Thursday, December 16, 2010

The One He Loves

A few of weeks ago, I started thinking about starting a new memory passage. It's always hard to let go of the old one, even though I know I'll keep reviewing it forever. I think my main hesitation is trying to discern what the next passage should be. There's always that niggling fear that this time God won't confirm my choice--this despite the fact that He has confirmed all ten of my previous passages, usually more than once.

Anyway, I've been leaning toward a passage in Ephesians:

 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 
I feel most drawn to the verse about being rooted and established in the love of Christ; this is my prayer for myself and my children and my friends.

So this morning I reminded God that I was still waiting for my confirmation. "Is this the right passage, or do you want me to learn another one?... I really love this one! But I'm getting a little frustrated. Hasn't it been over a week since I asked you about it?" [Because a week is SUCH a long time, I know!]

Feeling a little pouty, I sat down with my stack of memory cards and quoted them, one by one. As the scriptures flowed off my lips, I kept sensing connections with the Ephesians passage. When I read about Jesus humbling himself and becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8)--I was in awe of how much he loves me. "Oh, Jesus," I breathed. "You know how I have feared death in the past, and if I could get out of dying I would. Yet you took on human form, subjecting yourself to death, on purpose! And you did it because you loved us so. Help me grasp that love, Jesus!" Immediately, I thought of being rooted and established in his love, and grasping how long and high and deep is his love.

Then there was Psalm 103:11: "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him." Again I thought of the Ephesians passage.

Isaiah 43 reminded me that he has summoned me by name, for I am his; I am precious and honored in his sight, and he loves me.

Next was John 15: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love.... Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

I paused after Romans 8:39: "...neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Again I prayed, "Jesus, help me really understand this love. Let it get down deep inside me and change me forever.... I need to be rooted and established in your love, don't I? Is this you talking to me, God??"

I wasn't expecting anything from Isaiah 61, but verse 3 brought a thrill of recognition. "...They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." I closed my eyes and imagined the oak tree in our front yard, which isn't huge, but is growing so slowly and steadily. "Oh, Lord, make me strong like a mighty oak. I want to display your splendor." My thoughts turned to the oak tree's roots, spreading out and reaching down, down to the life-giving water. "I need to be ROOTED and established in your love," I repeated.

I smiled as I restacked the cards, keeping the current passage on top and scrambling the rest. "Lord, did you just confirm my passage through all my other passages? Or am I just imagining all these connections?"

I thought back to Bible study the day before, and I remembered something I had said during our discussion. I  asked whether Jesus had a special love for certain people, like his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the apostle John. "After all, doesn't John refer to himself over and over as 'the disciple Jesus loved'?" I asked. We talked it over and decided that Jesus did have a special love for John, maybe because of the relationship that John cultivated with him. Still, we agreed that Jesus didn't love everyone else any less because of it. For the first time, I passed from having a teeny bit of resentment for John's apparent arrogance to wanting to emulate him. "I think it would be good if all of us could be like John," I said. "I want to be able to say, 'I'm Sarah, the woman Jesus loves. I want that assurance to be at the core of me, what defines me.'"

When that conversation came back to me this morning, I recognized my own words as one more confirmation of my choice. "That's cool," I thought. "God has never used ME to confirm a memory passage before." But do you know what I said next? Maybe you know me well enough to guess.

"God, I feel pretty sure you've confirmed my passage, but in the past you've always confirmed it externally somehow. How do I know you've really been talking to me, and it's not just random thoughts? Could you please confirm the passage for me one more time?" I almost cringed at my own lack of faith. I felt like Thomas, who said he'd have to touch Jesus's scars before he could believe he had risen.

Well, I don't think God was mad at me. He might have been disappointed, but I'm sure he wasn't surprised. After all, he knows everything I'm going to say before a word is on my tongue (Psalm 139:4). In fact, He was already at work fulfilling my request, though I wouldn't know it for a couple of hours.

At the start of my 10:30 Pilates class, Karen led us through several pliƩs and lunges, showing us exactly how to stand. "Make sure your foot is deeply rooted," she said, and I was so shocked I almost lost my balance.

"Was that my sign, God?" I thought. Immediately the other voice spoke in my ear. "It's a coincidence. She's just giving instructions." But thinking back over six years of practicing Pilates, I couldn't think of a single time an instructor had used those words. "It's NOT a coincidence," I told myself, and I smiled all through Pilates, even through some pretty intense exertion.

After class, I hung around and told Karen about my morning, and how her words had confirmed what God was speaking to me. Her grin was even wider than mine. "Ephesians 3, right?" She explained that God had led her to that passage this morning while she was praying for a friend who was donating a kidney to his son today. "I prayed that the kidney would be deeply rooted and established, and that the family would be grounded in God's love today."

I stomped my foot in triumph. "I knew I felt something spiritual when you said, 'deeply rooted'! So that passage was for your friend, but maybe it was for me too."

"Oh, I'm sure it was," she agreed. "You need to start believing that God speaks to you."

Now I ask you, how does God do this? I don't know. All I know is, I'm Sarah, the woman Jesus loves.


Melissa Irwin said...

wow - this post sent goosebumps all over me! love it so much! and you gave me Isaiah 61. i needed it today!

k and c's mom said...

This post is a great reminder (and encouragement!) that God is always speaking, but am I listening? Thanks for your honesty

Sarah said...

Thank you for reading, Melissa and K and C's Mom. It's so good to know that just as I find encouragement through others' words, God can also use me to encourage.

God bless you both.


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