War and journey

Someone was telling me about his 100-year-old grandmother who has lived through myriad wars, including the Spanish Civil War when neighbors became traitors. This grandmother was identified as republican and the family was sent away. When they returned, neighbors were using the family possessions. She could hear their heirloom steel mortar and pestle next door and see their sheets waving on the neighbor’s lines. 

“If you’re not for me, you’re against me.” It’s no wonder they hid in their houses and trusted no one. And these were the lucky ones: the ones that survived.

Can this nation ever heal? An acquaintance thinks it will take only a few more generations, when those who lived through the Civil War and the Franco era are no longer around.

But sometimes, I look at the elderly and wonder: What were their lives like? What have they seen and experienced? And in what ways have these dear people passed the searing baton of their pain to the next generation? 

How can we expect a country to recover in only one or two generations? Healing takes time. When we try to rush it, it doesn’t happen at all. That’s true for my country where we still see the effects of slavery, if no longer in laws, then in hearts. Pain like that doesn’t heal just because we tell it to or because we ignore it. 

That’s true for me, someone who would like to be a perfect Christian, but finds herself wallowing in pain and besetting sins year after year. 

Although our Savior is the one who “knew no sin,” don’t forget that He became sin for our sake (2 Cor. 5:21). Yes, and He is delighted to travel the healing road with us, shaping us into His likeness and loving us even in the moments we least resemble Him.

Our lives will never be painless nor will we ever be perfect no matter how many years we live… that is, until years no longer count. So keep journeying, but have patience with yourself today, because He does.


Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

Be still and know

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Those words beckon inner peace. For most of my life, I have enjoyed that thought in isolation. But recently, someone suggested I look at the context of the Psalm. These are a few of the phrases from the preceding verses:

  • the earth gives way
  • waters roar and foam
  • mountains tremble
  • nations rage
  • kingdoms totter
  • the earth melts

Psalm 46 is not only about finding inner peace, but about finding inner peace despite external circumstances. How? God is our refuge and strength.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Psalm 46

Photo by Duncan Kidd on Unsplash

On a roll

If I would have been Elijah, 51 more people would have died.

When Ahaziah, King of Judah fell through a lattice and lay sick in his bed, he wanted to know if he would live. “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron,” he told his messengers.

But on the way, Elijah intercepted the messengers to give the king a word from the Lord: “You shall surely die.”

King Ahaziah wasn’t happy with this meddling in his affairs and he sent out a captain with his 50 men to fetch Elijah from where he sat on top of a hill. Elijah responded by calling down fire from heaven and consuming the 51 men.

But the king didn’t give up. He sent another captain and 50 men. These also were consumed by fire from heaven.

And still King Ahaziah didn’t give up.

If I had been Elijah and seen the third party of 51 men approaching me, I would have sighed, “Yes, Lord, I know the routine. Fire from heaven.”

But the third captain fell on his knees and pleaded, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.”

Elijah had executed God’s will on the former two occasions. Why would God want anything different this time?

That’s why I say that if I had been Elijah, 51 more people would have died. Or at least I would have attempted to call down the same fire from heaven. I would have been on a roll.

I often think about this story when I’m tempted to make a “policy” on how to treat a certain category of people: persistent beggars, inappropriate men, meddling taxi drivers, aggressive women, etc. Yet, God showed Elijah the Tishbite how important it was to listen to His voice in every situation. Likewise, God may want me to say a certain thing to one aggressive woman and want me to keep silent with the next. The point isn’t to get energized by being “on a roll” but to listen in each situation.

Yes, always listening can be exhausting, especially when we hear commands we don’t want to obey. When Elijah heard the angel of the Lord say, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him” it may have crossed his mind that calling down fire from heaven would have been less of a hassle. But he still went. He still listened.

(2 Kings 1)


Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

No longer practical or safe

I needed guidance so I asked for a sign. He showed me Gideon’s life: how a normal man became radically obedient to God and consequently did things that didn’t make sense. Neither would my life make sense, He said.

Then He took me through the woods to a clearing overlooking the water. The sweet musk of rotting wood and damp leaves pervaded the quiet space. There He told me that in staying safe, I would miss a deeper relationship with Him.

I came home, burdened with thought. Isn’t it natural to want to be practical? After all, God gave us brains with the intention that we use them.

Gideon’s army was about 1/6 of the Midianite army; using every available man would have been the only practical thing to do outside of waving a flag of surrender. Yet God said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me'” (Judges 7:2). Like the children of Israel, am I boasting my own strength? Dare I weed out my self-sufficiency to see that it is not I who prevails but He who is within me?

And as for safety, it’s second from the bottom in the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Humans need to feel safe even before love, esteem, and self-actualization. Of course, I’m not acknowledging Abraham Maslow as the expert on all things psychological; however, his study reveals the human desire for safety. We rarely put ourselves in danger’s way unless we somehow feel in control. To always be safe is like the fetus who never exits the mother’s womb. Never will he grow and mature into a child, teenager, adult. Never will he taste life’s richness unless he becomes unsafe. Am I ready to face the world outside of the womb?