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Archive for the ‘waiting’ Category

Fun

I bowl. I go to Elitch’s. I jump on trampolines. I play board games. I wear formal or old-fashioned outfits to stores and parks and libraries. I even dance on occasion. Not because I have to. Because I want to.

 

And because I can. I don’t have to spend most of my time keeping a house or supporting a family or choosing homeschool curriculum.  I also don’t get to do those family-oriented things, but I don’t regret, while I wait for them, enjoying fun things.

 

It makes me wonder what kind of mom I’ll be, by the time it happens?  If fun has become an adult habit, not just something that young adult me does while transitioning out of youth group life, will that translate into the way I run my house, and the priorities I share with my kids?

 

I wonder.  I like to think about the story God is telling in my life, how my life is different from the average “grow up, get married, have a family” story that I assumed I would have.  And imagine what He’s making of the differences.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: I know fun parents.  God has various ways of bringing things about in people’s lives.

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Across the Sky

Have you noticed that many processes are interactions?

Farming and gardening are examples that involve a lot of work and initiative and dominion – but in cooperation with what “naturally” occurs: rain, sun, a branch sprouting in the wrong direction. To get good fruit, we humans both initiate and respond.

Children are raised not by a curriculum, but by attentive discipleship: when we go out and when we come in, when we sit and when we lie down and when we rise up.

Writing or creating art – even these are best done when, as I have read, we “sit with” our material (sometimes sharing the process with a community of artists). We look at it in lots of lights. (Isn’t it convenient that the sun moves across the sky, shining on different aspects of creation in the course of a day?) We wait until we have enough facts, and the facts from outside of us have been catalyzed by the spirit within us. Then comes culmination, fruit-bearing, birth, harvest, maturity.

This is sometimes ugly, sometimes bearing witness to what we wish would just erase itself from existence, and letting it change us instead of ignoring it. This is sometimes painful, sitting in the dark with grief and failure. This is sometimes hard, persisting in a process whose end we are unsure of.

I think that God is (slowly) teaching me about His wisdom and glory in *using* time, and this truth is part of it. It isn’t only beautiful seeing a basket of picked elderberries, or a kid finally making a selfless choice, or a fleeing sinner caught at last by the merciful Shepherd. The *process* is beautiful. The loving abiding with people, and tender tending of our works are profoundly moving. I think God is excited to work this way, and that inspires me.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Why it’s ok to look at engagement rings and date ideas as a single girl…

 

You hear it, if you’re a single woman, that the secret is to be content where you are.  Marriage can be an idol, after all, and you just have to be busy forgetting that you’re a woman whose calling is to be a wife and a mom.  That way you’ll not waste your life.  That way you’ll be like everyone else.  That way you’ll convince God that He can safely give you a husband and you won’t love the man more than the Giver.

 

I’ve been single long enough to be tired of hearing it.  I also don’t agree.  If it is true that God is calling me to be a wife and a mom, then it seems like I should be justified in preparing for that.  I ought to be expecting God to do what He says.  My life should reflect that future, just like a man called to missions studies the language and the gospel – or a woman called to nursing learns how to start an IV (and maybe even purchases a set of scrubs). One might compare this to the wise virgins having oil in their lamps, from Jesus’ parable.

 

Some days I get kind of discouraged about the whole thing.  And doing something that I would do if I knew from circumstances that I was getting married, even though circumstances aren’t showing that, is an act of faith in the invisible reality God knows about.  So it actually cheers me up to look through simple, inexpensive engagement rings and date ideas and to pick up the little useful-for-a-wedding-thing cheap at a thrift store.  It’s pretty useful to be doing things preparing for that life: read a parenting book; practice meal planning; learn better ways of communicating.  I expect to be a mom, so I can learn about pregnancy and attend a friend’s childbirth.  I expect to have a wedding, so I can brainstorm how I want the food at the reception to go.

