27 years in a cell. A man found guilty, given time to consider, in silence. His circumstances insisted he “search realistically and regularly the processes of (his) own mind and feelings.”
What if we were sentenced to hard labor on the rock pile of life? With only ourselves and our fellow laborers for company. What then?
Would we find things of the spirit? Things gone missing or perhaps just dust-covered, having been set aside. Maybe they’ve been shelved or filed having been “sufficiently accomplished” thus not warranting further attention. Let’s press on to important matters, our soul seems to say.
But that voice…do I know it? Is it MY soul speaking?
What if we took the earphones out and let our own thoughts rattle through our heads as we went running, lifting, riding, driving? What harvest would the silence bring? Are we afraid to have our own thoughts for company?
Is it better to pay them no mind? Drown them out in the noise?
Keeping silent is very, very hard labor. Almost makes 27 years on the rock pile look easy, even a gift.
“All we can do is pray about it.” Is that something people say to you? Like, we’ve done everything we can, now we’re down to the final straw. One thing left to do…
Well, aside from the obvious – we’re supposed to pray first – I’m a bit leery of the last gasp prayer. Because it supposes that God won’t tell you, in your exasperated listening, to get off your knees and do something. Perhaps He won’t. Maybe He’ll just, with a consoling shake of the Great Head say, “Yes, I am frustrated with that circumstance, too. I am resigned to praying.” Which actually raises a whole other question…when God prays who does He pray to?…but that will have to wait for another day.
Today, I prefer to consider prayer as preparation. Preparing me for the next thing I am meant to do. When I suppose it is the last thing on the list, I’m presuming it’s all that will be asked of me. But what if He shows me something else? I need to leave that door open.
I just spoke to a friend who took a new job after 5 years in another position that was exceedingly difficult. This job, she says, is much harder, but in those 5 years God was teaching her and preparing her with all the tools she would need to succeed in the new job. As if He knew just where she was headed. Hard to believe.
That is what we say though, right? That He “has a plan for us, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). So why would we settle for sitting in one place? Why would we insist on keeping this job? Why would we dig our feet in where we are? Probably because we know where we are. Where we are headed only He knows. But if we really trust that the way is His, then we need to be headed out. And, count on each faithful step preparing us for the next.
In my morning exercise I pull outward on the handles of my exercise tubing, its anchor in the hinge of the door, and squeeze my shoulder blades together, strengthening my shoulders and back. My body forms a T and I hold it there, a Crucifixion of sorts. Perhaps I am odd to wonder…Would this exercise prepare a body for crucifixion? How was Christ prepared? What could possibly prepare one for such a moment?
If God knew it was coming, if Christ was born to die on a cross, then His life was lived in preparation for exactly that moment, that event, that ending. Not to stand strong against it, but to do God’s will in it. To live it through to the end, until it is finished. There would be no praying it away. No asking for it to be removed – well, asking, but then resigning oneself to the reality – and then agreeing and submitting oneself to live the story as it had already been written.
Perhaps if I lived my life this way, even one day, accepting that everything that came and every hardship I faced, was intended specifically for the purpose of preparing me for the next thing, I would live differently. I would actually give thanks in ALL circumstances, knowing the work behind the scenes was all for the good of the one who loves God and has been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
What if God knew I could only fully experience the glories of heaven if my soul on earth was prepared fully? What if He designed each of our lives for exactly that purpose? As if He knew just where we were headed.