Not long ago, I heard that Jesus is a model teacher: He uses a variety of methods to get his point across: lecture, object lessons, parables, etc. Some times I know when I think of Jesus teaching, I think in past tense. Jesus taught the disciples. But the reality is that He is Teacher. He is still teachING today. Do we hear him? Do we see Him? Are we going to pass His test? The amazing thing is His passing rate is 100%. If we are His, we will pass the test…eventually. Even when we are faithless, He is faithful, for He cannot disown Himself (2 Tim 2:13). He is constantly teaching, disciplining, and refining His sons and daughters, sanctifying us by His grace. What was begun in grace, is perfected (or brought to completion) by grace. Our end, that leaves, as Chandler coined the phrase: “grace-driven effort”. And what He began in us, He will bring to completion (Phil 1:6). So take heart my friends, we are all works in progress!
Okay, enough of an intro. It has been quite some time since I have posted anything, but I was encouraged by a dear friend to write about some of the things the Lord is teaching me through recent circumstances, so here it goes. As most of you know, I am a Math person, so bear with me as writing is not really my strong suit.
To help you understand my state of mind, I want to set the stage by filling you in on the latest details of my life. In June, I started grad school. I am pursuing a Masters in Mathematics through Texas A&M (whoop!) University, and it is completely distance based, which means every class is online. This, like most things in life, has its advantages and disadvantages, but let’s just say I have questioned this decision nearly every day since I began this program. Teaching yourself graduate Mathematics courses is far from easy. I could write a whole other post on the things the Lord has taught me through grad school thus far, but in an attempt to stay on topic, I will continue. For one of my grad school classes, I had to have a computer, make a website, etc and to make a long story short, one thing after another kept breaking on my Mac. I visited the Apple store 7 times (no exaggeration) in the span of 2 weeks, and frustration was building. This summer was hard. I saw in myself a complaining spirit, and I hate that. As a result of this grumbling, I, like the Israelites, found myself in the wilderness. As summer ended, and school began, I was hopeful. Full of HOPE. I love when the Lord lays a word on my heart to seg-way into a new season.
The first week brought 160 new faces and names and stories and people to love, and a since of purpose, which was helpful because it took my eyes off of myself, and my grad school problems. I was so excited to end the first week of school. I got in my car on Friday morning, turned the car key and nothing. “Hmmm”, I thought to myself. “This cannot be the battery because I have experience with that.” I knew it was something more major. So, I prayed, and then called my Dad to come rescue me. Thankfully, he drove over at 6:15 in the morning to take me to school and said he would look at my car later. He sent his mechanic friend to my house that evening. After many tests, he told me that I would need to have my car towed in Saturday morning.
The car was at the shop from Saturday to Tuesday afternoon, and the crank shaft sensor was replaced along with the timing belt and a couple of other belts. 630 dollars later I find myself with my car, and I am thankful thinking at least I do not have a car payment. End scene.
Wed morning, the very next morning after my car is returned, I get in my car, as I drive down the street, my car completely stalls. It shuts off and is stuck in the middle of the road. Again, I call my dad: we push it to the side of the road and have it towed back to the mechanic. After a lot of testing, he determines is must have been a fluke incident as it would not die on him. So we drive out there on Wed night, and as soon as I take off, it dies on me, again. He keeps it and tests it again the next day, and brings it to me Thursday night.
I drive my car to Bible study, where interestingly enough, we talk about Nehemiah and the wall being rebuilt and the state of the wall paralleling the state of the people. Our leaders asked us to share regarding which season of life we found ourselves in, and I shared about my car, and the things the Lord was teaching me through it, thinking surely I am out of the woods with the whole car situation. After a wonderful evening of discussion, I get into my car and turn the key. No start. I tell my self not to panic, and I try it again. This time, the car starts and so I drive hoping it will not stall again. I am sitting at the light at Memorial and 610 and my car just dies…shuts off completely, and so I try to restart it, it starts but then shuts off and will not budge. I call my poor Father again, and he says he can be there in about 15 minutes. He comes, we push my car into the Shell station and arrange for the mechanic to get it again. This time, they find out that it is a bad part. The crank shaft sensor that had just been replaced was faulty, so they replaced it again. I went camping that weekend and had the blessing of not thinking about my car and enjoying friends, nature, and time with the Lord.
My car was waiting for me in my driveway when I returned, and I was so thankful, thinking surely, all problems must be solved. I drive my car from Monday to Friday, and although it seems quite shaky, it works, and I am thankful. On Friday night, I stayed after school to work my girl’s volleyball game, and then was headed to a missions prayer night up at church. I am on 610, merging into I10 and suddenly all the lights on my dash come on and my car has absolutely no power. I was going about 70 mph so some how by the grace of God, while the car still had momentum, I was able to merge over to the right, one lane at a time and finally had to stop at a white triangular patch (non-lane) near an on ramp. As my car shakes as cars are speeding past me on either side at 80 mph, I sit there, not knowing what to do. My dad is not available because he referees football games every Friday, my brother was also refereeing, my mom did not answer her phone (after 6 rings), my roommates were at our high school’s homecoming football game. Everyone in my life that I am the closet to was not able to help me. I called the mechanic and he gave me the number of a towing company, who did not answer. I then called my sweet friend, Katie, who was willing to come meet me wherever I needed, and as I am talking to her, I hear a knock on my passenger side window. There is this shady looking 40 something year old man, motioning to me to roll down my window, which I cannot do. So I have to in faith, open my door to this stranger. He then says, “M’am, you are not in a safe place”...gee, you think? After walking back and forth to his tow truck a couple of times, he eventually told me he was with Safety Clear and told me he could tow me (on the city’s bill) to the nearest gas station. I asked if he could take me to the church instead, and although he said no at first, the Lord changed His heart and he then said yes. Katie met me there, and after it was all said and done, he hands me his card. When my eyes focused in on what was in my hand, it took everything in me not to make some strange face. His card looked like a magic card and said, “GHOST” on it in some gothic script, on the back: “Dark Justice Towing”. So apparently, the Lord saw fit to send Ghost to come rescue me.