 

I wouldn’t encourage a single person to do this every day.  (Married people probably shouldn’t do such things every day either!)  I don’t want to encourage discontent.  But can we please, please believe that God will do what He says?  Can that belief affect the choices we make with our lives?

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’ve been learning a lot, since June, about spiritual warfare.  God told me to focus on learning about it and practicing it.  The other day I wrote down a list of what I’ve learned to do when I recognize attacks.  I thought it might help you out.  Or you might help me out by adding to it or correcting anywhere I’ve overstepped.

 

Responses To & Wards Against Spiritual Attacks:

 

Prayer

Obviously there are so many kinds of prayer.  First of all, I can simply ask God for what I want or need.  Jesus truly says, “Ask and you shall receive.”  I want to try to live that, to find out the fullness of what it means.  Talking to God keeps me close to Him, keeps my perspective pointed His way.  I pray Scripture sometimes, as God leads (Ephesians 6:10-20 if I can’t think of anything else).  I call out for help from the God who is mighty enough to deliver me from my enemies.  He is a shield, a help, a comfort, a refuge.  And He can guide me to the purposes He has for me – the things His enemy is trying to distract me from.  He can show me how to move past the ambush.

 

Thanks

So many of the spiritual attacks come in the form of doubting God’s word and character.  Thanks remembers who God is and what He has done and what He has promised.  It names them like a claiming for my collection.

 

Praise

Praise takes thanks a step further.  It shouts to the world that my God is good.  I feel like it’s less defensive and more offensive in this spiritual battle, a tactic that has the enemy of God wishing he could avoid bringing the subject up.

 

Rest

God created rest.  It’s just a fact.  He made us to need it.  Rest is related so intimately with waiting and trust.  It is an outward submission to the fact that while I do nothing, He is able to work.  He doesn’t need me; I need Him.  And so I still my body and even sleep sometimes, committing my concerns to my good Father.

 

Enjoying Good Gifts

If one of the lies is that God isn’t good, it gains power when I refuse to take the good that God gives.  He uses these gifts to refresh us and to speak to us of His love.  We have to be receiving from God.  If we are dependent on Him, it doesn’t mean that we just let Him do everything.  It doesn’t mean that we only take from Him the things we perceive as useful for the battle.  We take everything He gives.  In the midst of sorrow, if He gives laughter, we take that too.  We remember that the battle isn’t a punishment; it’s a privilege.  So I don’t act like a child pouting in time-out; I taste chocolate and dance in the yard and I thank God for His wisdom!

 

Encouragement

I’m so glad that God didn’t make us to fight these spiritual battles alone.  I heard a preacher say once that God called the Church to spiritual warfare – more than He called individuals.  I haven’t figured out what that means or if I agree entirely, but I do know that the members of the body of Christ have been given gifts to build each other up for the ministries God has prepared for us.  I love it when my friends tell me they are in this with me, when they remind me of truth, when they admonish me to persevere.  Sometimes I even beg them for it.

 

Prayer Together

This one has been coming up in my thoughts a lot lately, and I feel conviction that I’m not very good at making it happen.  I believe that when we recognize spiritual warfare, we should come together to petition God together for strength, guidance, and victory.  For whatever reason, I think we’re supposed to be doing this in groups and not just alone.

 

People

Sometimes I get to be around people who aren’t aware of the battle in my life, and even that can be a bulwark against spiritual attack.  It is good to be around humans.  We minister to each other.  We are made in the image of God, objects of His love, and instruments of His righteousness.  It is good to be reminded that God is at work in lives, in situations completely unrelated to my battles.  He grows people.  He answers prayers.  He wins.

 

Speaking/Writing/Remembering Truth

When I’m in the midst of the weightiest attacks, sometimes the only things to cling to are prayer and truth.  I can start small, naming the truth I see about me: “That is a window.  Today is Thursday.”  And then I can tell myself, journal, or tell others truths I know about God.  I can remember things He did in the Bible.  I can remember what He did for me yesterday, last month, last year, or when He saved me the day I turned six.  One very important thing to remember is that God freely gave His Son to pay for my sins.  Paul springboards from that truth to asking, “Will He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  It doesn’t make sense for God to give us His most precious possession and then to hold little things back just to be mean!  The final type of truth that I focus on is who I am in Christ: “I am chosen.  I am sealed.  I am empowered.  I am loved.”

