One thing I've learned about God through the years is that He is lovingly persistent. He never gives up on anyone, and He never "leaves well enough alone", which means He is also continually pressing us into situations where we can grow. Often these situations are ones which call us out of ourselves, which challenge us to serve others, to be His hands and feet, to love deeply and boldly and sacrificially. Today I've invited Jen Diebling to share how God has been growing her in this way. You can read more of Jen's powerful story at her website, mamagiraffe.weebly.com.
I am a two-story house. When I initially heard about Sara’s divinely explained concept of the two-story house, I immediately thought: that’s me. I know exactly what she is describing. With further rumination I thought, well…that’s me now. Seven months ago, not so much. For the majority of my life I would never have claimed to be a two-story house. A ranch maybe. Or a trailer. Pretty one-dimensional with a very linear progression in my relationship with God. There were certainly amazing moments along the way, but I honestly felt my journey hadn’t really begun because something earth-shattering hadn’t happened to me.
Several months ago when I did experience something that made the world crumble around me and I thought I might meet Jesus much sooner than had ever been my plan, I secretly thought: Finally! God is giving me the chance to exercise my faith muscles, demonstrate my strength to others, and to fully submit to His grace and overwhelming power.
That was the easy part.
What I didn’t understand was that those moments where I was completely reliant on God, with hands lifted to Him in release and clasped in prayer because that’s all I could do, was not the part of my story that makes me a two-story house. It’s what I do, and who I am from this point on. I thought I had this faith thing down. Like most everything else in my life, I thought I could make a big old check mark in the box labeled: “Survive something intense and heartbreaking with your faith intact.” You could probably hear me shouting out “CHECK!” like I had it all under control. In reality, this process of moving on from a painful, teaching time—building my second story, so to speak—has exposed some really ugly things in my foundation. There’s competitiveness, pride, and jealousy in there, and I’ve come to realize this: the work God has done and is doing on my body to heal it, simply pales in comparison to the work He is doing in my heart. While I thought I had finally had that formational experience that many people talk about in their lives, the one that brings them closer to God and changes them forever, I realized to my dismay, that while I may have had such an experience, I am the same me. The me who used to compare my good deeds to those of others…still compares. The me who used to analyze every little thing I said to be sure I sounded humble enough… still analyzes. I may have grown in these areas, but boy, do I have a ways to go. In this season of my life, the Lord is calling me out of myself.
I believe Sara is absolutely right, God never gives up on us. He is lovingly persistent, and astoundingly faithful. So as I build my new foundation, God is teaching me to stand firm on something new. I might need to pack up my first story and move it to a completely new plot of land. Where before when faced with a challenge, I would have made a list, discussed with a million people, prayed a little bit, and charged ahead, I have heard the Lord telling me: “Be still.” Many of us know and have memorized Psalm 46:10, where we are told to “Be still and know that I am God.” A fellow believer, as she lay in her own hospital bed just recently, reminded me of Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.” How often the Lord assures us that it is not our job to plan the future and make it a reality. We need only to place our confidence in his faithfulness. Just as God worked a miracle on my body, He will orchestrate the same in my heart. The wisdom I need has been right there in scripture all along. The new foundation I seek is one built on the word of God.
Due to the nature of the health issues I have experienced over the last few months, I have had to practice a new kind of stillness. It has been, to the say the least, one of my greatest challenges. I know it sounds silly, but I know you understand the craziness of the culture we live in, rushing to and fro, multi-tasking constantly, and planning for the next five seconds and the next five years all the same instant, all the while taking pictures every five minutes to be sure we have something to show for ourselves on Instagram (or is that just me?). I feel like if I want to be the hands and feet of Christ I should be doing the great things the people around me are doing in the name of Jesus. But for now, God is working on my heart, washing it white as snow, and instructing me to be still. For many weeks just a few months ago, I could only lie still in a hospital bed and hold my newborn baby. As I have progressively been able to return to my “normal” level of activity, I find myself getting caught up in the need for the truly abnormal level of activity I may have been accustomed to before—so easily wrapped up again in doing things they way they are “supposed to be” done, when I have so recently learned that God doesn’t work within the parameters of “supposed to.”
Recently, I returned to a moment of stillness: relishing a moment of prayer in my daughter’s nursery with her, I was able to be fully present with the Heavenly Father. Though I have never heard the Lord speak words before, I felt a wave of overwhelming paternal grace telling me to Be still. And not just be still, but stay still. It was this amazing moment I feel I shared with the Holy Spirit, “who lives within [me] so [I] don’t need anyone else to teach [me] what is true” (1 John 2:27). The answers I need about how to build my foundation, and the reaffirmation of how to change my heart, are not found where I may have looked before, but in the living word.
I love the way Ben Rector sings, “This isn’t easy, it isn’t clear. And you don’t need Jesus, until you’re here.” I thought it was while God was healing my body that I would need Jesus the most, but I know now that I will need his grace far more while the Lord works on my heart. God continues to teach me what it means to be His hands and feet in this season of my life: to stop acting like Martha in Luke 10:38, cleaning, preparing, fussing, and then haughtily comparing myself to those who are truly reveling in Jesus’ glory and reaping the benefits. He is teaching me to embody Mary, who allows herself to be still with the Lord. She is content to simply be WITH the Lord, and so must I be.