Not wanting to be alone

My daughter announced victoriously that she had “figured it  out!”

She called  to us from the top of the stairs, declaring her grand revelation like it was the epiphany of the century.

“I know why Andrew won’t stay in his own room at night!  He doesn’t want to be…..ALONE.”

She paused for a moment of true drama and waited for us to applaud her deep psychological assessment.

We thanked her kindly.  But, of course, the truth is we knew exactly why my son wanders from his bed at night, every single night.  He shuffles sleepily to a new place because he does indeed hate being alone.  No grand revelation needed.

He knows it,  too.  I encourage him every single night to stay in his own bed until morning and  he protests right then and there: “But I don’t like being by myself.”

He doesn’t like to brush his teeth alone, or go into the bathroom alone, or  play in his room alone, and he certainly doesn’t like  sleeping in his own bed and in his own room without anyone else with him as a comfort.

So he perpetually seeks a companion. “Come with me.”

It’s not always easy, being such a relationally focused little guy, when you’re the youngest kid in the family and the only boy.

I’m generally happy and content all by lonesome self.  The quiet of “alone” is my comfort.

But my son reminds me to draw in, to invite, to be near, and to value the companionship and comfort of others.  He reminds me to look  to Jesus, to value and treasure how Christ didn’t keep us at a distance, but instead invited us in.  So, now, we never truly “go alone.”

Jesus  said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28 CSB).  He called to a tax collector, to a group of fishermen:  “Follow me” and to the rich young ruler, Jesus said the same, “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4, 9, 19).

Jesus is inviting.

Charles Spurgeon writes,

“The nature of the old covenant was that of distance…in sacred worship both at the tabernacle and the temple, the thought of distance was always prominent” (Morning  and Evening, 9/15).

Even when Moses climbed up that holy mountain to meet  with the Lord, there was a distance and separation there.  God said,“Do not come closer…Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground”  (Exodus 3:5).

This distance from God—-could I  have endured it?  All day, as I wash the dishes, as I  swap laundry out of the washer into the dryer, as I pick up children from one place and drive them to another, as I walk and as I work, I share my heart and mind with Jesus.

Friends come to mind.  I pray for them.  I think of my kids and where they are in their school day.  I pray over the class they are in and the friends they are surrounded by.

I  ask the Lord to help me and to have mercy on me, to strengthen me for the task at hand, to give me wisdom that I surely don’t have on my own, to bring me favor and to make me fruitful and flourishing.

It’s the all day, every day conversations with Jesus that become my praying without ceasing.  I don’t think I could survive a day truly alone.

What if God’s presence now was distant and unattainable?  Behind a veiled curtain?  On top of a holy mountain?  For the priest, but not for the layman?  For Moses, but not for plain old me?

Charles Spurgeon continues his thought:

When the gospel came, though, we were placed on quite another footing.  The word Go was exchanged for Come; distance gave way to nearness, and we who were once far away were made close by the blood of Jesus Christ”” (Morning and Evening, 9/15).

This changes everything.

When I see my son longing–always longing–to be with, to have time with friends and to be near his family—I feel that challenge to my own heart to treasure and not neglect the nearness Christ offers.

Isn’t it so easy to take it for granted?  To strike out on our own until it’s too hard, and then and only then call out to  Jesus for help?

And yet, Jesus’s invitation stands:  Come.  Follow Me.    This is the peace we can have in the midst of the everyday and the mundane, as well as the crisis:  Christ with us, in us, beside us,  before us.  Christ nearby so  we are never alone.

For the times you want to hide

psalm 139-1

My daughter tried a stealth move.

I set my cup down on the floor next to the sofa where I was sitting.

She crawled over and paused.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her glance my way without fully turning her head, just flitting her eyes up to see if I was watching.

The she made her move.  She swooped down, sucked on the straw and gulped down my drink.

And….

She grimaced.  Her whole body bounced back as she crawled to the other side of the room with a combination look of utter confusion and a little disgust.

She didn’t know I’ve been drinking green tea instead of Cherry Coke recently.

“Didn’t expect that, did ya?” I teased her and she laughs because she knows she deserved that little shock to her palate.

Since then, she’s been asking me, “Mom is that water in your cup or is it the other stuff?

She was surprised by what she found in my tumbler that day, and she doesn’t want it to happen again.

Her little encounter with my green tea has me thinking:

Others might be surprised by what’s within us sometimes.

We might be surprised by what’s within us sometimes, too.

We think we’ll find fresh water, and it’s something gross instead.

We think it’ll be a delight, and instead it’s disgust.

Not God, though.  God is never surprised by what He finds within our hearts and lives.

He knows.

Psalm 139:1 says:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  (ESV).

Some part of me wants to hide from that.

God, please don’t see the worst in me. 

I don’t want Him to see the mixed motives or the idolatry, the way I fight with perfectionism and feeling not-enough.

I don’t want Him to see me lose my temper or get annoyed or feel like giving up.

I want to bury that jealousy or coveting and hope he doesn’t notice the bump in my backyard.

I want to cover over the mistakes and mess-ups or fatigue or worry, the bad moments and the bad days.

If God sees my worst, surely He’ll give up on me.  He’ll use someone better, call someone purer, bless someone holier, because I’m such a broken vessel.

Then I think of Nathanael.