 

Fasting and Self-Denial

Mostly my experience with fasting is experimentation.  I ask God whether to fast.  I don’t understand all of how it works or why God made fasting to have power in spiritual warfare, but Jesus said it, so I believe it.  Maybe it has something to do with recognizing my dependence on God for the sustaining of my life.  I think there is something to be said for self-denial, for practicing being led by something other than the impulses of what my body or mind want.  Plus, since the body is pretty good at sending those impulses, I can use them as a reminder to focus on God and to pray.

 

Obedience

The Bible warns me to take heed lest I am also tempted, when I’m pro-actively engaged in the spiritual battle.  So I regularly evaluate whether I’m being obedient.  How have I failed to do what I know God wants me to?  I put on the breastplate of righteousness, believing that pursuing good works God has called me to puts me in the places where He can readily use me to intercede for others.  When I am obedient, I am not so distracted with repenting – and I am not fighting to regain the foothold I had given over to the Devil.  But I also remember that my God is merciful.  When I fall, I cry out to Him and He forgives.  His grace strengthens me for obedience; it isn’t something I do apart from Him and then bring myself before Him well-armored in my own good works and strength.  Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  I have to let it be Him working in me.

 

Reading and Hearing Truth

I want my mind to be saturated with truth so much that it can’t even hear the lies of the Devil.  I want to be so confident in the truth that deceits are easily identified and turned back.  So I read the Bible, read books about factual things, listen to Christian lectures or good Christian music.

 

Work

Rest is important, but so is staying busy.  The last thing I need is down time when my prayers are exhausted and I’m bored and the temptation comes to chase after my own pleasure.  Work is therapeutic.  It is a taking-back from the chaos, a living out of the dominion God called the first Man and Woman to.  In a way, that’s the same thing happening in spiritual warfare.

 

Calling On Jesus’ Name

This one is potent.  If I feel strongly oppressed, I need to speak Jesus’ name aloud, to claim the authority of the King of Kings to fight this battle for me.  It’s also pretty potent before God.  If I’m confident enough that my prayer is for Jesus’ sake, for the bearing fruit in His kingdom, I present my supplications in Jesus’ name.  And Jesus promised that whatever we ask the Father in His name, we can have confidence that we have from Him.  This is another form of acknowledging the truth of God’s promises.

 

Rebuking Demons

Sometimes I need to take seriously that there are personal creatures scheming against me and that they do not have authority to oppose me, because I am a chosen ambassador of God in the world.  I openly resist the Devil, and trust that the Bible is true when it says “He will flee from you.”  I don’t know how long it lasts, or exactly how this works, but I try it because it is taught in Scripture.

 

Prayer For Others

The spiritual battle does not just affect individuals, so I pray for others potentially involved to be guarded against the schemes, temptations, and opposition of our spiritual enemy.  I pray for them to put on and take up the armor of God, being strengthened with His might.  I pray for them to be vigilant.  I pray that God would hedge their families, their health, their jobs, their travel – and anything else that seems relevant or that God leads me to pray for them.  I pray that they will be in right standing with God, repentant of sins and practicing righteousness.  Intercession is one more thing that I think the spiritual warfare is opposing in the first place, so to go forward doing it seems to me a good idea in resisting the attacks.

