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Friday, August 11, 2017

Intimacy at the Table: Between Starting Gun and Finish Line, Part 5

I’d like to introduce you to my seventeen-year-old self. Here is a glimpse into her world (taken from my journal entry dated April 7, 1993):

“Dear Lord,

You know how I feel right now. You can see my heart, how it aches so dully. I’ve been getting like this so much lately. Who could I share my pain with? Only You. You. Lord, You’re wonderful, but I haven’t been getting much relief when I come to You. I’m hesitant to share myself with You because You’re not physical, and I can’t sense You there; can’t sense Your comforting presence. Aren’t You my Abba? I feel so condemned for feeling this way. When, Daddy, will You hold me and heal me? When will I feel the total, unquestionable assurance that You love me always, even when I doubt and disobey? When will You touch these wounds and make me whole?”

Goodness am I glad to be way beyond that stage of development! I vividly remember my intense frustration with how much I longed for God and how far away He felt. Today, He is closer than the air that I breathe. Experientially so. For all the world, I would not trade the extreme, sometimes excruciating training He has taken me through to bring me here to where I am now. I have been on my own personal perseverance marathon. God’s most essential purpose in it has been to work intimacy with Him deep, deep into the core of my being. And this is what He has faithfully, relentlessly done. By far, I prefer His company to even the sweetest of human fellowship on this earth. How I often long to do nothing else but close my door and be alone with Him, gazing on His beauty, and drinking in His love! These are my most exquisite moments. This is what I live for.

You know what? There is no favoritism with Him. This depths of communion is for “whomsoever will.” No matter where you are today on the timeline of your own personal spiritual development, He is inviting each of us to go deeper into His heart. This brings me to the final point in our Active Waiting List:

5) Make the Journey about More and More and More of Jesus

In recent posts of this blog, we have been talking about the waiting seasons of our lives. We have been studying in depths what the interval of time looks like between when God plants a word into our spirit and when the moment actually comes for Baby Promise to be born. We want to make the very best use possible out of the prolonged wait. We don’t want to miss out on any of the richness that He has incorporated into His plan for us along the track.

The very most crucial thing about this interim, by far, is your intimacy with Him. This is why I saved it for last on our list. Absolutely nothing in the universe comes even close to the weight, the magnitude of value, that your relationship with Jesus holds. Yes, we are on a perseverance marathon. We are running the race marked out for us. We are pushing towards destiny, towards the fulfillment of Promise. As we do so, however, we need to penetratingly internalize this truth: way, way, WAY more important than getting to the finish line is learning to enjoy His presence along the way.

“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.”
(Ps. 23:5, NIV)

As we run, there are so many enemies all around. So much stress raging through the atmosphere of this world. So much anguish. How do we connect with the Shelter of the Most High in the midst of it all? How do we throw off the hindrances that so easily entangle us on this race? Jesus invites us to come away with Him. Make this the most essential thing. Do it first. Before the rush of the day begins. Before the news channel bombards your senses with soundwaves of calamity. Slip away with Him. Come to His table.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne…” (Rev. 3:20-21, NIV).

Do you see the correlation there between feasting with Him, and overcoming? Between responding to His invitation to the table of communion, and learning to reign in life with Him?

Dining together was the ultimate symbol of fellowship in the cultural context of this verse penned by John the Revelator. How rich is this metaphor! When we recline with Jesus at the banquet He has prepared, we get to lean into His chest just like John did. In those moments where we personally experience His heart beating with love for us, so much more than our physical needs are met. He doesn’t just provide our daily calorie intake. He feeds the very depths of our spirits… with Himself.

So linger and breakfast with Him. Once you have ingested and assimilated today’s serving of the Bread of Life into the fabric of your being, you will be ready. Ready to face the day, whatever it may hold. Ready to hit the pavement again with your running shoes.

This morning, I was tempted to jump right into the work waiting for me. Deadlines have a way of flashing their red lights at my mind. But then I remembered. When I give Jesus the first part of my day, I am showing Him that I trust Him to administer the rest of it in the very best way. He has always, always supernaturally multiplied and blessed my daylight hours when He has the first fruits of my attention. So I made myself stop, shut out the red lights, and lean into Him. Just to be with Him. Now… what peace has taken over my inner space! It is in this peace that I will go about the remainder of what is before me today.

Yes, I see you, busy mom. I see how your young children clamor for your attention before your eyes have even opened for the new day. I see the piles of laundry staring at you, the messes waiting to be conquered, the meals that won’t cook themselves, the appointments with your name on them, the projects shouting for your time. I am not going to pretend that you can just make all of it go away to spend long, uninterrupted hours at the feet of Jesus. But... can you invite Him into all of it with you?

This is the thing. Way more important than me seeing you, sweet, precious mother, is that He sees you. Mamas caring for their little children are so close to His heart!

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.”
(Isa. 40:11, NKJV)

Some of my most unforgettable memories of encounter with Him have taken place as I cared for my babies. How He has manifested His presence as I have sung softly to Him holding each one! I have felt His Spirit overflowing with tenderness towards my little ones and me in those moments. He has shared His heart of love for them and for me so keenly that I have found tears flowing down my cheeks and my voice choking up as I sing. Motherhood and intimacy with Jesus are not mutually exclusive. They go most beautifully together. How many times too has He showed up with His thick, glorious presence as I read Bible stories to my kids! Again, I have had to pause and stop reading for a moment because His love is overcoming my heart. What a breathtaking way to live out with our little ones His living presence with us! To teach them how close He is!

I smile when I think of Susanna Wesley, the mother of Charles and John Wesley. Besides the two of them, she had seventeen other children. And yet she found an ingenious way to incorporate prayer into her daily routine: she would pull her apron over her head. She trained all nineteen kids to recognize this as a signal that she was not to be interrupted for those minutes with Him. She was not superhuman or better than you. She just earnestly believed that Jesus wanted to be an intimate part of her life as a mother. Obviously her prayer life and her motherhood had some incredibly powerful results. (For more about her and six very practical tips for integrating prayer into full time mothering, check out this excellent blog post.)

Dear one, whether you work at home or away from home, life is indeed extremely demanding. Time with Jesus will not happen by accident. The question remains. Will we long for Him above and before all else? To “whomsoever will…” He extends His invitation. Will you linger at the table with Him? If you are hungry for something more than just your daily caloric intake, it’s time to feast…

“He leads me into a banquet room
and looks at me with love.”
(GWT, Song 2:4)

Do you see the longing in His eyes?

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