There’s really no easy way to jump into this post, so I’ll start the same way that the whole inner dialogue started with me…with a provoking devotional text from my friend @mindacorsa:
In 1 Samuel 8, we find Samuel is now much older and judge over Israel. The people are asking him to appoint a king so they can ‘be like other nations.’ Samuel takes their request to God, and God warns ‘this is NOT what they want…’ and explains what will happen if they appoint a king (taxes, hard labor, etc). Samuel took the warning to the people but “they refused to listen to Samuel. “No! they said. “We want a king over us!” (1 Samuel 8:19) Samuel takes their response back to God and He answered Samuel: ‘Listen to them and give them a king.’ (v22) That verse. Every time I read it– I shudder and wonder what things I’m demanding. How often do we fight for our own way? We think we know best. When we are so passionate about our stance or our desires, it’s hard to see potential train wreck at the end. But He sees it. God wanted to be their King. He wanted to be the one to fight for them- to protect them. But they demanded their own way. Let me be ever so quick to submit to His Word if He says no.
It was a good word, no, it was a great word. A reminder to take a look at my prayer life and let it be a mirror to my soul. What was I asking (or maybe demanding) from God in my prayers. Note taken. “Take a look at prayer life. What prayers have shifted from declarations to demands.” I mentally jotted it down and then turned to start reading a book.
That’s when I heard His whisper. Ever so gentle, but always so direct.
“Could this be similar to your dream and desire for ____? Could you maybe want that primarily to be like everyone else?”
That’s all it took. I sat speechless and chuckled under my breath. How was He so good at hitting just the right spot at just the right time. Within seconds tears were running down my cheeks. An “ugh” and overwhelming sense of my imperfection rushed in. I’ve read a lot about the Israelites and being like them wasn’t on the top of my priority list. They seemed like a hard-headed people who couldn’t remember a thing. One day they’re amazed and in awh and the next they’re worshipping a golden calf.
He whispered again, this time going deeper, “What if having that desire met doesn’t equal what you think it does? What if the lies you believe about it keep you so close-gripped that you can’t see past it or receive what I want to give you today, in this season. What if I told you it’s preoccupying way too much real estate in my your mind and heart from My perspective. What if you’ve put way too much weight and emphasis on that desire on the earth, when I’ve got a sea of desires you haven’t even tapped into that I’m ready to pour out as soon as your hands get open to receive.”
As a visual list began to build in my mind about what my dream would equal. Had I really been believing this stuff? Had I really been making decisions as if these were true?
dream fulfilled = not being different
dream fulfilled = being chosen
dream fulfilled = being taken care of
dream fulfilled = doors open
dream unfulfilled = not being chosen
dream unfulfilled = constant questions
dream unfulfilled = alone
dream unfulfilled = take care of myself
dream unfulfilled = doors closed
dream unfulfilled = less finances
And all of a sudden I saw God draw a line straight down the middle, through each “=”.
“What if it doesn’t equal that?” I heard Him repeat again.
What if? What if??? I was believing and living by the lies that culture had forced down my throat and I was swallowing them like everyone else. I fought these stereotypes in my head, but maybe my heart had come to believe them. I knew it had. Even the church enforced these beliefs – not on purpose, but it did just the same. Sure that dream could bring each of those things, so they weren’t complete lies, but isn’t that always how it worked, even back in the garden? Partial truth preying on our desires to get us to believe and act out of a lie? God was withholding that one thing we desired. And just like that our prayers and conversations with God as His kids turn into recited begging prayers trying to convince Him to give it to us. We start trying to prove why we are worthy of that it. Then before long, when God doesn’t meet our desired timeframe we ponder what we’ve done wrong to not deserve it. Why else would He withhold? And shame then has a free-for-all and wreaks havoc on our now wounded hearts.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” now makes more sense.
I was Eve. She had led the way, but here I was repeating her sins though I knew them full well. Wasn’t I looking at the one thing God wasn’t giving me and allowing the enemy to twist it into a lie that He was withholding? In a world full of possibilities and opportunities that God had laid out before me, I was fixated on one thing. One small apple. And it wouldn’t be long before I would use my own strength and power to get it for myself, just like she.
Had I really put God in that box? Had I really put that desire on a pedestal? Did I really think it was hard for God to do? Did I really think He was the kind of Father to withhold?
“So what then? If all of those equals aren’t true, what is?” I asked.
His answer came quickly and gently and I heard His piercing truth to the core of my heart.
“You are already chosen.”
“You are already highly favored.”
“You are set apart and that’s a good thing.”
“You’re not alone. I’ll never leave or forsake you.”
“I own the cattle on a thousand hills – you lack nothing.”
“I open doors no man can shut and I shut doors no man can open.”
“And I withheld no good thing.”
He went on as only He can, speaking straight to every lie I’d laid out. I was speechless. In seconds he had uprooted lies I’d never seen. Lies I knew had held me captive in a very small box-of-a-world, playing life small.
I could see it now so clearly. Here I was with my hands gripped so tightly to that promise, determined to never let go. As if I was trying to prove to the enemy and the whole world that God would be faithful (as if He needed me to prove that for Him). But deep down, I think I was trying to prove to myself more than anyone else. Orphan tendencies arising from a previous life. “He really did love me and when He fulfilled that promise I would have proof.”
And on that one line, my identity had been hung. With every year that passed and that promise still unfulfilled, God’s love was growing more suspect. The world echoed my orphan cry and my hands gripped tighter. ”I would not let go.” The picture formed in my mind with both hands clenched tightly, “helping” God not forget.
But then He gently spoke to that as well, “You know I’ve got that thing right? You gripping it doesn’t make me more faithful, but only keeping your hands preoccupied from receiving today. I will be true to my nature. I am faithful. But trust me with that one thing, and let go, so you can receive all of the promises that I have for you today.”
As His truth penetrated a million holes in my heart opening my grip became easy. I knew His gifts were always the best and I didn’t want to miss a one of them today. I’d only ever seen Him be exceedingly faithful, even when I was not. I slowly started to release my grip and as I did it seemed the weight of the world began to come off of me. Tears continued as I realized my world was changing overnight. The kind of change that would ripple into the rest of my life. If those things weren’t true, then I was free. Free to live and move and be. He was not withholding. He was always, only, ever giving.