of faith that "is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see". (Hebrews 11:1)


it is the faith that gave so many in scripture the ability to persevere in the wait, the years and years (and sometimes decades) in the "in between" God speaking a promise and the fulfillment of that promise.


the precepts of the message were this: don't give up. even if. even if it didn't start well (can i get an amen?); even if those closest don't support you (can i get an even louder amen?): even if your journey is full of surprises (much louder);even if it takes a LONG TIME (loudest amen of all).

that day became a new marker on this path marked out for me. having long since made my decision to follow christ, that day i made a decision to persevere in the path that He has marked out just for me, knowing that faith leads to obedience that leads to our reward in Him. what the prophet Habakkuk wrote in reference to the promise of revelation applies to the promise that God has for my life and for yours: "And then God answered: "Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what's coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn't lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time." (Habakkuk 2:3)

what's coming is your story. you know, the one God desires to use for His glory. it's coming moment by moment. day by day. if only you persevere in faith.


persevere. per·se·vere: /ˌpɜrsəˈvɪər/ [pur-suh-veer] Show verb, -vered, -ver·ing. verb (used without object) 1. to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly. #persevere