 

Attention to God’s Works

Like remembering what God has done in the past, and being around people in whom God is active at present, I can look around me right now and observe the wise and powerful works of God.  These things don’t have to be spiritual, though sometimes they are.  I gain encouragement watching God change the seasons, open up wildflowers, bring a bee buzzing by.  I watch Him move the hearts of “kings.”  This isn’t quite the same as praise or thanks, because it precedes them.  First I slow down and give heed to what God is doing – I set out looking for it.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I read once that Tolkien wrote with the pessimism of the pagan poets [1].  They uphold honor in despair, dying well, the heroic quest at the cost of losing everything you love.  But I read Tolkien and see hope scribed into every chapter.  No light, whimsical child’s hope: Tolkien’s hope is not ignorance of all things capable of clouding the good.  It’s a “fool’s hope,” [2] where anyone can see that in all likelihood, if things go on as they are, the fool will be disappointed.  In Tolkien, the fools know themselves to be fools.

 

Elven-King Fingolfin’s story weighs on the side of hopelessness.  The Silmarillion describes him as “fey” [3] when he challenges Melkor himself, living up to the epic’s heroic virtues.  What hope has an elf against a Vala?  But the Vala ought to be contended, resisted, fought.  Though the high king of the Noldor (elves) finally fell, his fight was not without effect.  The Dark Lord Melkor limped forever after.

 

At first reading, it seems that Aragorn commends this sort of despairing courage when he instructs his friends, “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” [4]  But Gandalf, the wizard who knows his life-encompassing hope is foolish, lends a bit of insight early on.  Recognizing he is a fool, he embraces humility.  Do you hear it in Gandalf’s words? “Despair, or folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.” [5]  He acknowledges that he may not have all the facts.  Indeed, thinking that he knew what the end would be was the prideful downfall of Denethor, who let his enemy select the facts he discovered, and so turn him to despair, and madness.  Tolkien’s works regularly discourage the assumption that we know the future.

 

He also discourages despair.  I know it doesn’t seem true.  There are some pivotal scenes driven by characters that rashly pursue death and glory.  Aragorn is accused of it when he takes the Paths of the Dead, but that perspective is refuted.  Though the way had been shut for long ages, the time had come.  Such is the way of hope.  Things go on in a certain way until the due time, and then change springs upon the world.

 

Perhaps most potent is the image of grey-eyed Dernhelm.  The warrior’s silent, calm assurance going in search of death chilled Merry.  And it awakens our empathy.  Why shouldn’t it?  Who hasn’t felt that life is going from bad to worse, and decided to rush forward to the end instead of waiting to be burned with the house?  I think maybe Tolkien intended to carry us along with this character, so that we could reach the same end.  Dernhelm was proud, seeking glory before duty, though demonstrating loyal love to King Theoden by staying close to him.  And glory was achieved.  And darkness did descend on the desperate hero.  Even as Dernhelm revealed herself as Eowyn, golden hair glittering in the storm-piercing sunrise like a figment of hope; she was cast down, poisoned, and taken for dead.  [6]

 

But now we come to it:  Tolkien’s hope is the kind that stands further and deeper than all those things – than despair and darkness and loss.  He knew about a resurrection hope, about seeds bringing forth fruit after they have fallen into the ground and died.  Maybe he knew that fruit is more glorious than merely putting an end to your enemies.  His hope embraces grief.  It accepts hard things.  Good is not determined by the outcome, but by some transcendent standard.  And this hope joyfully trusts that there is someOne good who may intervene yet.

 

For Eowyn woke, and repented her destructive ideals.  Day came again.  Darkness was not unescapable.  Faramir described the moment, “I do not know what is happening.  The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days.  But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.  … in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” [7]  So Eowyn moved and married, healed and tended gardens. [8]  Her story is a fuller exposition of the transformation the Fellowship underwent in Moria.  They lost their way and lost their guide.  They had descended black depths and awakened demons so that they lost hope.  But on the field high on the mountain slopes, “they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.” [9]

 

[1] Hopeless Courage by Loren Rosson, III (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_guest_03.htm)

[2] The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 797)

[3] See etymology of “fey” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fey&allowed_in_frame=0

[4] The Two Towers: “The Riders of Rohan” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 430)

[5] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Council of Elrond” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 262)

[6] The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 823-824)

[7] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 941)