My timing belt (yes the thing that was just replaced) was shredded to pieces, and in the process, ruined the engine. After discovering it would take around 2400 dollars to replace the engine, and seeking many counselors, I decided it was prob
ably a better investment to buy a new car- something safe and reliable that could last me a least ten years. After a week of car shopping, and haggling, I am now the owner of a brand new car. I didn’t think I would ever buy a new car, and now that I have one I cannot really believe its mine. Well I guess it’s the Lord’s but He has given it to me as a gift. The smooth ride definitely off sets the fact that I now have car payments.
For those of you who have stayed with me this whole time, bless your heart! I am sorry for the length- now for the lessons:
1. The Only Thing Good in Me is Jesus (check out the song if you haven’t). I came face to face with my sin multiple times through this experience, which is always a humbling, horrifying and wonderful thing. Painful, but necessary. I saw my tendency to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, prideful, complaining, and my need to take control, which is in fact an illusion. Thankfully, He has taken out this old heart, and put in us a new heart:
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:25-26
2. God is Jehovah Jirah! He is Provider and He provides:
Finances: Finances are tight, trying to pay for grad school, the car repairs and now the new car, but God provides. I prayed specifically for a way to make extra money, and in a couple of days, out of no where, he provided to young girls in need of a private Calculus tutor. I also had worked a week of summer sc
hool, and the payment was included in my September paycheck, which was perfect timing.
People: He provided my dad (countless times) to come save me, my coworkers to offer advice, drive me places, my roommates t
o drive me places, my wonderful roommate’s parents allowed me to borrow one of their cars for 3 weeks, and even Ghost to come and rescue me from the freeway.
Presence: He provided to peace of His presence that comes through prayer and constant communication with Him. When something you take for granted every day changes, God has a way of getting our attention. Every time I turned that car key, I prayed- we pray because we need Him. We desperately need Him every second of every day, and do not even realize it, walking around with this air of independence as if we do not need Him, as if we made our selves and control our next breath. The fact of the matter is we do not breathe apart from Him.
Grace in the wilderness: I am in love with this phrase from Jeremiah 31,
“Thus says the LORD, ‘The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness--
Israel, when it went to find its rest.’
The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying,
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”
So many evidences of His grace are all around us. There are many aspects of common grace, things in which we all share- like the taste of good food, or being able to enjoy a laugh with friends, and then there is the grace that increases the joy of everything for the believer.
3. We are Helpless. I think the enemy and our own pride and self reliance often mask our eyes to this fact. The reality is that any of us is just one phone call away from being on our knees. Hearing that a child is sick, or a parent has passed away, or that we lost something we hold so dear, brings us to a place of rawness and realness like nothing else. The mask is removed. The illusion is gone and for just an instant, we get a glimpse of things as they really are. We are just one of over 6 billion on this planet we called earth, one of many planets in our solar system, which is really small compared to other things in space. God is outside of all of that. He is infinite. He has no limits. He is not bounded by anything. This God – this Creator is the One to Whom we pray. This all Powerful, Mighty Lord, is also Our Personal Master, Savior and Friend. He is in control. He is Sovereign. He rules over all.
On that Friday morning, and then again on Wednesday night and Thursday night and the next Friday night when my car died, I sat, very much of aware of my helplessness. How many times do I turn on the car and not even give it a second thought, or flip on a light switch, or enjoy a great hamburger, or fresh fruit, or use my ability to see, to reason to think, love, give a hug, go on a walk, (and the list goes on and on) without even giving it a second thought? The sad reality is that I often live my life as if I am the source, the center, the one who has accomplished all these things, when all of that is remarkably quickly stripped away with something as small as a car not starting.
I am a beggar.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
There are a couple of different words for poor in the Greek. This particular word is ptochos: poor and helpless, one who needs lifting, so poor he can only obtain his living by begging, he has absolutely NOTHING.
Sadly, we live in a cultural that abides by relative morality and if we are not careful, we can all think we are “good” because we are “better” than the guy next to us. But we are not good. We are helpless. We have nothing. God is good alone. He made something from nothing, and only he can restore our nothingness. Only He can change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Our righteous deeds are filthy rags in comparison to His beauty. But He has a heart that desires to rescue and save and pursue, all for His glory and our joy.
So where do we go from here? In this restless uncertain season of life (which I feel like life only gets more complex the older you
get), this is His will:
Today, even if you find yourself in the wilderness (maybe especially if you find yourself in the wilderness) be thankful.
“Pray without ceasing, in everything give
thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thess. 5:17-18
Do any of us know what tomorrow holds? Do I know if my car will start tomorrow? No. Tomorrow is not even promised to us. But we have a God who is faithful. Let us rest in that. And He is good.
4. He is our source for JOY.
Lastly, let us GAZE upon His face. As Augustine says, "How sweet it was all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I once feared to lose and was now glad to reject! You drovethem from me, you who are the true, the Sovereign Joy. You took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, at last my mind was free from the gnawing anxieties of ambition and gain...O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation."
We must realize the things we hold so dear are nothing compared to Him. Like Shane and Shane say, “what once was a pearl is now sand, in light of Him”.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life…one things I have asked form the Lord, that I shall seek that I may dwell in the house of the Lord ALL the days of my life” (Psalm 27)….let us SEEK His face!
We have a Mighty God. His Love is Strong. Let it be a vice containing you, restraining and refining and at the same time freeing you to know and pursue and love Him deeper still.
“Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14