November 12, 2019
I’m awake and up before The Cowboy has gone to bed. It’s 1:21 a.m. Too darn early. I went to bed at 10, but I’m wide awake now. I’m afraid I’m getting weird. Unbalanced.
And while I really love getting a jump on my day, I’m also afraid I’m getting pulled out of sync with the rest of the world, who’s mostly awake when the sun’s up, not the moon. It sounds silly to write that, considering that I’m checking in with you, the one who put the sun and moon in place and never sleeps.
Up until now, my early rising has felt like you were waking me up to hang out. Now it’s beginning to feel like I have a sleep problem, and that I’m only imagining you’re waking me up. And I wonder, have I also invented all these words from you that I’ve been writing down and all of mine back to you?
I love to sleep. I’ve been a sleep monger all my life. But losing sleep tonight isn’t what’s bothering me. What’s bothering me is that I’m afraid I’ve made it up that you’re waking me up. And I’m afraid I’m only imagining that my time in the morning with my Bible and this journal is actually time spent with you. I’m afraid that I’ve really just got a sleep disorder, not a special connection with the God-of-the-Universe.
But these conversations we have that I write down–or maybe they’re more like a one-sided dialogue that you inspire–I’m not sure what to call what goes on when I read my Bible and write down what comes to mind. But whatever it is, there’s all this joy that comes flooding in with the words. And there’s instruction that I don’t already know. And the seeing. I’m seeing stuff, God. There’s confessing.
Am I inventing all that?
It’s raining outside. You know how I love the rain, especially when it’s dark. Did you get me up to hear it with you? I’ve got coffee now and a lot of time. And I’m wide awake. Here’s my Bible, pen and paper. Whether or not you’re calling me awake, or I’m just experiencing interrupted sleep, well, if I’m deluded, it’s a happy delusion. This is the most fun I know how to have.
Open your words to me, no matter what time it is. Thank you for being here with me now, even if the reason I’m up has more to do with hormones than your wake up call. Take my eyes off the clock and off of me and put them onto you.
Hebrews 11. Verse 6 is grabbing me right off the page:
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. On the morning I’m most struggling with fear of being weird–today of all days–I’m given this chapter to read in Hebrews in my One Year Bible, where I find words about what faith is, about it being required for seeking you, and about how I must also believe that you reward me for doing it.
Because, yeah, I believe you exist. I look at birth, at life, at the creation. No question. And I believe you reward me for seeking you–for reading your words and talking to you. I think I’m already experiencing some rewards. Over and over, I’m given exactly the words I need for a particular day and often, on what feels to me like a crisis day–a day of Especially Heightened Need.
Can it be just coincidence that I’m up super early this morning, that the dogs-of-doubt are snarling and circling, and these words about faith and seeking you just happen to come along, about how faith is at the core of seeking you?
This feels like a set up.
I’ve been afraid for a little while now that my seeking you was becoming an idol for me, that I was secretly proud of it and was depending on my seeking as the thing that connects me to you. The first ten chapters of Hebrews have been about how it’s Jesus’ work, not mine, that makes it possible for me, an ordinary grandmother-without-a-paying-job, to come to you, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, first thing in the morning. Just that alone is so wonderful, it strains my ability to believe. But since you say it, I believe it. At least, I want to believe it.
I guess I’m afraid I’m getting out of bed and getting coffee and feeling pumped to be with you, but that really, you’re not here. I’m afraid that I need to believe you’re here to survive my less than picture-perfect life, and so maybe I’ve invented the idea of your waking me up to hang out.
But I couldn’t have dreamed you up entirely. You’re so much bigger and better than any God I could create. Besides, I’m just reading your words to know you better, aren’t I? I’m not making those up.
It really threw me how early it was this morning. Like, have I gone off the sleep deep end? Surely you’re not calling me to miss most of a night’s sleep? And I wondered if I was seeing behind the wannabe Wizard of Oz’s curtain. Was I the one pushing buttons and pulling levers the way he did? Was there really no wizard who woos me awake?
It would help if I could talk to someone about this. Does anyone else get up in the (very) wee hours to talk and listen to you? It would be so relieving to know that others do. I could relax. I could stop being afraid I’m off my (grandmother) rocker. I don’t know who I would talk to about this, except maybe monks and psalmists. And I’m not bumping into many of those.
My take away today is how important my faith is in seeking you. I can’t come to you without it, which I guess makes sense when I think about it. I can’t seek someone I don’t believe exists. But I’m feeling a little crisis today, discovering how weak my faith is, feeling how it’s been rocked simply by an early wake up call.
Maybe that should have built my faith in you? But it didn’t. Even now, when I peek into the Holy Place in my mind’s eye, I’m seeing an empty room. Or maybe it’s just that I’m afraid there’s an empty room? But my theology tells me you haven’t left. Give me eyes to see you there. Forgive my doubt. I know you’ve created me. Not me, you.