[8] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 943-944)

[9] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 323)

 

See also, The Silmarillion: “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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When I was in junior high, I remember telling a Bible study leader that if a Christian was walking with God, she wouldn’t have to “pray about it” before she knew whether God wanted her to do something or not; she would already know.  Back then I was pretty biblically ignorant, and didn’t have much experience as a Christian trying to walk with God.  I don’t agree with what I said then.  Sometimes, no matter how closely you are walking with God, He wants you to wait on Him, to seek Him.  So He is quiet on what you should do, for a while.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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People of Hope

We are a people of hope, we Christ-followers.  Love is to be what defines us, and Paul wrote that love hopes all things.  In the past few months I have been overwhelmed with the number of things we are hoping for.

 

First we are hoping for the return of our Bridegroom, Jesus, the establishment of His kingdom, and the fulfillment of our salvation.  This future is promised and sure, but not realized – often not even observable on its way.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.  So much of what we do until His return is based on what we can’t see.  We love the brethren, whom we can see.  We hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him.  Our feasts remember Him and anticipate the wedding feast we will share with Him.  He has left us gifts and we use them.  Purity is important in a Bride, so we try to be always ready to meet Him adorned with good works and holy.  These are the acts of hope.

 

Many of us are hoping for the salvation of friends and family.  We labor for it.  We petition for it.  And we recognize that it is God who brings it about.  This isn’t a detached hope; we are eager, invested, agonizing as we plead for those who are lost in spiritual darkness and death.  The answer to our hope is glorious: redemption and reunion and our Lord’s increased joy.

 

In singleness we wait for a spouse and children, in hope.  God has led me to not just bide my time, but to really desire these good gifts.  I can’t acquire the kind of husband I would need to glorify God, by myself.  God is abundantly able.  So I wait, dreaming of the day when God brings completion to my hopes and I begin a new life, picturing the new life we Christians will share with Christ when He returns for us.

 

God has entrusted orphans to His people, charging us to care for them.  These needy children wait for homes and families, and we walk in hope that they will be adopted soon.  Some of my friends are eager to receive the blessing of an adopted son or daughter into their family.  While they know that God must move the mountains it takes to bring these children home, they seek Him for the next step they should take in this process.  They begin loving these little ones to prepare for the day that they might be their own.

 

Others are hoping for God to grow their families by blessing them with conception and healthy births.  They ask God for babies, get excited about names and interactions and discipleship and teaching and growing.  Months too early they begin collecting children’s books and decorating nurseries.

 

Having kids is an abundant source for more hopes.  Parents hope for their children to grow into men and women who zealously pursue God.  They pray for long, strong lives.  When their children stray from the truth, they fervently intercede for their repentance.

 

We gently and lovingly confront sin, hoping for the offending Christian to be restored to submission to God and fellowship with those of us who walk in the light of His grace and power and leading.

 

In all sorts of things we pray for what we don’t have, our hope in the good-gift-giving Father who hears all of our requests with love and wisdom.  Sometimes He has told us what to pray for, and our hope should be enthusiastically confident that we have whatever we ask (as it is asked in faith according to His revealed will).  And sometimes we lay our hearts before Him, begging that He will grant our desires or turn them to what pleases Him.

 

And hope maketh not ashamed;

because the love of God

is shed abroad in our hearts

by the Holy Ghost

which is given unto us.”

~ Romans 5:5

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Still Remembering

I forget sometimes that it is ok to be quiet, to sit in quiet.  There is a baby softly crying right now, upstairs, and I’m waiting to see whether she’ll fall back asleep on her own.  But I have to listen for the next noise she will make, and she may not make any.  Meanwhile, it is mostly quiet.  I let the music end.  There is white noise coming from the baby monitor.  A clock ticks.  A train whistle sounds in the distance.  Cars go by, but a few streets over.  My fingernails click against the keyboard.  And I am quiet.  How much you can hear when you are willing to be still.

