Are We There Yet? by Michelle Jones

Driving is one of those seemingly ordinary activities that, upon closer scrutiny, reveals the true nature of the person engaged in it.  Genuinely sweet, docile individuals rarely speed up when they see you trying to change lanes in front of them.  Bitter, angry people feel entitled to their road rage.  Then there are the impatient souls, who weave in and out of traffic or tailgate until you get out of their way.

My personality surfaces most when I have to follow someone, especially if we’re going somewhere I’ve never been, or going by a way that is unfamiliar to me.  That’s when I am reminded that, despite my belief in the sovereignty and omnipotence of God, I have control issues.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7 NIV)

I loved this passage.  Every time I read it, or heard someone preach on it, I felt like I had hit the spiritual lottery.  I get whatever I ask for, find whatever I look for, and have doors swing open to me whenever I knock?  All I have to do is follow Jesus?  Follow?  Follow… Hm…

Okay, I admit it.  Asking me to follow you anywhere in my car will test the authenticity of your spiritual fruit, longsuffering in particular.  I don’t just want to know where we’re going.  I would like you to give me the directions ahead of time in case we get separated.  I want your cell phone number so I can check with you if I’m the least bit uncomfortable about the route you’re taking.  And now that I have my iPad, I will plug our destination into my navigation application so I can refer to it while I’m “following” you, to see if you really know where you’re going.  If you don’t, not a problem.  I can get us back on track.

This, I discovered, was not unlike my behavior as a follower of Christ.  I was not always comfortable with Him leading me.  You see, I didn’t get a map ahead of time, and the route He has me on is not only unfamiliar.  At times it seems we’re moving in the opposite direction from everything I asked for, sought, and expected behind the door.

Walking with God is great in the beginning.  When we’re embarking on our journey with Him, everything is sparkling with anticipation and imagination.  We have words like “grace,” “power,” “freedom,” and “blessed” burning a hole in our pockets.  We’re ready to pull them out and use them in our asking, seeking, and knocking.

A few years and maybe some tears later, we realize that we were so focused on finding, receiving, and getting access, that we didn’t consider pesky little things like the methods, means, and motives of God.

He loves us, but we were made for His pleasure, not the other way around. He would not withhold any good thing from us.  He will place desires in our hearts, but be clear.  He is the King of Kings, not Burger King.  You will have what you asked for, but that is no guarantee that you will have it your way.

Ask for patience.  You will be given an opportunity to wait.  You want strength?  You will be given something heavy to lift.   Seek peace. You will find it in a storm.   Knock on the door marked Grace.  You will be humbled so you can receive what’s behind it.

Why does it have to be so hard?  Why can’t He just wave a hand and poof! I have compassion?  Why does He allow me to be hurt over and over again?  Couldn’t He just give Adam a wife without making him lonely first?  Can’t I come forth as gold without walking through the fire?  Must we follow Him through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land?

The truth is, we cannot say we trust God without experiencing challenges to that trust.  Am I really following you if I have a map, a phone, and a navigation system?  If we are His sheep, and we know His voice, shouldn’t we expect to encounter imposters?  There is no glory in overcoming if we haven’t “come over” anything.

Following Him means relying on Him, not walking in the same direction while relying on my own equipment and understanding.  Following Him means HE is my map and my navigator.  He is the One who decides when or if we speed up, slow down, or take a detour.  Following Him means I am faithful, not just lacking in opportunities to be unfaithful.

Following means asking without demanding guarantees, seeking without checking the map first, knocking without requiring updates and status reports.  It means letting Him be point A, point B, and every point in between.  It means turning over the wheel and enjoying the ride.

Are you there yet?

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“The View From In Here” by Michelle Jones

I just went on Amazon.com and ordered my favorite movie of all time:  “Life As A House.”  It stars Kevin Kline as an architect who lived in a dilapidated shack on an amazing piece of property overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  He inherited it from his father, an abusive alcoholic who killed his wife (KK’s mother) and another couple in a drunk driving accident when Kline was just a kid.

