April 28, 2008

Bumping into Jesus

One of our pastors often visualized the Apostle Peter as “following Jesus so closely that whenever Jesus stopped, Peter bumped into the back of Him.”

I want to follow Jesus, even be that close to Him. Psalm 63:8 says, “My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.

However, I don’t want to get ahead of Him.

Yesterday, the person that I wrote about was absent from class. It was plain that when (and if) God wants me to speak with her about the problems I described, He will provide the opportunity. Yesterday was not it, even though I thought it would be, and was prepared.

God’s timing is impeccable. If I do things without that in mind, my timing could “jump the gun” and I know that going ahead of God is never a good idea. In this situation, perhaps it was more important to first work through my own attitude and responses. Whatever His reason, when He stops moving, I must also stop.

Closely following Jesus has another side to it. Besides finding that He leads us differently that our own ideas and plans, He sometimes makes Himself difficult to find. Christians often say that they are seeking the will of God, but also that they have not yet discovered what that will is, and that God seems to be silent. Where are You, God? What do you want me to do? No answers to our questions, no sense of Him being ahead or even beside us.

Why does He do that? Could He be testing our resolve? Is He making sure we really want to know Him, be close to Him, discover Him, know His will? Whatever the answer to that, I know that it is never wise to be frustrated with God or wonder if this hide-and-seek is some sort of cruel game.

My devotional reading today likens the pursuit of God to the activity of a lover, who “in order to whet the ardent desire, to kindle to greater intensity the rising eagerness, the Lord will not suffer Himself to be overtaken till after a long and arduous pursuit.”

Before now, I’ve not thought of the Lord’s silences and seeming absence in that way. I’ve certainly experienced delayed answers to prayer and thought that meant the time was not ready or that I was not ready for the answer. Yesterday morning I thought He was preparing me to speak to one of His children about a huge need in her life. When it didn’t happen, I thought that He knows her heart and the best time for this, or perhaps I wasn’t quite ready to do it.

But there is more to this. By being put into “wait mode” I noticed that my heart was filled with a desire to be closer and to more deeply know this One who controls the events of my life. It was as today’s reading said, “But when the Lord can only be obtained by an arduous pursuit, every faculty of the soul is engaged in panting after His manifested presence . . . (as) the experience of the Psalmist when he cried, “My soul follows hard after thee.

To my recall, I’ve not sensed the presence of the Lord more in that class than yesterday. I cannot speak for the others, but I was blessed beyond all expectations. Even though the discussion was lively and hard questions were asked, His power and grace settled over us like a warm quilt. It was as if He said, “You have sought me in this other matter and I am not going to be with you for that one right now, but I am here for this moment. As you study about me, I want you to enjoy the discovery of finding me.”

And I did. Thank You!

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