 

This week at the prayer meeting I attend we were talking about what it means to hear God’s voice.  When Philip heard the angel of the Lord, and the Spirit, speaking to him in Acts 8, what had he been doing?  Was he busy doing something else God had told him to do?  Or was he doing something he thought was not wicked, but not really directed by God?  Was he eager to be used by God and so praying for God to give him a direction?  And if you do something like that, how long should you wait?  What if you decided to be still until God spoke, and He took longer than you expected?  What if you gave up waiting on Him, went on to some good task, and missed Him telling you to randomly take the desert road?

 

Another thing we were talking about was how we can make our own noise, or dive into distractions, keeping us from hearing God.  If we never take the time to pray or sing praise songs, if we fill ourselves with TV and news and work and hobbies, we aren’t giving God much of a chance.  And He deserves more than a chance (even though He can break through without chances).

 

Waiting is hard, especially when God is quiet.  I, at least, start to doubt that He will ever speak, or that He has ever spoken.  Reminders come that there are things that I want God to do, and I start thinking that I could do them – if only He would give me orders.  Or maybe all I need is permission.  Or maybe I’ll just do them myself anyway.  And suddenly instead of God’s servant waiting, God’s servant is taking over.  And I realize that I had been waiting for God to be my servant, not for Him to be my Master.

 

There’s another side to patient waiting, though.  Rest.  Peace.  Presence.  When we are still, we are not busy.  (And I don’t think you can argue that God has called us to constant busyness.)  If we trust that He will work when His good time has arrived, we can have peace: confidence and hope and the absence of that tight anxiety that makes you feel as though you are straining even when you are not moving.  His presence is filling the silence when we draw near to Him.  Maybe He wants us to enjoy Him, instead of just running around trying to earn His love.  His love is a gift, His work in us is grace, and when He is not employing us, that is also grace.

 

Lately I’ve been learning to remember in the waiting.  Remember God’s prior faithfulness.  Remember that He has truly led me here.  Remember that He promises to hear me.  This remembering builds faith.  It brings thanks.  It intentionally focuses me so that I can have peace.  It directs my faith to true things, to God’s real ways.  And it lets me be aware of His nearness.

 

Most times it is hard to thank God for waiting.  Maybe it’s because I need to do it better.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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God’s Department

I happen to think that a great many things are God’s department.  I believe that nothing happens without Him ordaining it.  This isn’t to say that I don’t believe in personal responsibility, especially in obeying God.  It’s an interesting thing about obedience, though: you can’t obey an order that isn’t given, even if you feel urgently like the Master needs to get you moving.  A servant is still (or busy at the last assigned tasks) until another order comes.  This shows trust that the Master can make better decisions than the servant regarding how he should be serving.  It is a submissive dependence on the Master.  The Bible talks again and again about waiting on God.  I believe it is essential to faith and humility.

So many people encourage Christians to see a good direction and go for it.  One that I encounter a lot is marriage.  People think that a servant of God, if he or she desires marriage and a family, should not be sitting around waiting for God to bring them a spouse.  These people may be right, but only if God has told the Christian to be doing something – directly or indirectly acquiring a spouse.  If He has not moved in that direction in their lives yet, then they are not going to be obeying God – or finding the spouse He desires them to be united with – if they make efforts on their own.

Over the years waiting on God to direct me (and sometimes taking steps that He tells me to take – sometimes taking steps He doesn’t tell me to, and repenting), there have been several verses that have encouraged me to be patient, that God is in control and that His plan for marriages is good.

Proverbs 19:14, “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.”

Proverbs 18:22, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.”

Matthew 19:4-6, “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Psalms 37:3-5, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

It is popular among conservative Christians to assert that the headship of a man and the exclusion of women from authority over men applies to initiating romantic relationships.  This seems consistent with the patriarchal values taught in the Bible, though it is not specifically prescribed.  One verse that encourage me, as a woman, to let men take the lead, especially in this area, is Proverbs 30:18-19, “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.”

