Wednesday, April 10, 2013

His Presence

Exodus 33:12-17

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The Lord replied, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the Lord said to Moses, I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

I read this the other day as part of the Jesus Calling devotional I've been reading.  And here are some of my thoughts about it.  It was timely, b/c I've referenced this passage recently while talking about finding a house for us to move into. And because we saw a house with a yard last week that we actually liked at a price we can think about affording.  We have been really convicted throughout this whole process that God's hand is, and needs to be, involved in choosing the right place to live. We need God to show us very obviously where he wants us.  Until he does, and if he does not 'go with us', it's better to wait.

I feel like I should add that I don't think God works this way all, or even most, of the time.  Most of the time I think God says something along the lines of, "I gave you a brain; use it.  I gave you freedom; use exercise it."  When we bought our house in CA, we simply looked for 1) something we liked in 2) our price range.  Two filters.  Yes, we considered neighborhoods and resale, but barely.  It wasn't excruciating to find that house.  I think we looked at maybe five others (maybe) along with ours.  And when we saw it, we knew.  I think we moved in within about a month.  I think that house was God's provision and blessing for us, and he gave us a lot of freedom in choosing it.

This time, we have more filters with which to sift the options.  We feel constrained.  We feel like we could easily make the wrong choice.  We are accountable to more people, our ministry, our kids, more responsibilities.  Our biggest filter this time is geographic location so that we are not too far away from (or inaccessible to) staff, the communities we work in, the students and groups that come, and the new office (!).

Defining 'too far' has been a Gethsemane battle, because we could move up far into the mountains, where it is beautiful and peaceful, have a finca, pay very little, and justify the distance and tranquility with finances.  Or, we can keep looking within the circle (more or less) that we feel convicted to stay within, which means (generally speaking) few and small yards, expensive properties (to rent or buy), noise, and crime.  The pay off for option #2 is convenience.

Option #2 is where God has called us.

Anyway, the temptation is strong, folks, and I have had to sacrifice my will to his over and over.  And over.  What I 'like' seems to be becoming the least important of the filters. . .  and so even-more-so, we need God to show us, we need to know.  He could lead us to the diamond in the rough (Oh, I hope!), but he might not.  Ouch.  Then what?  He's God.  Will I choose to accept his will and be content?  Will I trust him? While we have a lot to consider and a lot of responsibilities, we also recognize that we are not more important, or more special, than anyone else who also might prefer to have a yard-and-tranquility-and-a-guest-room-and-windows-in-all-the-bedrooms-and-a-kitchen-that-more-than-two-people-can-hang-out-in-and-, wait--I may or may not be on the verge of whining.

Will I trust him?  Will I trust him if his Presence leads us through the desert?  To a house I don't like? Will I trust him if his Presence leads through suffering?  If he doesn't do what I think he should?

I want to say that, yes, of course.  But, if I'm honest, I'd rather not be tested on that one yet. . . and, while they go hand-in-hand, maybe sometimes obeying out of sheer grit is easier than actually trusting and having peace.

This giving up my preferences and the things I have for so long considered my 'rights' is, by far, the hardest part (maybe the ugliest, too) of my USA identity and culture to sacrifice.  (Jesus, how did you give up so much???  And how am I ever going to be able to have that same attitude???  Phil. 2)

It's not called a refiner's fire for nothing.

"My Presence will go with you." Yep, I know I don't deserve it, but that's what I want, too.  What I need.  

"I will give you rest."  Funny that Moses didn't even ask for that, but God knew he needed it.  

"I am pleased with you and I know you by name."  Pretty amazing to hear from The.God.of.the.Universe. Moses was full of faults and humanity, just like me.  And God knew him and was pleased with him.  So, there's hope for me, too. :)  

God, please make your Presence obvious to us.  Maybe not the pillar of smoke and fire, but something, so that we know where you want us to go, to live.  Help us to trust you while we wait, and help us to trust you when you say to go--no matter what the house looks like, no matter how much it costs, whether it has a yard or not, whether or not it's what I imagine.  Your will, not mine.  We just want your Presence to go before us.  Don't let us go anywhere without it.