Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I’m diving in, I’m going deep,
In over my head, I want to be.
Caught in the rush, lost in the flow,
In over my head, I want to go.
The river’s deep, the river’s wide,
The river’s water is alive
So sink or swim, I’m diving in
--Steven Curtis Chapman "Dive"

I love water. I remember my first swimming lesson. It was a cool, summer day, and the early morning sun hadn't yet heated the water. I was seven years old, and trembled with excitement. I remember I took to the water like a fish. I was hooked and I couldn't wait to go again. All summer long I swam. Every summer after that, I couldn't wait for the pool to open. As I grew more comfortable in the water, I became bolder--jumping off the high dive into the deep, blue water. What fun that was for me! I loved to see how deep I could go; how long I could stay under water. I felt so free and at home in the water; almost like it was my second nature. That is until one day I had a mishap on the diving board.

The pool was crowded that day. I was standing at the edge of the diving board, and there were some older boys behind me. In their excitement, they hurriedly climbed onto the board directly behind me. The weight of all three of us caused the board to shake. Somehow, my foot caught on the edge of the board, and I feel head first into the water. I wasn't ready to dive in, and didn't catch my breath first. I hit the water hard and got a mouth and noseful of water. I sank to the bottom, and desperate for air, began furiously to try to reach the surface. My lungs felt like they were about to burst, and my nostrils stung from the water and chlorine I breathed in when I first hit the water. I somehow made it to the surface, crawled out of the pool, and parked myself in a recliner. I did not go into the pool for the rest of the afternoon. It took me awhile after that to get my nerve to go swimming again, but I never went to the deep end anymore. From then on, whenever I swam, I only went as deep as I could stand in the water. Five feet of water was my max. I was safe at five feet. There was no real chance that I could drown. No chance of any surprises. Five feet was good--but the deep end--dark blue, deep and peaceful, called to me.

My spiritual life was much the same. I'm a quiet and reserved person by nature, and just letting go and worshiping and trusting God seemed so out of control and scary to me. I envied people who seemed so at ease in sharing their faith--at praising God. People like Karen. She and I sang on our church's praise team together, and struck up a friendship. She was blonde, bubbly and warm. And very excited about Jesus. She talked about him every chance she got. Her love for the Lord was infectious. You couldn't help but get excited about Jesus when you were around Karen. I longed for and craved the deeper things of God. I wanted to serve God with reckless abandon.

A few years ago, I went to our church's annual Women's Retreat. During a break from our sessions, a few of us decided to gather at the pool. To my chagrin, everyone decided to hang at the deep end. Gathering my courage, I sat at the pool's edge and stuck my feet in the water. That was as deep as I was willing to go. That is until Karen got into the water. She just dove in. No diving board, no contemplation--just a 'jump on in, the water's fine' type of attitude. She dove deep. She did the backstroke. She did butterfly strokes. It was obvious she was a great swimmer. Someone remarked to her about it. She said that when she was in high school, she qualified for the US Olympics swim team. That explained it. She had such an ease and grace in the water--as if it was her second nature. As I watched Karen, I remember how I once too felt so at ease in the deep end. I wanted so badly to just jump in and swim; but the memory of my diving board disaster stopped me cold.

As I sat there, the Lord spoke to my heart: 'Just like you're afraid to go into the deep end, you're afraid of going into the deeper things of Me.' It was true. I became a Christian at nine years of age. When I was 13, I went to a revival with some friends of my mom. I don't remember much of the service except that it was extremely charged. I felt the power and presence of God touch me in a physical way that I have rarely felt since that time. Somehow I ended up at the altar. I was literally shaking from head to toe. The man running the revival was praying for other people when he suddenly stopped and looked me square in the eye. 'Young lady', he said, 'God has a great plan for your life.' I don't know why, but his words frightened me. I guess in my mind I thought he meant that God was going to make me into some sort of teenaged holy-roller. I was already a hopeless nerd--a female Steve Urkel, if you will. I didn't want to further distance myself from my peers by being a Jesus freak. So I ran from God.

But, God in his grace and goodness kept calling me, biding me to come into deeper fellowship with him. Sometimes I would answer. Sometimes I would actually stick my feet in the water. I'd read my Bible, sing a praise song or two, even pray. But there was still that nagging fear in the back of my mind. What will happen if I just dive in--just trust God with my whole heart? The thought of not controlling my own life frightened me. I liked running my own life and not having to answer to anyone. Oh sure, I trusted God with my salvation; basically because I had no alternative, but in my day-to-day life, I was the one in control. I didn't want to give God total control of my life because I had no idea where He was taking me.

A few days after the retreat, I decided to go for a swim. For awhile, I did my usual shallow end thing, but the deep end called my name once more. I went to the deep end, stuck my feet in and sat there for a minute. I thought about just jumping in, but my old fears resurfaced. However, I just sort of let myself fall in. The water was so warm and peaceful and calm. I loved it.

Soon afterwards I found myself being drawn to the deeper things of God. No longer am I satisfied by doing church as usual. My desire now is to live my life as pleasing to God. I don't want to be a Sunday morning Christian, but everyday I want to live my life for Christ. I want people to see Jesus in me. It's funny how the very thing I feared years ago is the thing I desire most. Getting in the deep end can do that.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My Isaac

I've never been married. There are times when that's ok, and there are times when it's not. Lately, it's not been ok, and I've been really struggling with this whole singleness thing. I gotta admit, I really don't like being single. Let me rephrase that: I'm not always content with being single. I admire other singles who have learned to be content, but I'm just not there yet.

