“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:8
It’s been a tumultuous few days here in Rebecca’s little world. Of course, what would the holiday season be without major upheavals and breakdowns to add onto the baggage they’re already carrying? On the upside, it’s so cold up here that the electric and gas companies can’t cut off our utilities until it stops snowing. Like in May. Ah – winter on the great Northern Tundra.
Anyway, none of that’s either here nor there. Suffice it to say, life is going on much as it has been lo these several years. Bad things happen. Nothing gets fixed. The past rises up to bite you in the ass. Fail. Get over it. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But strangely, this isn’t going to be one of my “woe-is-me” posts. This is a post about God’s gifts.
Last Monday, I woke up experiencing something I haven’t felt in a good, long while: peace. Kid you not – I haven’t had peace in ages. So it was rather odd to wake up with a sense of peace that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” I went to bed just getting by and woke up with a sense of peace.
And it hit me that when God wants me to have peace, I will have peace. And when he wants me to wrestle with its absence, I will not have peace. Nothing I do can change that.
My peace or joy or anointing or whatever I am looking for comes from the hand of God according to what I need to grow and develop right in that moment. It’s not about whether he is happy or unhappy with me or if I’ve said the right incantation or adjusted my attitude just so or thought the right things.
I’d done all of that already and it hadn’t worked. Perhaps your instinct is to assume that the problem is that I wasn’t trying hard enough or hadn’t done it right. If that’s the case, your god is a monster. Because if my best isn’t good enough, then that path is too hard for any human to be expected to walk. If it takes more than I’ve already put into it, then the standard is cruel and inhuman.
I don’t care what any other teacher or pastor says. I’ve walked the path and learned that you don’t get peace or joy or anointing or any other good thing from the hand of God for doing or believing right or having the right attitude. You get those things because God gives them to you. Because he wants you to have them at just that moment. And when they are withdrawn, it’s not because you’ve screwed up or haven’t earned them. They get withdrawn because God sees a benefit to you doing without them just at that point in time. These gifts are tools in God’s hands.
It was just so clear to me when I woke up last week with peace that it was a gift from God, not the result of anything I have done. And it was further clear to me that every other time I had experienced peace, it was like that. It had never been something I had created, but always a gift from the hand of God. Something he had wanted me to have.
And from the perspective of someone who knows, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”, I have some smidge of gratitude for the times God has withheld his gift. It seems that perhaps there comes a time when God can’t give you what you really need until you give up trying or maybe even desiring them. A gift isn’t a gift if it’s something owed or handed over on demand or required for survival, after all.
The truth is that I’ve been getting along without my old friends peace or hope or joy or really much of anything else I wanted from the hand of God. After a while, I figured that for whatever reason, they just weren’t for me to have. That he was sending me on a path without them for reasons I can’t yet know and that I might continue to walk this uncomfortable, unrewarding path for the rest of my days.
I’d tried everything I could think of – spiritually and practically – to get off the path, change the path or look at the path differently. It was failure on top of failure until the failure began to give me some hope because only successful, important people fail this much!
But I woke up last week with peace. And I had nothing to do with it. My life circumstances certainly don’t have anything to do with it! It was God and God alone who decided that it is what I need for the moment.
If I hadn’t gone so long without peace that I had given up even wanting it, I wouldn’t know that. Deep down, I would still think that these gifts from God’s hands were a sign of how I was doing in life and on my spiritual walk. God’s gifts would be about how good I am; not how good God is.
I think a lot of us are busy trying to figure God out – what’s his angle? How can I unlock the prize box? How do I figure out what he wants from me? What do I need to do to stay out of trouble? And then we view life through that lens. The rules are simple: if life is good, we’re doing it right. If life sucks, we’re doing it wrong.
But that’s not what’s happening. That’s not how God does it. God is at work causing all things to work together for the good of those who love him. People, not God, are responsible for nearly all the circumstances we find ourselves in. God’s job is to use whatever circumstance we face to shape, grow and redeem us. Spiritual gifts are tools he uses towards that end.
God’s like a master artist who knows just when to apply a stroke, just how heavy it needs to be, where is should go and how long it ought to be. When we have much, it is because God knows we need it. When we struggle with little, it’s because God knows we need to have little. So we can stop worrying and fussing when we find ourselves walking in a suffocating darkness. We can stop blaming ourselves when we’re missing a dear friend like peace or joy who has abandoned us. We can trust that where ever we find ourselves, it is where we need to be.
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~ Julian of Norwich