I am not encouraging you to run out ((okay, it’s 1 degree outside, no one’s running anywhere literally… let me back up…)) I am not encouraging you to figuratively run out and rent the Sex & the City movie. ((okay, it’s 2018, no one is ‘renting’ anything anymore…) Yeesh! Okay, the point is – I’m not promoting the film or it’s salacious story lines, but I am going to reference a scene where the recently separated Miranda is curled up on her couch eating chinese noodles alone on New Year’s Eve.
She calls her bff Carrie, but Carrie, herself newly-ish single, has already gone to bed so that she doesn’t have to face counting down to midnight with no one to kiss. Miranda is tearful but hangs up quickly so her buddy can go back to sleep. For a brief moment Carrie curls up again on her pillow, but then throws on a fur coat ((to add to the pearls she was already wearing with her pajamas, hashtag me too girl)) and runs in the snow, takes the subway when taxis aren’t available, and runs some more to get to her pal’s door just in time for the glittery ball to drop on the tv in the background. As they squeeze each other tight she whispers… “You’re not alone. You are not alone.”
It’s New Year’s Day and my posture is a regular rhythm of the last fifteen years – tucked into a chain coffee-shop with laptop on my lap. Alone. The fact that it’s a holiday makes the “alone” part sting more, but the “alone” part is nothing new. It’s my reality. And it’s the space I most beg for God to fill.
Yesterday at church, the pastor reminded us that to know God as refuge, to know God as strength – we have to know trouble, we have to know weakness.
For me to know God’s presence means I’ve also known what it was to be without it. And while some would argue that God is never far from us, I would say that scripture and experience tells a different story. He is never absent, He doesn’t take days-off from ruling the world, but there are absolutely seasons where He makes His presence felt and known more and seasons of seeming desolation.
I’ve wanted His power to come – KAPOW! – for quite awhile now. The state of affairs that swirl around us prove that He’s needed, powerfully. And so, this week your Hopers are going to go back to the true stories of the Old Testament where our God showed up in POWER to fight and to WIN battles and wars and souls.
And in His not-so-comical and never-coicendental timing, yesterday He reminded me rather loudly that He is indeed, a warrior. Undefeated. Ruler. He is not the watered-down mystical old-man that our self-serving culture ((and own self-worshipping hearts)) can depict.
In this season of loneliness, one of the biggest isolators and heartaches has been the departure from the church I loved and served and fastened my life to. I never desired to church-shop or hop around, but here we are. So, many Sunday mornings this past year have been spent as the new girl in new sanctuaries, surrounded by strangers. Yesterday I accepted the invitation from dear friends to visit, and drove sixteen miles north on a frozen highway to snuggle into the middle of their row of chairs filled with family, willing my bones to warm up.
I didn’t expect anything especially special from God. I didn’t not expect Him, but I hadn’t entered into yesterday morning with any requests or hopes. I knew it would be a hard morning – my dear buddy has just recently lost his incredible father due to a tragedy that I can’t talk or type about without crying. I sat nestled between my buddy’s beautiful wife and his mama. Kleenex were grabbed by the handful as words of worship were strung through the air, before the sermon had even started.
The service was intentionally one of “selah” – reflection. meditation. processing.
A way to review the year before and come before the Lord ready to receive His goodness and joy and simply Him in the year to come.
There are many verses that are tattooed on my skin and etched deeply in my heart, and a handful of chapters that perk up my ears as though God was whispering a secret between He and I through someone else’s mouth…
The pastor read through Psalm 46.
Wait wait… don’t look it up quite yet. We’ll get there in just a second.
Here’s the thing, on a Sunday morning of reflection and looking to the New Year, we might expect a whole host of verses to be bandied about that we’re familiar with, right? Gentle reminders of God’s good plan or direction on how we should live before we write those resolutions in ink inside our journal pages. But Psalm 46 is no such pretty little package.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations He has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the shields with fire.
He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
This is is a God who FIGHTS. This is a God who will be exalted. THIS IS A GOD WHO IS WITH US.
And that’s all I’ve wanted, it’s all my friends who lost their beloved dad and husband want, it’s all that many of you want… because in 2017 it seemed as though the mountains fell into the sea and everything around you fell apart. Whether politically or emotionally or relationally, many of us felt we were alone… and it’s hard to fight as an army of one.
Weary soldier and sweet friend, you are not alone.
I’m not ignoring the reality that, yes, in the tangible moment of now you might be crying under the covers in a cold bed or unstringing Christmas lights after all your grown children headed off with hugs to their own homes, or… sitting alone in a cold coffeeshop with a laptop screen glowing… yes, you are physically alone. And it aches.
But oh to see, if only for a moment, the spiritual plane where we are never left to battle by ourselves. Not in our grief or our anger or our illness or our betrayal or even our sin…
God would you PLEASE give us a glimpse of your nearness!? God, as we race and wrestle and run to and from distraction, would you help us in our broken humanity to know HOW to “be still”??! There is so much that we can’t do without you and so much that you instruct us towards that is deeply counter-cultural to our instantly-gratified, self-worshipping reality of entitled 2018.
LORD WOULD YOU PLEASE HELP US EVEN AS YOU FIGHT FOR US!?
…this past summer I found an anthem song that I played on repeat and would blast in the car and sometimes lay prostrate on the carpet crying because of… a little album from a couple of years ago that you might never have heard of. And it’s first track, the one that captured my attention?
I encourage you to listen to Shane & Shane sing this needed balm and battle-cry on your first day of this brand new year. Because good is on it’s way and we need to know who is responsible for it. And hard is on it’s way and we need to know who is fighting for us.
The same God who split the sea and won wars is THE SAME GOD that is EVEN NOW fighting to win His kingdom back to His own heart. Be still and know that He is King, He is undefeated. Eternally undefeated.
You’re not alone dear one, you are not alone.
May we, may you, and oh please may my own heart plea like this song does:
“Oh God who makes the mountains melt, COME WRESTLE US AND WIN.”