|Zoe lives life to the fullest!|
It was a beautiful Saturday morning. We had gotten some much-needed rain overnight, and we awoke to sporadically located puddles. Glorious! America’s most popular youth sport was not deterred. As if out of thanksgiving for the nourishment of its fields, Plano, TX soccer would continue as scheduled.
Our little Pink Ninja was thrilled. It was Zoe’s first day of playing outdoor soccer AND her game shirt is pink. Wherein lies more happiness? So much joy filled her heart that Zoe skipped and bounded from the breakfast table to her room to dress in her uniform. “I’m so happy!” she squealed and giggled. “I’m following directions!” I laughed out loud.
I also shook my head as I laughed and considered the juxtaposition of this scene in relation to a mere 10 hours previous. Zoe was beyond tired. She was not only cranky, loud and sassy, she was pertinacious about doing what we asked of her. Zoe, brush your teeth. NO! Honey, please put on your jammies. I WON’T! Okay, you’re in time out for being disrespectful. NO, I’M NOT!! That’s it…you’re going to bed early for not following directions. NOOOOO!!!! It was 6:30 pm. Bedtime is usually 8:00 pm. (She needed the sleep!)
Eric walked into the kitchen as I mused. Upon hearing the morning’s Zoe tale, he laughed, too and then asked, “Is she happy because she’s following directions; or is she following directions because she’s happy?” Both of our faces got that “Hmm…” look. The chicken or the egg conundrum? I asked. Eric nodded. Ding! The theology button had been pushed.
“You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow [the Lord's] directions, doing your best to find [God]. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road [God] set” (Psalm 119: 1-3, The Message). In the longest Psalm in the psalter, the author praises to God for Torah. In no less than 176 verses, the psalmist joyfully worships and gratefully thanks God for the gift of God’s commandments. The author delights in the law and cherishes it; finds comfort and solace in it; and hangs onto it for dear life. God’s will, says the psalm, is rejuvenating. Really? I know plenty of people that would not speak as positively about God’s decrees. I’d gather that most of us do. It wasn’t so long ago that I was one of those people. Who could be happy, I once wondered, about one’s fun and choices in life being stifled by rules and expectations? God was a party pooper.
Throughout my transformational journey, God and I have been working hard together. We have faced old pain; deep, carried shame; and mounds of unforgiveness. God has led me into (and guided me through) nooks and crannies of my heart and soul that have been shut off from my consciousness for so long that I was not aware of their existence. Light has overcome my darkness. Peace has calmed my chaos. Death and rebirth have occurred over and over. Conviction, repentance and forgiveness of my sins have liberated me. I now live more openly before and with God and more connected to God than I ever have. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in my eyes.
Recently I was meditating and praying with Psalm 139. Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message begins the Psalm, “God, investigate my life, get all the facts first hand” (vs 1). The Spirit stopped me cold at the word “investigate.” What does it mean to have God investigate my life? I pondered. As I read it, this is a prayer, a willful invitation to God to come and check me out. The Psalm continues, “Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? … You’d find me in a minute — you’re already there waiting” (vs 7, 10)! How do you feel, asked my meditation guide, about God “investigating” your life? About God knowing everything about you? About there being nowhere you can go where God is not? Anxiety from days of yore concerning God knowing everything about me returned like an old friend. But, instead of panicking, I let the questions sit and soak in. I marinated in them for a while in God’s presence.
I was pleasantly surprised when my vision of God appeared. God was not a Sherlock Holmes of sorts, searching every inch of me with a scowl and looking expectantly to find sin and hardness of heart. Absent was the expected “I know unrighteousness is in here somewhere!” sentiment. Rather, God revealed Godself as compassionate, merciful and healing. Floating smoothly throughout my body, mind and soul like a could in the air, God indeed investigated me wholly, but not malevolently, seeking to judge and shame. God searched to find my dark and hidden places so that God could infuse an extra amount of love in these areas. Over these spots God hovered attentively, like the Spirit hovered over the primordial waters before creation, staying present and bringing fresh life and order that are good. I had opened myself completely to God. I had invited a divine investigation. I was thankful that God knows me so well and is everywhere. Astonishingly, shame was no where to be found, and there was neither desire nor reason to hide and cower. Now I would receive the love that I need (quite desperately at times). While not overnight like Zoe’s, my development in my image of God “investigating” my heart (judging to loving) was staggering.
I had been following directions. I was so happy! Moreover, I was so happy, I wanted to continue following directions so that I might remain happy. Ding! The answer to Eric’s riddle regarding Zoe’s self-description rang clear. She wasn’t the only one skipping and bounding.