When Jesus called out to Peter, James, John and Andrew, they were hauling nets along the sea, just another day of work.  He said, “Follow me,” and they dropped the fishing gear and stepped into discipleship.

Jesus called Matthew and immediately the tax collector hopped up from his papers and pencils and followed.

It’s such a beautiful calling.  It’s the calling of the willing and the obedient, the receptive and ready.

Then there’s Nathanael.

When Philip saw Nathanael that day, he told his friend all about how they had found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Nathaniel mocked the thought.  It was a joke, surely.  He asked:

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46 ESV

It wasn’t a beautiful moment of faith or instant belief.  He didn’t seem receptive or ready.  He was doubtful and disdainful.

Then Jesus came along, saw Nathanael and said:

“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:47-49 ESV).

How do you know me?

That’s what Nathanael asked.

Then, realizing that Jesus did in fact see into his very heart, Nathanael confessed faith.  He worshiped.

He followed Christ and became one of the 12 disciples of Jesus.

Even now, the Armenian church claims Nathanael as their founder.  Church tradition says he preached as far as India and was martyred there.

He became sold out for Jesus.

But here’s what I love.

Jesus knew everything about him right from the beginning, the skeptical side, his mocking jest with Philip, and still called him and commissioned him.

There are days when I’m surprised myself at the sin still clogging up my heart.

But not Jesus.

And then that shame ensnares me.  I think I need to clean myself up and fix myself and get to work on my sin problem before God could bless any offering I bring.

But that’s not what God says.

That’s not what Jesus does.

Jesus bids us come and follow here and now, just as we are, not as we ought to be.

He loves me now, the imperfect me, the me that wants to be like Jesus but isn’t there yet.

Jesus doesn’t know you and reject you or set you aside.

He knows you.

And He loves you.

He knows you.

And He calls you.

 

Putting Your Face in the Water

I told her it could be the perfect birthday present for me.  I cajoled and plead.

Please won’t you put your face in the water at swim lessons? Won’t you blow bubbles in the water when the teacher asks?

She nodded her head yes, but it was that uncertain kind of assent that just means, “I want to please you Mom, but that’s asking so much.”023

I sat on the sidelines of the pool, breathing in the humid air and watching her.

She laughed as she bounced in the water, shivered a bit as she waited for her turn, obeyed the teacher’s every command.

Until the teacher said, “Okay, time to blow bubbles in the water.”

I waited, hoping for success this time.  She’d been at this for six weeks, willing, compliant, cheerful even.  But this one request she just wouldn’t do.

Not that she cried or screamed, threw tantrums or caused problems. No, she just kind of giggled it off, maybe shaking her head with a smile or looking away as if she didn’t hear what the teacher asked.

The results this week were the same as all the other classes.

She kicked her feet and moved her arms and did all the good swimmer things.  But she arched her back as far as it could go and stretched her neck out long like a turtle so that not one bit of her face would touch the water.

Class ended and my little girl inched her way over to me, teeth chattering from the cold.  I snuggled her into the towel and held her close and the teacher walked over and just shook her head “no” with a smile.

Not this week.

I know it as I watch her in the pool and see her so sweetly confident and strong.  She could be a great little swimmer, but this fear or determination or whatever it is stunts her progress.

What we need is for her to dip her face right in that water and stop avoiding it.  Go full in, unafraid and unhindered.

Don’t we all need to do that?  To stop avoiding the fullness of God’s call or the way God asks us to dunk down and be buried over by the Holy Spirit.  To stop holding out or straining our backs and necks in order to avoid the total obedience that comes with letting go.

All disciples have to make that choice.

Jesus said, “Follow me….” and men had to decide.  Drop the nets?  Abandon the family business?  And just go?  Not the controlled kind of obedience, the kind that says, “I’ll do this, but no more.  I’ll go here, but no farther.  I’ll get in the pool, but I don’t want my face wet.  I don’t want to feel out of control.”

There’s Matthew, the ostracized tax collector, known and scorned by religious Jews.  Maybe it even shocked some of the other disciples when Jesus didn’t rush past the tax collector’s booth, but approached it and offered that calling to the man sitting there.oneperfectlife

Jesus “said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he left all, rose up, and followed Him” (Luke 5:27-28 NKJV).

In One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus, John MacArthur notes, “LEFT ALL: This implies an irreversible action” (p. 117).

Matthew didn’t jump into the pool and yet keep his face out of the water just in case.  No he splashed down so deep that he was hopeless without Jesus.

And he got it, right away, what Jesus was after and who Jesus was. Others might have dipped in a toe and then waded up to the waist in the message and the Gospel before they really understood salvation and grace.

But this tax collector, remarkably and unexpectedly called out by the Messiah, knew it immediately.  This redemption gift wasn’t about who earned it and it wasn’t about being good enough to deserve it or to warrant Jesus’ attention or invitation.

It was for sinners and outcasts.

So, Matthew didn’t hesitate to share the news.  He threw a party and there Jesus sat with: “a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were guests with them”  And Jesus declared it right there at the dinner table: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32).

That unhindered Gospel truth couldn’t be missed because Matthew left a tax collector’s booth to follow Jesus and then brought the Messiah to a dinner party full of sinners who needed a Savior.

Jesus isn’t pleading perhaps, not bribing or threatening or asking for “the best birthday present ever.”  But He’ll ask this—-Put your face in the water.  Trust me.  Don’t hold back.

And the message He wants to share through us depends on our answer.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King