For a while I was strongly influenced by movements which taught that guarding one’s emotional heart from attachment, interest, or affection should be a single woman’s main goal.  I no longer believe this.  There are verses that speak of guarding your heart (Proverbs 4:23), but I believe that those verses refer to temptation, not to caring for others.  We should all be careful that our loves are guided by the description in 1 Corinthians 13, that our love for one another is not selfish or lustful, but patient and kind and humble and selfless and hopeful.  Another verse I have been known to use to argue for “guarding my heart” is from Song of Solomon, the refrain, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake [my] love, till he please.”  That is the KJV; in other versions it is translated in a way that sounds more like a warning against falling in love before it is time.  I am not convinced of that translation, or of its application.

Generally, I am opposed to flirting.  If it is sexually enticing (and not between a husband and wife), I think that it is wrong.  Other reasons why I don’t like flirting are that it makes one the aggressive center of attention.  It is not modest for a woman to demand that a man pay attention to her silliness.  Finally, I think that flirting often replaces more direct forms of communication and commitment that are too much neglected – leading to misunderstanding and discord.  However, I don’t think it is always wrong.  I believe that if a woman is so scared to show her interest in a man whom she favors that she doesn’t respond to him when he teases or jokes or compliments or questions or even just sits down next to her, she is being dishonest, and setting herself up to be passed over.  A man may deem that she would reject him if he pursued her.  Women ought to affirm our brothers in Christ, whether we are going to marry them or not.  This deceptive reserve cheats them of this natural edification.  If a woman really loves a man, she will want what is best for him, even at the risk that she will grow fonder of him.  She should trust God to guide her heart and hopes.  This trust is, of course, not done apart from investing heavily in her relationship with God.

Examples in the Bible are diverse: Eve was formed directly from Adam’s side while he slept.  Isaac received his wife because his father sent a faith-full servant to his relatives to find one, and she agreed.  Jacob fell in love with Rachel and acquired her sister also because of his deceptive brother-in-law.  Widow Ruth’s mother-in-law noted Boaz’s kindness, and his position to be the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth, and sent Ruth after Boaz in a very discreet yet appealing way.  Then Ruth had to sit and wait for the man to accomplish all the particulars.  David and Michal fell in love, but that didn’t turn out so well; she rescued David and lied for him and then her dad the king gave her to be someone else’s wife.  He also married Abigail after her first, wicked husband died.  And we know he married Bathsheba because the death penalty for his adultery with her was not enforced against them.  Not the recommended way of entering into marriage.  Esther became Ahasuerus’ wife because he made a decree to bring beautiful women into his harem.  God told Hosea to choose a wife of harlotry, thus his marriage to Gomer.

Then we have Paul’s confusing instructions in 1 Corinthians 7.  And we can look at the love stories between YHWH andIsrael, and between Jesus and the Church.  This last is no small thing and has encouraged me to wait well, and to take this time of deferred hope as a time to learn more about the Church that is awaiting her Bridegroom’s return from his Father’s house.

My point is that there are a multitude of very different stories, wound about with love and sacrifice betwixt sin and sorrow.  Fathers act, men act, women act, mothers-in-law act.  The moral of the story is to desire good things, wait on God to direct you, and walk confidently by faith.

Romans 14:23, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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All That Was Lost

By Michael Card

Why are you crying?

Who are you looking for?

This is a graveyard.

Were you expecting more?

 

You feel abandoned,

Like every hope has died,

The death of all your dreams –

This is the price of life:

 

He will claim His lost possession,

Repossess you, pay the cost.

He will purchase you for freedom.

He will find all that was lost.

 

There stands the Stranger

There on the flowering slope.

The Servant waits for you

In a garden of hope.

 

Do you perceive now?

And have your eyes been cleared?

Have they been opened?

Have they been washed by tears?

 

He will claim His lost possession,

Repossess you, pay the cost.

He will purchase you for freedom.

He will find all that was lost.

