Thursday, November 24, 2016

A boy after his father's own hand

On the road again

Growing up, my family frequently took the once traditional driving vacation in summer. The four of us—me, mom, dad, sis—loaded into the Olds and took off across the country. Each year we went the same direction—away.

Since the car didn’t have A/C we looked forward to stopping at a Stuckey’s or any other tourist trap site to cool off and de-stickify ourselves. And every motel we stayed in had to have a pool—that was my requirement.

The thrill of the chill

One summer we stopped to explore the wonders of a cavern called Cave of the Winds located in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The signs promised that “whatever the temperature outside, it’s always a comfortable 54 degrees inside.”

When you’re inside a car with vinyl upholstery, no air conditioning, two kids who love to pick on each other, and it’s 80+ outside, dad didn’t need to use curiosity as an excuse to stop. The promise of time spent in the cool got everyone’s attention.

The tour was cool, totally cool, taking us deep into the heart of the earth. The huge rising stalagmites and hanging stalactites were awesome, especially as they were enhanced by colorful and dramatic lighting. Every twist and turn of the path brought appreciative ooohs and aaahs.

Going dark

At one point during the tour, to give us a full appreciation of how dark a cave really was, the lights were turned off. We were instructed to take the hands of companions, parents, and children, and not to move an inch. The lights went out and it truly was The Big Dark!

Being the proud little man that I was, I pulled free of dad’s hand to scratch my nose and shift my feet a bit, turning around trying to see in the darkness—just for a second. I was brave—just for second. Then I reached for the comfort of a hand again.

When the lights came on I quickly sensed something was wrong.

Foolish & fearful

I was horrified to discover that I wasn’t holding my dad’s hand. It was the hand of a stranger and dad was nowhere immediately visible.

Actually, he was only a few feet away—but there were a lot of other feet, legs, and adult bodies towering all round  me and I was only about four feet tall! To me, a wee kid, he may as well have been eons away.

That moment—and it was in reality only a moment before dad reclaimed me—gave rise to terror, confusion, bewilderment, remorse, regret, and a rush of other emotions. I was stunned that my momentary letting go of dad’s hand had put me at terrible risk and at such distance from him so quickly.

Considering David

David, the author of many of the Psalms and who spent some time in caves, is a fascinating biblical character for a lot of reasons. What I find most amazing is what’s said of him by God: “After removing Saul, [God] made David their king. [God] testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:20-22).

God says David is “a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” Does that mean David never made a mistake? Not at all.

We’ve got nearly the whole scoop on his failures and misdeeds in the Old Testament. David did all God wanted him to do, and a few things He didn’t. Some of those things were tragic. Yet, through it all, David still was a man after God’s own heart.

As a deer pants after the water, so David’s soul longed and sought after God relentlessly, through success and failure, through blessings and woes. So it should be with us and our relationship to our heavenly Father.

The challenge of choices

How many times each day throughout our busy weeks and months do we play the proud Prodigal and do our own “brave” thing?

Each decision—insignificant or momentous—gives us the opportunity to hang on to God’s hand in utter dependence, or let go and go our own way to never good consequences. If we let go, when we come to our senses, the distance between us and God feels like a boundless chasm of guilt, shame, and regret. Yet, the reality is that He never is very far away at all.

Going through life can be like walking through an unfamiliar room lit with a strobe light—with the lights constantly turning on and off. We confront people and situations which bring both darkness and light in rapid succession. It can be disorienting and exhausting.

Our ultimate goal is to get from one side of the room to the other in one piece—to move through our lives holy and preserved. But there are a gazillion unseen hazards seeking our hurt.

The constant and disorienting moving from light to dark to light to dark forces us to press on in faith because we can’t always see clearly where we’re going or what’s in front of us.

A constant state of recovery

As with David, our hearts long after and draw us toward God, yet there are moments our self lets go of His hand and we do those things He never intended for us to do. We end up standing in the dark holding the wrong hand.

In the cave, when the lights came up and I realized my situation, you could say that I became a boy hard after my dad’s own hand! While in my tiny act of rebellious independence I’d let go, I was still my father’s son and coveted his protection and care.

My hand was in another’s, but my heart belonged to my dad. So it is even now. Our lives become flawed by sin, yet we’re still people after God’s own heart. The stains of sin are not indelible when washed in His blood.

With Paul, we can say, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of [perfection]. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

God is loving, faithful, and patient. When we pull away, He’ll let us go. When we wake up to our folly, His hand is always right there, open, reaching toward us. But better yet, why even pull away at all?

There’s nothing wimpy about dependence on God. Real men and women aren’t afraid to be seen holding His hand tightly. Are you?

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Can you relate? Do you sometimes let go of God’s hand and turn your own way (see Isaiah 53:6)? How does it feel when you’re in the dark? When the light dawns again, do you feel immediately close to God or does it take some time? Please share you experiences and thoughts in the comments!

A version of this devotional article appears in this book:

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