Abraham Lincoln was a self-taught lawyer. He worked a menial job and studied at the same time. Apparently, one day he came upon a word he couldn’t define, so he stopped his studies until he could.*
For years I haven’t understood these words: “You are the salt of the earth.”** So for the last two months, I too have stopped. Here is one thought…
Salt is about taste. It is about an experience as we eat. Too much and we feel revulsed. Too little and we get bored.
The same is true in faith. I have noted that EVERYONE has an opinion about God, which means that EVERYONE has had an experience in one way or another. Could it be that those who are antagonistic had salt dumped on them by the bucket load? Could it be that those who don’t care found it tasteless?
It puts a lot on me. Jesus says that I, that we, are salt. Oh, to get those measurements right.
Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com *A children’s adaptation of Abraham Lincoln’s life. I read it as a child. **Matthew 5:13
Seven years ago, while travelling internationally, I sat in a cafe waiting for someone to turn up. Earlier, this woman had telephoned me, weeping, saying she needed to talk with me right now. So I cut short a meeting, caught a train to the cafe where we had arranged to meet.
I sat there for three hours, and when this person finally arrived, there were no tears. She laughed instead and told me it had been a ‘test’ to see how much I loved her.
You can imagine my anger and hurt, and maybe even that every bit of love I felt for this person disappeared. For human love is like that – if it is abused or used, it runs out.
I prayed for God to give me his love, because I didn’t know what it looked like in this situation. And since I heard no voice from heaven, I bought this person a cup of coffee and a cake. We chatted a bit. But then I stood up and walked out, leaving her to sit alone.
Whether I did right or wrong, I don’t know. But I learned that there are two kinds of love, mine and God’s. I learned that mine isn’t enough and only God could help me now.
I thought I had left everything behind when I arrived in the UK at age 30 – a young bride. All I brought along was a small suitcase of clothes, a box of books and some wedding presents. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t care. I was starting again with Derek.
Now, after 30 years in the UK, 6 years in Portugal, I can say that we don’t ever leave everything behind. Memories still nip at our heels. The genetic code we inherited. Recently, my hands keep reminding me of someone from the past who used their hands for harm. Their hands and mine look identical. I want to hide mine away.
But then I remember, my ‘inherited’ hands come with MY heart. I can choose to use them for good. I can choose to undo harm. And as I do, I redeem my past.
Imagine – you’re getting married, but that morning your dad disowns you. You plan to drive to church, but he disappears with the car. So, you end up going in a dirty work van, sitting on the floor in the back. Yet you still wait for your dad outside the church, standing in the wind in your wedding dress and veil. You wait for him to walk you up the aisle. He never shows up…
Derek and I got married almost 36 years ago, but still I struggle to reconcile my wedding day with James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. But then I regain perspective yet again. Joy is a constant choice.
I walked up that aisle. I took a bold step. And, oh, the joy to see Derek there!
Over the last year, I have watched some people wreck havoc on the lives of others. And the sad thing is these people sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. They count the suffering they inflict as unfortunate but acceptable.
And for us who have endured this havoc? It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these people have ruined God’s plan in our lives. It is easy to blame them for binding up God’s hands. But there is a verse that puts things back into perspective. God says, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ (Isaiah 46:10)
It is a definitive statement. What God wants in our lives will happen. No one can thwart it. We can stand strong.
Photo by Steffi Wacker: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-red-lighthouse-on-rocky-shore-3722772/
Many times, my personal troubles refused to go away. No matter how creatively I tried to reduce their effects, they persisted. No matter how I tried to relegate them to emotionally ‘unimportant’, they kept resurfacing. So, I thought that maybe I should give up and accept them as my inevitable lot in life.
There was another option, however. Expose them. Tell God about them. But I didn’t want to. Maybe God would think less of me. Maybe he would reject me. But then it occurred to me – he already knew, because he knows everything about me. And he still loved me!
It was probably the most liberating moment in my relationship with him. I didn’t have to hide. I didn’t have to pretend. I could tell him all my troubles in detail, and God was interested – deeply.
God knows how lost we feel in our dark times, so he calls out promises to guide us. Yet, when God gives a promise, like, “They have greatly oppressed my from my youth… but the Lord is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked,“* I tend to focus on the first half. I stay there, remembering the injustice and pain. I forget the second half of those verses.
God wants us to acknowledge our grief. He does. Yet it is essential to read on. For in every oppression God gives the freedom to move on. In every entanglement he cuts us free.
God’s promises always come in two halves. Our fear – his faithfulness. Our pain – his presence. Our confusion – his compass, leading us on.
* Psalm 129:2-4
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-jeans-3036405/
No matter which way someone holds a burning match, the flame always points upward.
No matter which way a tree may be unnaturally twisted, its new branches will reach upward.
And no matter how topsy-turvy our lives might seem, how out of control things might feel, we can always reach upward. For each of us can know that, “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” (Psalm 18:33) We can always focus up.
Photo by Pixabay: fire-match-macro-matches-39257 Photo by Jen Healy: green-leafed-tree-2542311
“You are the light of the world,”* Jesus says. But I reply, “I’m not. Look at me. What good is a broken light?” I point to myself, to the mess at my feet. I want to hide in the dark. But he says, “You’re mine. Your wounds don’t define you. Please, be a light with me.”