 

So run and tell all

Those who have longed to hear:

The wait is over;

The risen Savior’s here.

 

Jesus asked the question a few times.  “Who are you looking for?”  Or “What do you want?”  Even though He already knew, He asked because He wanted us to know why we were seeking.  And isn’t that exciting, that God sent angels to people at the tomb who weren’t seeking YHWH for that which they wanted?  He doesn’t always wait for us to come to Him; praise His mercy!

 

Who am I looking for?  I take a moment to remember what has awakened this longing in me that drives me to my tired knees, crying again, playing this song on repeat in my car’s stereo.  I don’t think we’d really cry unless we had hope.  Hope knows pain doesn’t have to be, doesn’t have to endure; but it is here anyway, and how do we reconcile the goodness of God with that pain?  I know it: I am looking for Jesus because there is no one else who has the words of life; no one else worthy of putting my hope in.  And I’m looking for Him because I have tasted of Him, but I am so aware that I just don’t understand what He’s up to.  I wish I knew Him better.

 

As I meditate on the lyrics, I change my mind about “this is the price of life.”  Does it mean there will be sadness in all of life so much as it means this tomb is the price of making us spiritually alive?  Jesus had to die.  We shouldn’t despair when God is accomplishing His purposes.  Our Hope had to die (and rise again) to give us life.  Like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground, it isn’t until it dies that it brings forth abundant and multiplying life.  Redemption wasn’t free.

 

Jesus purchased me for freedom.  I’m swimming in what it means to be redeemed to be free, but still to be His even in my liberty.  In the very least, it feels good to be claimed, to be bought at a price.  It reminds me of Hosea, who bought his wife back from self-imposed slavery.  He set her free.  Andrew Peterson’s song, Hosea, describes the scene when Israel saw that her abandoned wilderness was turned into a valley, a garden of hope.

 

He will find all that was lost.  Even though our old hopes have died, they were not in vain.  Whatever is sown will be reaped.  YHWH is Redeemer, who restores the years the locusts have eaten.  He keeps my every tear in a bottle – not one is unnoticed by Him.  In Him even lesser hopes are resurrected, but in His hands, His ways, His glory.

 

Having lived life in hope, having built expectations of our own about who God is and what He will do, the God after the death, after the resurrection, can be a Stranger to us.  I don’t understand Him.  I am surprised, maybe even hurt, by His ways.  But the grief, the letting go of my own hopes, has emptied me to meet this Stranger on His ground.  And His ground is flowering and good.

 

I am flattened that Jesus waits for me.  He is the Servant, delighting to serve and to give and to lay down His own life for my sake.  He wants me to know Him and experience His love.  In fact, this is the best love story ever.

 

The tears over my lost agenda, my way, my understanding, have given way to humility.  My God draws near to the humble – really, really near.  My eyes are opened to see Him as He is, to receive from Him His own good gifts.  Hope is resurrected into something that is not about me at all.  It’s about Him.

 

The chorus makes me rejoice for my Savior.  Titus 2:14 says that He has “redeemed us from every lawless deed and purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  He is the widow who celebrates finding her lost coin.  The desire of His heart is realized when He redeems us for Himself.

 

In the Gospels the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection hurried to tell others.  They’d been waiting for atonement and freedom their whole lives. Israelhad been waiting for Immanuel.  When Jesus was born, Anna hurried to tell those she knew who were looking for Messiah’s coming.  After the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had been waiting the duration of the Sabbath, unable to work themselves, a picture of their complete dependence on God’s ability to cleanse them and make them alive.

 

For someone who has hungered and hoped and longed and persevered, are there any more refreshing words than “The wait is over”?

 

Over” doesn’t mean that life is over.  Consummation only begins the marriage.  Christians are the living Bride of the Living Christ.  Our life is hopeful.  It has to do with bearing fruit.  I am called to walk under the assurance of the Resurrection.  Faith and hope are limited only by the revelation of the all-good, all-mighty, death-conquering God.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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