Friday, May 30, 2008

A Matter of Inches

"Did somebody cut my beam?" It was a fair question, really. Amidst a mountain of miscellaneous tasks I created for myself in order to feel useful--picking up scraps and garbage--I heard him ask it. He was the man with experience and understanding of the plans. In fact, the house we are building exists in precise sketch format on a simple graphing notebook. By sketch I mean a drawing of the house with all its rooms and exact measurements--where the windows are to go etc. But, the real plans of the house exist in this guys' mind. His and my husband's. We needed his help because he's built tons of homes and he understands the process. He knows exactly how to support a 28 foot ceiling and more importantly he knows how to make our house square. Earlier that morning he had made the cut for the beam that would go on this particular wall according to mathematical calculations. He builds the entire house according to math--it could be possible for him to do it without a level or a square for that matter. The cut that he made was accurate, but when the crew went to nail it on it appeared out of level. So, yes, someone had cut his beam. One half inch was all they shaved off, but the end result was a wall one half inch out. It doesn't seem like a lot, but apparently it is. Here's what struck me--other than secretly wondering whether that one half inch would mean a half inch gap in the roof where rain, could pour in, where bats and mice could crawl in, where snakes could slither in--he had made the cut according to a mental plan based on truth. "The math never lies." That's what he said as they were disconnecting all the boards and fixing the mishap. What had taken place was that when his crew--who didn't know the plan and couldn't see it--saw the way things were shaping up, they questioned his cut. And they changed things. They even got out a level and "shot" it to be certain. What they did appeared to be exactly right. Theirs was an honest mistake. So what got me thinking was this--they didn't trust because they couldn't see his plan and what they did see appeared wrong when in reality it was perfect and precise. Isn't it exactly the same with God in our lives? Psalm 112:1 says "How blessed is the one who obeys the Lord, who takes great delight in keeping his commands." We will struggle to obey God unless we trust Him completely with the set of plans for our lives that exist in his head. Sure, we've got a rough sketch--a general idea of the way things are taking form. But God sees it all. In Jeremiah 17:11 God says, "For I know the plans I have for you..." God knows them, but he never gave us a blueprint. Hebrews 11 reminds us "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence not seen." We can't see what God is doing and so it becomes incredibly hard for us to believe that He is right. One of the most powerful passages relating to trusting God and obeying Him is found in Jeremiah 17:5-8. "The Lord says, " I will put a curse on people who trust in mere human beings, who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength, and whose hearts have turned away from the Lord. They will be like a shrub in the desert. They will not experience good things even when they happen. It will be as though they were growing in the desert, in a salt land where no one can live. My blessing is on those people who trust in me, who put their confidence in me. They will be like a tree planted near a stream whose roots spread out toward the water. It has nothing to fear when the heat comes. Its leaves are always green. It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought. It does not stop bearing fruit." Every single time we look at the circumstances in our lives--dwindling bank accounts, frustrating spouses, disobedient children, annoying neighbors, rude drivers, ungrateful friends, career changes, flirting colleagues, hurt, anger, disappointment--we have a choice to make. Will we trust God and obey Him though we can't see how His way could be right? Or will we take matters into our own hands and trust our human strength and wisdom to be greater than God's? It sounds ridiculous when put that way, doesn't it? In the moments when I snap at my children I've trusted that a hasty fleshly word will be more meaningful in raising them than a gentle rebuke from God's Word. In the times when I spend on credit because I want something out of our budget I've concluded that God's provision is not enough and I need to provide for myself on credit. If I were to entertain the advances of a forward gentleman we know I would be saying loudly and clearly that the husband God provided isn't right and I need to correct it. It seems preposterous that we would opt to trust our ways and thinking over the God of the universe and yet we do it all the time. The thing is when we opt not to trust God's ways our lives inevitably end up out of square and there are glaring gaps, sometimes larger than one half inch that leave us incredibly vulnerable. God's intention for us is a mansion of blessing but we are so quick to choose to build ourselves roadside shacks. And then when the rains come we find ourselves soaked in the very home we created. Obedience is our guarantee for protection and shelter. God said "My blessing is on those who trust in me...and How blessed is the one who obeys..." The promise is not that we will live without difficulty, but the trials we face will not be of our own doing. They'll not be the natural consequences of foolish living, they'll be trials hand-picked by God to refine us into a more beautiful reflection of Himself. What I love about God is that He knows we're gonna take matters into our own hands and end up way off in terms of His plan and in His foresight He incorporates our mistakes into his blueprints. Only God can do that. Only God can take our broken homes and make them right. He's not looking to condemn but to love us into trusting Him completely. The Israelites constantly took matters into their own hands and ended up spending quite a bit of time way out of square, but God never once recanted on His promise to them. He was faithful to carry His Word out in their lives despite their disobedience and lack of faith. God is not in the business of leaving us exiled with our gaps, He is in the business of restoring us and fixing every single area in our lives that's out of square. He doesn't show up on the scene and lecture us on how we've messed things up. He shows up and simply says, "Let's get this fixed. We don't want any leaks." Jeremiah 29:14 says "I will make myself available to you, says the Lord. Then I will reverse your plight and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you, says the Lord. I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you." God's heart is to bring us back. Always to bring us back. And He is available to us every single moment. Trusting God is arguably the hardest part of my walk with him. I am a visual, show me kind of a person. When I come to a point of questioning God, it's important for me to stop and look back over my life at specific moments when without question I know He's been right. Those are my visual reminders of the character of a good, faithful and accurate God. When it comes to my life, God's never missed, never messed and never been mistaken. He's always been perfectly precise. They fixed the wall--it took some extra time and a bit of headache, but they fixed it. They would have saved a lot of time had they trusted in the first place. It's my prayer that when we take the beams of our lives from the Master Planner and lay them out we won't question the way things appear, but rather will say with the Psalmist, "I trust in the Lord without wavering...His work is majestic and glorious, and His faithfulness endures forever." (Psalm 26:1b, 111:3) Read: Psalm 91, 112

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