Kline’s character learns that he’s dying of cancer at the beginning of the film.  He decides to spend the time he has left trying to make things right with his rebellious, estranged son who lives with his mother and hates him because he was never there.  They spend the summer building the house he designed for that property.  His motivation:  “…to give my son something better than my father gave me.”

As I watched the movie for the umpteenth time, I wondered, for the umpteenth time, how we manage these lives that we have “inherited” from our parents.  As we move through our days, sometimes it’s difficult to see the beauty around us because of all the crap that’s inside us.

It’s a beautiful story about relationship, redemption, healing, and forgiveness.  What always strikes me though is how the house they built together was one that had windows everywhere.  The view—which was ALWAYS THERE—could be seen from the inside looking out, and if you were outside, you could see the beauty that was inside the house.

Isn’t that one of the goals of life, to SEE what is really there, what’s always been there—the truth—and to show the world a “house” that was built with that view in mind?  If the “house” is my heart and not my physical being, or my circumstances, it makes sense that we can’t see the “view” as well from the shack as we can from the new house.  If we’re believers, we can only say so much about the awesomeness of God if our lives are not a reflection of the truth we say we know.  Kevin Kline tells his son at one point, “We have to tear this thing down before we can begin to build.”

I was afraid to tear down the house I had become so used to living in, because I didn’t know if I had what it took to start, much less finish my life according to the plans God has for me.  I have failed at too many things to count.  I have left so much unfinished.  I have been wrong more times than anyone has a right to be.  I was tired of watching my life fall down around my ears, over and over again, and I was too scared to believe God would—and could—meet me in my squalor and cover me as we built anew.

It’s tempting to want to just go outside to look at the view; momentarily forgetting the shack is where we really live.  I have been guilty of avoiding facing what’s damaged and neglected in my life, through deflecting, blaming others for where I am, or busily fixing other “houses” in other neighborhoods.  But those are temporary respites from reality.  Eventually, I have to go home and sleep in my own bed.  I have to hear the creaks under my own floorboards and the rattling of my own pipes.  I have to try and look at the view through my own tiny, dirty windows…until I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and do the work.

Once I decided to show up for work, I found out that God’s sleeves were already rolled up and that He—Author, Finisher, Designer, Builder, and Decorator—had always been there.  He was just waiting for me, because you see, faith only works when you do.

We’re all in various stages of “construction.”  I’m not always comfortable in my unfinished digs.  I imagine that I’m an eye sore to the neighbors from time to time, but the truth is they all have their own homes to deal with.  If they’re focused on mine, I can’t do anything about that.  I just have to keep hammering where I’m employed.

I want a house where the view can be seen from every room.  I know it’s doable now.  I am sure that’s the plan He has for me—for all of us.  I don’t want to just talk about a view that can’t be seen from where I live.  I don’t want that life.

Atlanta has been good for me because I’ve been forced to look at the condition of my heart without distraction.  It’s not always easy, but somehow God is growing my confidence in His ability and willingness to create the heart He wants in me.  The “view” is becoming more visible from the inside of me and in the inside of me.  I am certain now that before it is anything else, Love is PATIENT and KIND.  If not for that, I would have no hope.

I shared some of these thoughts with my friend Suzan, and she suggested I share them with others.  Every day this week, someone has said something to me about writing down what’s been on my mind and heart for others to see.

It finally hit me a moment ago.  Each time I learn a truth, and write about it, it’s like God telling me that He has installed another window in my house. When we do the things God put us here to do in the way that He planned for us to do them, it is like a window that gives us another glimpse of the magnificent view of Him.

When we love our husbands, raise our children, give to those in need, weep for those who suffer and lift our hands to help them, study and share the Word, celebrate the beauty in another person’s life, hope when life appears hopeless, or give ourselves when our pockets are empty, we confirm that there are windows where decaying walls used to be.

There’s lots of work to do in me still, but every time I look through a window, and see the view of The One who gave me my breath, it takes my breath away, and I am encouraged to keep moving forward.

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