Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18, 2012

Encountering God

The last month has been busy—too busy. I really don’t like to use that word because I think it’s a cop-out. We have choices; we make them; we have to live with them. I made choices that left me busier than I like to be. And when I become too busy, I hurry. And when I hurry, I cannot love the people around me. It’s not a new problem; it’s one I struggle with regularly. But what has changed is my desire. I not only know I need to change, I really want to change. This pace and kind of life simply isn’t working for me anymore. It’s not life giving; it’s draining, and it hurts me and, more significant, the people I love. But I know I can’t change myself. I’ve tried that too many times before, and I have come to terms with the truth that I don’t have that kind of power. But I still hold on to the hope that I can change. So what do I do?

Well, it turns out I was scheduled to go to a three-day retreat last weekend. It’s been on my calendar for 18 months. The Great Banquet is a ministry I have participated in for more than a dozen years, but I had not been on a weekend for 18 months. I really love these weekends because they are so transformative for those who participate—including me. But I have to be honest: this time I was simply looking forward to the retreat being over. This weekend was the last of a number of big commitments that have kept me driving forward for the last six weeks. I was looking forward to having all of these things behind me so I could figure out what my next step would be to figure out how to change my life.

I thought I was being faithful to my commitment and getting it behind me, but the truth was that God was being faithful to me as he put himself before me. Through many and varied wonderful teachings, personal conversations, and experiences, God met me in just the way I needed. I left the weekend with a deep sense of love, joy, and peace.

And what was even more amazing to me is that in our church, the sermon text was on Jacob’s wrestling with God. This text is wrapped in mystery, but what is clear is that Jacob feels fear and anxiety because he does not know what is ahead when he meets his brother Esau. These feelings drive him to God. He knows that he needs God, and that place of vulnerability and openness to God is a place where God can and does meet us.

But Jacob didn’t just have an encounter with God. He was left wounded in his hip socket. Like Jacob, we all have a limp. I was reminded over the weekend that my compulsive busyness comes from a desire to change things in ways that are really beyond my control and power. Sometimes our compulsive busyness comes out of that broken place. That’s not just true for me but for all of us. But when our brokenness and woundedness comes to light, we have the ability to see God and ourselves and our lives more clearly. That was true for Jacob. That was true for me this weekend.

I left the weekend with a more realistic expectation about my life. My life is still going to be full—but not busy. The warp and woof of daily life is not going to be like a retreat. There are things to do, people to see, and places to go. That is life. But the value of getting away from the ongoing demands of life to wrestle with God is what enables us to encounter God in new and fresh ways. To listen to his voice and to receive new insight that we just haven’t been able to see in the midst of our everyday, ordinary lives. It’s not that God isn’t always with us or communicating to us. It’s awareness that is missing, and when we intentionally get away to seek God, especially in times of need, there is something God always wants to say.

An encounter with the living God is not just for people in the Bible or for those we consider “spiritual.” As the people of God, we are called to wrestle with God. In the weeks ahead I’m examining my schedule to ascertain what it says about me and my life. I know I’m wrestling over and striving after many things, but I want to live my life striving after God. May it be so. 

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