Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Viva La Resistance!

On this Friday afternoon in Arlington, Virginia, I find myself sitting in a park I didn’t know existed. I’ve been up here a few weeks visiting my sister and brother-in-law. I don’t have a car so I’ve been walking around today. I saw this park so I decided I would stop here for a bit.

To get to this picnic table I am currently sitting at, and to hang out with these wonderful ants wandering around it, I had to walk down a somewhat steep little hill with no walkway or stairs. I’ve been walking around in the sandals I have been wearing for about the past four years, and being a Florida boy, I’ve worn them a lot. Upon my descent down the hill I quickly realized just how much I have worn them. I might as well have been wearing skis. There is little to no traction left on my sandals and I found myself going down the hill much faster than originally expected and intended. I even did one of those little hops near the end so I wouldn’t fall. I didn’t fall but I sure looked like a girl pirouetting around as I landed. Nancy Kerrigan style. Win-lose.

You never realize the importance of good traction until you are without it. There is just something about friction and resistance that makes things work. In no way do I understand physics or have even attempted to take a physics class in college, but I do know that life is built around it. Physically and spiritually. God has a way of taking things that seemingly work against each other and using them to produce growth and good things. Sometimes the friction hurts. Sometimes we don’t understand it or why it is happening, but either we believe Romans 8:28 or we do not.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

One of my favorite stories as a kid was the story of the prophet Balaam and his donkey that talks to him in Numbers 22. I thought talking animals were so cool. I guess I watched “Homeward Bound” one too many times.

The story goes like this: This guy Balaam would go around and speak what the Lord told him to, and inevitably upset a lot of people. (Another example of the friction a life for God can create.) One day Balaam saddled up his trusty donkey and hit the road. Problem was, he was headed down a road the Lord did not want him on. So God sent an angel to stand in the middle of the road. And it wasn’t one that was bringing “glad tidings of comfort and joy,” this one had a big sword ready to swing. The donkey was able to see the angel, so she stopped heading towards it. Three times the angel appeared on the road in their way, and each time the donkey would either try to walk away or sit down, to which Balaam would get angry and beat her for.

After the third time of this, God went Disney on them and opened the mouth of the donkey so she could speak. And she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” And what is funny to me is that Balaam talks back to the donkey like it’s no big deal that she is speaking. “You made me look like a fool! If I had a sword I’d kill you!” The donkey said in reply, “Haven’t I been your donkey for a while now? Do I ever do stuff like this?”

Then God allowed Balaam to see the angel, and then he hit the ground. The angel said, “I am here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. If your donkey had not turned away I would have killed you.”

God spared Balaam that day, more than just by not taking his life-breath. I wonder what would have happened if Balaam would have made it all the way to the destination God did not want him to go to.

When I think back on my own life I can think of multiple different times I was heading in the wrong direction without even knowing it. And that’s just in the metaphorical sense, let’s not even talk about how many times I’ve actually been lost in a car (especially in D.C. this week!) God has been so merciful to me and closed doors and gotten me off of paths that lead to destruction.

I wonder how many times God has put an angel in the road and we didn’t even know it.

We try so hard to make things work. The way of America is that if you have anytime to actually breathe then you’re not running hard enough. When we face hard times and opposition, we beat the donkeys we’re riding on to make them do what we want. Because if something is not going as we planned or as we’ve desired, the problem must be that we’re doing something wrong or not working hard enough. And we try our best to force the outcomes that we feel are best, or worse, that we feel we deserve.

I wonder how many times God has put an angel in the road and we didn’t even know it.

Psalm 37:23
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

If we are seeking the Lord, and seeking his will, then he is going to be leading us, even when things are hard or confusing. It is the traction we need to actually get anywhere on our journeys. Psalm 23 makes it clear that the Lord is our Shepherd that leads us, but we still go through valleys of the shadow of death. Does that mean that God has led us to the valley?

I’m not saying that this is an easy thing. When things don’t work it is frustrating. I’ve literally laid my hands on people, prayed, and seen them healed right on the spot. I’ve prayed the same prayers with the same faith and seen them die. There really are no formulas to faith in God. Sometimes I don’t get it.

I have spent many times kneeling by my bed in tears, begging God to hear my requests. Wondering that if God is truly for me then why are there so many things against me? Why does it seem to work for others but not for me? “Why haven’t you come in power, Lord? Why haven’t you stepped in? How many mustard seeds of faith does it take to see a mountain move?”

Real life is full of questions like these. We may never get answers to many of our questions, but we don’t serve God because he is the question answerer, we serve him because he is the King.

Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11 we go through the journey with him “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed by his death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Perhaps the greatest example of friction is the friction between death and life. You can’t get much more opposite than that. In the Kingdom of God it takes death to get life. Death of our will. Death of our desires. That we may know him. We share in his suffering, but even greater, we share in his resurrection and life!

Things are difficult? You’ve tried all you know to do? I wonder if there is an angel in the road. You can’t get them to love you? Your boss won’t notice you? I wonder if there is an angel in the road.

We need the resistance of the world. Our spirit needs the friction with the world. We need the traction, the uncomfortable ridges and breaks in our would-be smooth surfaces. You know what something with no traction is? It’s a slide. And there’s only one direction a slide will take you. Psalm 24 says, “Who will ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” Go try to climb a hill in bowling shoes.

We need the trials and pain sometimes. Don’t be afraid to wait upon the Lord. I know waiting goes against everything most people tell you to do, but hey, maybe it’s time for a mutiny on what is ruling this world. VIVA LA RESISTANCE!

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