Monday, May 4, 2015

when God gives you something scary

When I was a little girl I heard the story of Mary.
You know Mary.  She's the one who married Joseph.  The one who gave birth to Jesus.

I'm sure it wasn't my first time hearing her story, but it is the first memory I have of it.  The reason I remember is because after I heard the story - I heard from God.
Hold on.
Before you write me off as a complete lunatic give me a chance to explain.

As clearly as I have ever sensed anything from God in my life I sensed him saying to me - I will give you something to carry too.  Something supernatural.  Something special.  You are chosen just like Mary.

Guess what?  I was about seven years old and I was
First of all, I was afraid I was going to be the youngest pregnant person in the history of the world.
Second of all, from what I knew about having babies I wasn't sure I ever wanted one and had even contemplated life as a nun to avoid the trauma of it all.

Looking back, I see a confused and questioning little girl.
On the one hand I felt crazy.
On the other hand I felt scared.
And when I really considered that it might be true I felt a little embarrassed and it seemed a little pretentious for me to claim that I was 'special' or 'chosen by God' {remember what happened to Joseph?}.  So I didn't tell anyone.  I just carried that haunting promise quietly and secretly.

I wish I could say that, like Mary, I quickly believed that what was said was true, but it took time.  Without realizing it, years of hesitantly carrying that promise allowed the truth of it to soak into my soul.  Gradually I began to live with the belief that I was special.
Not more special than anyone else but - just special.
There was something God was setting inside of me that would change the world.
Something powerful.
Something not of myself, but of himself.
This winter I was driving down a road I traveled many times as a child.  Though things have changed in my hometown, much remains the same.  As I passed the familiar field I once played on with my brother, and turned down the road covered with tiger paws and shaded by oak trees, that first memory of Mary came to mind.  It had been decades since I had consciously remembered it.  In a moment everything came flooding back with clarity and I saw something new in that encounter.

In the decades that have passed I have gotten to know God better.
I have also gotten to know myself better.
Because I have travelled so long and far with him on this journey, I think I finally realize what God was offering me in that moment.  It wasn't the opportunity to carry a baby, but it was the opportunity to carry Jesus.

What God set inside of me is the same thing he set inside of you.

A space.

A space for him to reside.
A room for him to fill.
Many years later I would invite Him into that space -
not just for a moment,
not just when I really needed him.
I would invite him to stay - forever.  I would insist he take up residence, even when it wasn't convenient or popular or comfortable.

The truth is - God did choose me.
He also chose you.
The One who spoke everything into being.  He has chosen us.
Can you believe it?  I hope so, because I am desperate for you to believe it!

God created a space in me and he has created a space in you.
We will try to fill it with so many things that never quite fit.  Every day we will have to do the work of making sure that sacred space is emptied of those lesser things so that the most important thing can fill it up perfectly.
Within that space that he created, and that we keep, God wants to birth something, something that will change the world.

After Jesus was crucified and buried he defeated death and came back to life.  But his physical return to earth didn't last as long as his disciples had hoped.  He didn't return to have a gold crown set on his head and years of ruling his kingdom set in front of him.  No, Jesus didn't come back to take over the world but to hand it over - to us.  He knew, of course, that we could never do it on our own and that's why he left that space in each of us.

Sometimes a gaping emptiness is needed before fullness can be felt.  

Ask the disciples.
Having lost their friend, their teacher, their Savior - I'm guessing there was an aching emptiness in each of them.  And so Jesus returns to do one thing - to fill the emptiness.

The scriptures tell us that before he ascended back to heaven Jesus
In a room full of ordinary people like us - people who had doubts and fears and denials - He exhaled his Spirit.
He breathed himself into them, into us.
Because it was part of the rescue plan all along.  We were part of the rescue plan all along.
God chose to transform the world with his truth and grace using the very people who had been transformed by his truth and grace.  
Isn't that something?

God creates in us a space that only he can fill and then he does - he fills it.  He fills it with himself.  The spirit of God - in all it's power and goodness and glory - fits perfectly into the space inside of you and me.  So we are to be careful then how we fill our spaces.  If we allow something else to take up residence inside of us then our hearts will not be his home, something else will.  And it will never fit just right and we will never know the joy of carrying his spirit and changing his world.

Have you made room to breathe in the spirit of the living God?
What if we did that together?
What if day after day after day we kept kicking
and doubt
and pride
and selfish ambition
and all those other big bullies out of the space inside of us and inviting the Spirit of God back in.
My daughter will be seven this month.

With the rekindling of this old memory I have begun praying something specific for her.
That God would reveal himself to her in a way that is independent of me or her daddy or anyone else.
That he would speak directly to her about her value and worth to him and to the world.
That he would protect the space inside of her that has been reserved only for him.
That each moment would bring her closer and closer to the day when she will invite him in and his his spirit would seep into every fiber of her being until when people look at her they only see the blinding beautiful light of Jesus.
And then - they breathe him in too.

That's how the world is changed.  One breath at a time.

I'm praying the same thing for you.

I'm praying that God would reveal something so big and unbelievable about what he wants to do through you that it sends a chill of fear up your spine that leaves you thoroughly shaken.

I hope you know it's true.
God has a surprise for you, something holy and sacred he wants you to carry.
You are special.
You are chosen.
Regardless of where you've been or what you've done, God wants to make you beautiful with his beauty - inside and out.
So if you're feeling empty today - that's perfect.  Your empty space is exactly what God needs
to fill you up
and change the world.