And I don’t have to be afraid of life without you because your word promises me that I am always with you, no matter where I go. Restoring relationship with you is what Jesus’ life and death and resurrection were all about. He said he would be with me “until the end of the age.” I believe him.
But I’m still wonky, and I don’t feel right. Maybe I’m depending too much on how I’m feeling and not enough on what I know. Pour out your Spirit, Abba, and fill me up. I’m unable to grab hold of you today–or any day, really. Help me to believe that you are hanging onto me, even when I can’t hold back.
November 13. Next day.
All the time I’ve been reading in Hebrews, I’ve seen in my mind’s eye a door ajar and a table and two chairs with thick, leaded glass windows behind them and a worn stone floor.
An older man is seated at the table and a younger one is across from him, talking earnestly. Their heads are close, as if they’re privately conferring. The older one’s eyes are looking down, his head nodding with understanding as the younger man talks. This is not an unpleasant conversation they’re having–it’s a serious one.
As I approach the door, they both look up. Smiles spread across their faces; their eyes twinkle. The older one laughs with delight and claps his hands. The younger one jumps up and comes toward me, ready to wrap me up in a hug.
I think they’re God and Jesus.
Yesterday after writing here, I got up to start my day. But I sat right back down again and asked to see the room with them in it before I did another thing. I looked again. And there they were–heads bent over, talking intimately as before. They’re talking about me, I thought. The younger one was explaining something, and the Father nodded in sympathy.
I approached them as before, and they looked up, as if all was well, as if nothing had changed. They’d been there all along, and I knew it deep down where it is I believe in them. I took an enormous cleansing breath, my heart squeezing with relief and joy.
And I thought, no matter what I’m doing–hanging out with them in the middle of the night or going about my life in the middle of the day–these two have my back. They’re watching over me. They’re conferring about me. (My narcissist-self loves this.) And the Spirit inside me relays my deepest groans to them and channels peace and joy from them to me. It’s truth that gives me comfort today.
Yesterday, it gave me towering concrete footers that held me above snarling dogs, above the clock that mocked, above my wild fears of weirdness and imaginings. I believed more surely than I had ever believed before, that the Holy Place within me is real. That God is there. That he opens the door to me because of what Jesus’ death did. And that he rewards me for coming to him.
All of the above is backed by my Bible and gives me solid support. But what about being waked up by God to hang out? I’m not gonna find a verse that says that. I’m embarrassed to want one so badly. I’m afraid to hope I might matter this much to God.
Regardless of a wake up call in the night, my vision of the room includes an absolute certainty that the light is always on, the door is always open, and these two are always available and overjoyed to see me, because these are just a few of the perks that Jesus’ blood paid for. In my fearful, little girl’s heart, these truths resonate like nothing. else. on. earth. (My earthly Daddy was mostly unavailable.)
Thank you, Abba, for the faith to see you and to believe you. Thank you, Jesus, for how you know what I need and how you speak for me to the Father. Thank you, Spirit, for the way you pray for me when I don’t know what to say. It’s mind blowing to know you are always conferring about me. I don’t know how you do this for every daughter and son and sister and brother, but I know you do, because you say you do.
The Message translates Hebrews 11:6 this way:
“Anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.”
Yesterday, I struggled to believe that God cares enough to respond to me. I struggled to believe I was that important to him. But the Bible says my relationship with God was important enough for Jesus to die to make possible. So why wouldn’t I be important enough to watch over? To help? To be glad to see? To wake up to hang out with? Don’t I do at least this much with my own kids? Would God do any less?
I found my unbelief at 1:21 yesterday morning. I had to let my faith reach all the way into that early hour and more, into any hour of my day. One twenty-one ended up being the perfect time to wake up and deal with my doubts; I wouldn’t have found them at 5:30 or 6.
And I’ve found something else. As I was writing these words, pieces of a verse–something about being awakened–came to mind. I had no idea where to find it, so I checked my Bible app:
“He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.” Isaiah 50:4-5
Thank you, God, for giving me all these words today. I’m undone. Overwhelmed. Thank you for letting me see you as I did, too–a kind and concerned father, bent over and listening to my big brother’s report. Thank you for giving me a familiar scene to see you in and not a dazzling throne room. I was able to focus on the love in your face and on Jesus’ earnestness because I wasn’t distracted by things like angels and elders crying out and falling down.
Winged cherubim with lots of eyes and four faces would have really freaked me out.
“Therefore since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way as we are–and yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
“I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord,
and I will obey your decrees…
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night
that I may meditate on your promises.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love….”
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Psalm 139:7
“…and surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10-11
“…because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:24-25
“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”
I Corinthians 6:19-20
“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God….” Revelation 7:11