Monday, October 08, 2012

I've Been There

The food was quite different, forcing a constant craving within me for Chinese dumplings. The preferred method of eating was with chopsticks instead of silver forks. Traffic was far more intense than the height of a Washington rush hour. And yet, there were many things that were the same.

Starbucks was easy to find. M&M candies and Snicker's chocolate bars were sold in most stores. The weather remained within five degrees of what was forecasted in Washington. And, I never had to change my watch. When we landed in Beijing at 2:20 in the afternoon, my body said it was 2:20 in the morning. Still, I sought to quickly fast-forward my body an entire twelve hours.

When I was arising the next day at 6:00 in the morning, I thought about how my husband, Craig, was likely preparing to leave work. When I was preparing to go to bed at 9:30 at night, I thought about how Craig's work day was just beginning. My prayers started to take on a new shape and form as I interceded on behalf of the people at home - those twelve and thirteen hours behind.

"God, it's been an incredible day. Thank you for all of the people we have encountered and the sights we have seen. As I reflect on the goodness of this day, I pray that you would give Craig an equally wonderful day as he goes to work and then spends time with friends."

On Sunday evening, my prayer went something like this, "What a joy it was to see so many people in church today. Thank you for the witness of strong women leading the church. Thank you for the songs that were sung and the people who welcomed us. Please be with my people as they prepare to gather. Bless James who will preach in my absence today. Be with Rachel as she leads the people through the liturgy. Help all who have gathered to receive a blessing."

There is something powerful about going through a day before the people you love start the day. There is something really profound about reflecting upon the gifts of a day and wanting the same gifts for the people you love at home.

I'd like to think that God has similar desires for us all the time.

In the book of Deuteronomy, when God is making a leadership transition near the end of Moses' life, God speaks through Moses, telling Joshua to be bold and be strong. Moses then says, "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed: (Deuteronomy. 31:8). What an amazing gift - to know that God has gone before us - that God is ahead of us - that God knows where one is going and that no matter how many obstacles stand in our way, God has already crossed them.

We receive this same gift from Jesus. We believe God was incarnate in Jesus - that Jesus was born in a borrowed barn, tempted in every way, and that he knows suffering and joy. God knows the exaltation that comes with a hug, the pain that accompanies sore feet or the piercing nuisance of a headache. God has been there, done that, felt that, experienced that.

I'm not willing to preach a sermon about the marriage of Jesus. I know several people who had their feathers ruffled by the recent discovery of a papyrus that mentions the wife of Jesus. We much prefer a faith that is figured out instead of one that is changing. But if Jesus was married, then he's gone before us in one of the biggest blessings and challenges of life, too. Marriage is a source of constant joy, laughter and blessings. At the same time, it requires an unlimited supply of give and take, confession and forgiveness, grace and patience. Not all dreams for marriage come true whether it is the children who have been named during an engagement but are never conceived or the multiple anniversary celebrations that do not come to fruition because a partner becomes unfaithful. If Jesus was married, then I can only imagine how much he intercedes on behalf of my marriage and every other married couple. There is something about this thought that is rather delightful to me - no matter how unorthodox the thought might be.

What kind of pain are you experiencing right now?

What is it that causes you anxiety when you are longing for peace?

What situation in life is weighing you down?

Imagine a God who has been there - one who knows exactly what you are going through. Consider the weight of your pain, and know that God is not only with you but God has felt that pain, too. And think about a God who knows the greatest joys and blessings of life and longs for you to have the very same joys and blessings.

I think God is like that.

I'm grateful that God has been there already.

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