Monday, July 7, 2014
Lions, Bears and Giants
I have talked in the past about my dreams. They are small ones by most people’s standards. They didn't used to be, but life and it's experiences have changed my heart and mind as to what it is I really want.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be an archaeologist, an artist, a writer or an actress. I wanted to travel all over the world and see everything I read in the countless books that passed through my hands. I wanted to see the Great Wall of China and I wanted to walk right up and put my hands on a pyramid. I wanted to climb through an Aztec or Incan village and I wanted to dig for Viking armor on the coasts of Europe.
As I got older and my artistic abilities became more refined and I was able to write in such a way that people could actually understand the imaginations running through my head, I began to think that either of those directions were what I wanted to take. The moments alone in my bedroom in front of a canvas or writing in my notebooks consumed so much of my time, but my insecurities and my immediate world around me didn't allow me the confidence to pursue them much beyond hobbies.
I spent years after high school not having a clue (does anyone) and making mistake after mistake in my life. Eventually, I realized that what I was doing at the time was not what I wanted for the rest of my life and so I decided to go to school. Three years later I walked across the stage and I received my degree. During that time in college I met him.
From the moment he started working in my department while a student I couldn't stop thinking about him. It took me a year but I finally made enough of an impression on him to get him to go on a date with me. Through the next couple of years, as I began to learn more and more about who I was and who Jesus was, my dreams began to take a much different shape.
Gone were the dreams of traveling and writing and painting. There were no more fantasies of being knee-deep in ancient mud digging for treasure. My heart had taken a beating and out of that the true nature of what was really deep down inside of me began to reveal itself. I realized that what I really, truly wanted from life was so much simpler. I realized that obtaining any of those goals wouldn't fulfill me in the ways that matter most. It was shocking to me to realize that what I really wanted were the things I had been shunning.
I learned that all I want from life, the absolute only things I dream about, are a home, a man that loves God and me, and children.
Sounds a little vanilla doesn't it? It sounds like I might just be selling myself short when there are a thousand other things I could do, huh?
I don't think so. Not one bit.
Where before I literally shuddered at the idea of staying in one place and allowing moss to grow, my heart positively aches for just such a chance. I want roots. Deep ones that go far beyond the years I am here. I want a little home with a little family and a comfortable, solid marriage. Anything beyond that is nothing but pure blessing.
I thought I was on my way. I thought that when he put that ring on my finger in that little church in front of our friends and family that my little dreams were starting to come true. Step one of three down.
Less than two years later....it was gone.
On December 1, 2012 I pulled our Christmas decorations out of the basement and I began to put them up in our apartment. I was getting excited for the holidays and all that comes with them. He helped me unpack the figurines and put up the Christmas tree. He helped me wrap the lights around it and we began to pull out the ornaments. Just as I was putting on my first one, he turned to me and asked for a divorce. At first, my brain just simply wouldn't register what he was saying. In the following hours I felt as though someone where wringing out every last bit of breath and moisture from my body.
It wasn't just the loss of my spouse that was causing the panic and pain to rise up inside of me, it was the loss of my dreams that seemed to suck the very light from the room. It was all gone. The dream of a home and children, gone for at least a very long time. I had thought I was so close, that there were only a few more steps to go before I was in the thick of my ideal world. I can't tell you how empty I felt, how utterly robbed I felt.
In the following months I literally threw myself at Jesus' feet and begged for His grace to get me through it all. I wailed about the loss of time I was experiencing and how I was set back even farther from my little, tiny, normal dreams. I shook my fist at the ceiling and wore a path across my living room floor as I walked back and forth every sleepless night. It wasn't the loss of him and the pain that he brought with him, it was the loss my little family that ripped my heart out.
A couple of months following that night I was working on a painting at my church and listening to a sermon on my iPod. It was a message about stretching our capacity to be able to hold God's destiny for us. The very last part of the sermon before the pastor closed in prayer he said something that sent my mind into overdrive. He said, "What would have happened if David tried to be king of Israel when he only had the capacity to be a shepherd?"
I turned of the iPod and went into the sanctuary and I prayed like I hadn't prayed in a long time. In those moments God gave me something. He said, "Jessie, even as a shepherd David still killed a lion, he still killed a bear and he defeated the giant." I held that in my heart and told myself that I was just a shepherd and not yet ready to be king. I comforted myself with the knowledge that even though I wasn't ready for my dreams yet, I could still be powerful and make this life a good one.
