Friday, August 1, 2008

In the Way of His Judgments

Yes, in the way of Your judgments, O LORD, we have waited for You; The desire of our soul is for Your name And for the remembrance of You. With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early. (Isa 26:8-9a)

Some of us have what can be called a mystical bent. I hesitate to use the word "mystical," because of its New Age and/or occult connotations. But it's a good old word that was not always tainted by such associations. I don't know a better word for it, unfortunately. But whatever you may call it, there is a certain bent of soul that some have, one that tends to be less practical and more other-worldly, that is drawn toward deep communion with God but can easily neglect other people, or schedules, or anything mundane. We can get a spiritual "high" from spending time in the Word or in prayer, but (shame on us) have little patience for the normal day-to-day demands of life. We crave that profound sense of closeness to God, and find it nearly impossible to believe that the drudgeries of life could really be important. We can easily be accused of "being so Heavenly minded that we're no earthly good," and we often deserve the censure. When we're far from God (as I have so often been), we're some of the crankiest people around! How could we be happy, when we're far from the One who alone can feed our souls? We try desperately to fill that spiritual void in other ways, all of them selfish, and it's not pretty. Oh, how many years I've wasted that way!

We also feel a bit awed by the practical folks around us who get so much done, when we don't even have a clue how to get started. Since those rare but beautiful moments of intimacy with God feel like the very life and breath of our souls, anything resembling drudgery feels like death itself. So we avoid it like our worst nightmare, and never gain any of the skills we would have learned if we'd rolled up our sleeves and started kneading life's dough. And to top it all off, when we work up the nerve to take an honest look at ourselves, the selfishness we see is appalling. We look around us at those we love most, and realize they deserve so much better from us. And yet the moment we look at the mundane realities and demands of life, they loom larger than anything, seeming like the absolute opposite of all that is good and right. Before we know it, we're off by ourselves again, trying to tune into the spiritual side of things by ignoring the stuff that's bound by gravity.

But it rarely works.

I've got it so wrong. So very wrong! How could I ever believe that self-centeredness could lead me anywhere but away from God? It's incredible that in His mercy He ever allows me to sense His presence, but then again, isn't that just like Him? He's so generous to the undeserving. If He had never let me taste the joy of Himself, I would never have known exactly what it was I needed so desperately. So He just keeps forgiving, keeps giving glimpses of His pleasures, even while I keep wandering around in circles and getting it all wrong.

Of course it's not wrong to have that sort of craving for communion with God. It's not wrong to have that spiritual bent. God made some that way, and He made others more practical so that things would actually get done. Praise God for the practical ones, who know how to worship with the work of their hands!

Whichever way God made us, we shouldn't try to be the other way. BUT...whichever way God made us, we should be aware of the weaknesses that we have, and should seek to overcome them by God's grace.

I can't speak for the practical folks, because I'm definitely not one of them. But I believe the above-quoted verse from Isaiah has a lot to say to folks like me. It tells us how to wait for God, for those glorious moments when He allows us to feel His nearness.

While we are "desiring His name and the remembrance of Him," we are to wait "in the way of His judgments." What does that mean?

As I understand it, "judgments" can mean God's declaration of what is right and wrong, what has value and what is worthless, what is true and what is false. Waiting for Him in the way of His judgments would mean living in obedience to what He has revealed. In other words, it means getting more practical.

For me it means (in part) doing the housework.

"Housework" might as well be spelled "Ugh" in my vocabulary. It feels so soul-deadening, so opposite of all that I seek spiritually. But that's where I've got it all wrong.

If Jesus were to speak in an audible voice and say, "Betsy, be at the corner of Harmony and College, and I'll meet you there," could anything keep me away? I wouldn't earn a meeting by being there, because I could never deserve such a thing. But if, in His infinite grace, He decided to meet me there, boy would I get there any way I could!

Of course that's a fanciful idea. But what if He promised to meet me "in the way of His judgments?" What if He promises to meet with those who walk in obedience (not because they've earned such a meeting, but purely by His grace)?

Does He?

One of the most beautiful and astonishing verses in the Bible to me is Isa. 64:5, which says in part, "You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways."

Once more: You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways!

That's just amazing!

Up above I said, "It means (in part) doing the housework." The reason I said, "In part," is because of that verse.

If I can manage not just to "do housework," but to do it with a heart that is waiting for Him in obedience...

If I can manage not just to "do housework," but to rejoice because I truly believe that He will meet with me (not that I will have earned it, but purely by His grace)...

If I can manage not just to "do housework," but to remember Him (God Himself, who is my life and joy) in His ways (His ways of doing what is right out of love for God and others, including doing the drudgeries of life)...

Then by His grace I'll find the joy of feeling His closeness more often. And instead of fearing the mundane as the opposite of the spiritual, I can learn to see it as something He has given, a way by which I can actually do what blesses those around me, rather than selfishly isolating myself, and by which I can put myself in a position to experience Him more fully and freely.

I know I've said it before, but I need to say it again because it's still such a mind-boggling new concept for me. So here goes:

It's impossible to pursue loving the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, if you're busy avoiding loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said those were the two greatest commandments, and He tied them pretty closely together (Matt. 22:36-40). And loving my neighbor (and my husband, and my kids) includes joining them in the nitty-gritty of it all. That's the part I need to learn.

Jesus never divorced the practical from the spiritual, after all. No one was more spiritual than He, and no one more practical (just ask all those whom He healed)! And who knows how many hours of drudgery He put in in that Carpenter's shop for decades, before ever entering into His public ministry. You can bet He rejoiced as He did righteousness!

I want to learn to do that, too.

If you know me, you know this is radical thinking for self-centered little me. I need lots and lots of prayer and grace from God to get this through my stubborn heart, to learn to wait for Him in the way of His judgments.

Now I'd better go get started on the housework!

(Photo from Stock.xchng by Qute)

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