Ever since I can remember, I've always wanted to be married. I came close years ago with my daughter's father, but I know marrying him would've been a huge mistake. So I chose to stay single for what I thought would be a short time. And now here I am 16 years later, at age 39 and still not married. And not dating. And I'm wondering, 'What is wrong with this picture?' Almost all of my friends are either married or in serious relationships. I haven't even been on a date since November--and that was the first one I'd been on in many years. When my daughter became ill, I put dating totally out of my mind; I needed to concentrate on getting her well. But now that she's on the road to recovery, my single status nags at me.

I guess I could accept my single state if I didn't believe that God has someone for me. I believe that with all my heart, and I've spent the last maybe 10 years preparing myself--or at least trying to. My problem is that I am impatient. I'm like the kid at Christmas; I can't wait to open my gifts. Lately, I've been praying about being single. 'Why, God? What's the matter with me? Why hasn't this happened yet? What am I doing wrong?' He didn't directly answer my questions, instead He gave me something to ponder: 'Your desire to marry needs to be your Isaac.' So not what I wanted to hear.

For those unfamiliar with the Isaac story, it's one of the most profound stories in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, we're shown a special friendship that God has with a man named Abram. Abram lives in a pagan society, yet he serves and has a unique friendship with The One True God. God tells Abram a few things: 1) Abram will be the father of many nations, 2) through Abram, God will establish a covenant with the world, 3) God would give Abram’s descendents the land of Canaan, 4) God changed Abram's name, which means 'Father of one' to Abraham--'Father of many'. Sounds pretty cool except there's a couple of teeny little issues. For one thing, Abraham is 99 when God tells him this, and his wife Sarai (name changed to Sarah) is nearly 90 and barren. But the cool thing about Abraham is even though he was incredulous, he believed that God would bless him with a son.

And God did, but it was about 19 years later. Along the way, Abraham and Sarah tried to 'help' God by basically getting a surrogate to give Abraham a son, Ishmael. Not such a great idea. In fact, it was a very bad idea; one with far reaching repercussions that we in the modern age are still dealing with. At any rate, God specifically told Abraham that Sarah would have a baby boy. Isaac was the son God promised Abraham--through this son and his descendents, God would establish his covenant with the world. While Abraham loved Ishmael, Isaac was the Promised Son. Isaac was the miracle baby. At this point, the story gets interesting. God tests Abraham:

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." Gen 22:1-2 NIV

Yikes! Did we read that right? God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, his beloved son--the PROMISED son? Yes, God wanted Abraham to sacrifice his son. The amazing part of this story--even moreso than Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son; even moreso than Isaac's willingness to be sacrificed; even moreso than the ram in the bush--is that this story serves as a foreshadowing of Christ's redemptive act on the cross. If that doesn't give you goosebumps, I don't know what will. I've always understood that verse in context to Christ's death on the cross, and subsequent resurrection. What was harder for me was putting it into context of my own life. What exactly is God saying to me? I am a person who loves to know what words mean, and I felt to understand sacrifice, I needed to look the word up. Turns out there are several meanings:

1: an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially : the killing of a victim on an altar
2 : something offered in sacrifice
3 a : destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else b : something given up or lost

4. Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.
a. Something so forfeited.
a. Relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value.
b. Something so relinquished.

The one that caught my attention was number 4: 'Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.' There is so much to consider in that one definition. In plain English it means to give up something valuable for something even more valuable. Wow. In thinking of salvation, Christ put on humanity, then gave up his life for ours; giving us redemption. Phillipians 2:5-8 says,

'5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.' NIV

So humbling. Christ gave up the majesty of glory to come in human form to save me. He gave his very life for me--what will I give up for him? Lately, I’ve been thinking about marriage all the time. It has, in fact, become an idol of sorts. I don’t purposely idolize marriage, but like that kid at Christmas, I am so giddy with the anticipation of receiving my gift, my promised gift, that it’s all I can do to not think about it.

But, I believe God wants to know from me—do I want the gift more than the Giver? Will I love the gift more than the Giver? As a parent, I can totally understand this. I love my daughter, and I give her the things she needs. There are times, though, when I want to give her special things as a reward for a job well done, or sometimes because I know she’ll appreciate the gift. But many times I give her things simply because I love her and I love to see the excitement on her face when I give her something she’s really wanted, but didn't expect to get.

My daughter is almost 16 and will be driving soon (a real nightmare for me). She’s already asked me for a car. Suppose I give her a car, and she is so excited, jumping up and down with joy. ‘Oh, thank you Mom! It’s just what I wanted! I’m so happy!’, she’d exclaim. That would be wonderful, right? Of course it would. But let’s suppose that eventually she begins to only think of the car. She’s tooling around town everywhere in the car all day and all night. She won’t let me ride in the car—won’t even let me touch it. The car becomes her number one and only concern. How would I feel about that? What will happen with our relationship? What do you think I would do with the car?

I think in some way, that’s the point God is trying to make with me. God wants to give us gifts. Psalms 21:2,6 says:

2You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah

6 Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.

Further, Psalms 37:4 says, ‘Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ NIV. God wants to bless us; he just doesn’t want the blessing to take his place in our hearts. He is also a jealous God—he must be number one in our lives.

'Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.' Exodus 34:14. It is a slap in God’s face for us to cherish the blessings that he’s given us, more than we cherish him.

That’s not what I want. I truly desire to make God my first priority every day. And sadly, I don’t always do that. I get carried away with the cares of life, and my own wants and desires. My prayer is that I let nothing—not a job, man, money, family—anything come before my God. Even if that means sacrificing my own heart’s desires for the sake of the Cross.