That worked for awhile, it really did, and I was able to experience a contentment that I thought was lost to me. For several months I had some of the best times of my life with new friends and new occupations of my time. I grew closer to God and could actually relax without feeling like I couldn't just sit still. Eventually, that period began to ebb. My deepest heart's desire was still down inside of me, burning and burning and I began to notice the heat again.
Fast forward another year and you'll find me working each and every day to keep those fires contained yet alive.
My desires are not wrong, they are very much good and healthy dreams. The part that I so often have struggled with is the timing of their fulfillment. I know with every conviction and fiber of my being that they will come to pass and I believe with all of my heart that God has promised it to me, just as David's kingship was promised to him, but do I ever struggle with the timing!
I was in a conversation the other day when the person asked me a question about David. I hadn't thought about him in awhile or about what God showed me that night I listened to the sermon. This person asked me if I knew why David had worshiped like he did on the hillsides at night while he was tending the flocks. He said it was because David was terrified. At first this confused me because it was David, the great king of Israel, but they went on to explain.
David was just a little shepherd boy alone in the hills at night protecting the livelihood of his family. He had to protect the sheep and goats from the mountain lions and bears as they prowled in the darkness and he only had his hands and a little sling to protect himself and the flocks. He fought that fear with worship and through that he came to know God. Not just know about Him, but truly know Him. So much so that when Samuel came to Jesse's house to anoint the new king of Israel, he knew him immediately by the very presence of God in and around David.
But you know what? David didn't become king the day that the oil was poured over his head. Do you know what might have happened if he did? He could have destroyed Israel through his inexperience and ignorance. He might never have gained the respect and love of the people through his ability to wage war. He might never have learned the meaning of true friendship and the strength that comes after real betrayal.
First, David had to be an armorer bearer for the king, he had to slay Goliath, become the commander of an army, become an acclaimed warrior, face Saul's jealousy and wrath and hide from his attempts to kill him, he had to mourn the death of his very best friend and rise above his grief to finally take the mantle of king of Israel. Through all of that he worshiped, railed against God, felt abandoned by God, and worshiped even harder. All you have to do is read through the Psalms and see the mountaintop-valley-mountaintop roller coaster that David rode even before he became ruler.
As my conversation went on I remembered about the night I prayed and God reminded me of David's might even before he stepped into his purpose.
I don't know where I am in all of that. Am I still just a shepherd on the hillside? I like to think that after the battles I have fought these past couple of years I am farther along in my journey. I don't really know, but I can pick out the pattern in all of that and see that no matter where I am I have to be worshiping; regardless of whether I am in the cave or on the battlefield.
David's destiny was sealed when the oil was poured on his head, just as my destiny was sealed when God gave me His promise, yet there was so much that had to be learned before it came to pass and the same will go for me. Man, I can't sit here and lie and tell you that I am walking this out gracefully. I am downright angry at times and have to repent for that, I have to be honest. But God has quietly been showing me lately how far I have come in my journey and that every single step of the way is shaping me to be a better king.
I have to ask myself what might happen if I tried to have my dreams all come true right now? How much better of a wife will I be knowing what I know now after a failed marriage? How much better of a mother might I now be after this time of truly learning to appreciate the gift that children are and how empty life really is without them? How much more beautiful and comfortable of a home might I be able to provide for my family now that I know what it is like to not have one and how difficult it is to obtain one? How much richer will my dreams be because I have learned all that I have learned in the time since I thought I lost them?
Yea, they could still have been good, but I consider these lessons to be valuable even though they are difficult. It's the difference between good and great. As I am sitting here writing this, I realize that I have been given something truly precious even though an hour ago when I began I didn't really see it. I don't want to destroy my Israel, I want it to thrive and become great. I want the people God will trust me with to be loved with my whole heart and being and know that I will work to care for them.
We must remember that there will be lions and bears and giants to kill. There will be heartache and times we feel we are losing ground as we hide in the caves, but we are learning to stretch our capacity beyond that of a shepherd or armor bearer or mighty warrior. We are stretching our capacity to become a king.