Why knowing takes so much more

“I’m Andrew Christopher King.”

This is my son’s opening gambit in any conversation.  It’s a quick progression from there into what he considers all of the essential information about his life:

“I’m four.  When it was my birthday, all my friends came to my birthday party.  I’m strong.  I have big muscles.   I am the king  of Batman.  Batman is my favorite character.  I have three sisters.  Their names are Lauren, Catherine and Victoria.  My favorite colors are blue and red.  Lauren’s favorite color is purple and Catherine’s favorite color is yellow.  I am not a baby; I’m a kid.   I’m medium.”

Usually by this time, I’ve moved the conversation along and whatever random fellow-shopper  or cashier he has cornered in the grocery store just smiles sweetly as he finishes his autobiography.

These  listeners  still don’t know him, of course.  He’s the little  boy (the super adorable one) in the shopping cart who likes to talk about superheroes and his sisters.

But to know him, really know him, takes so much more.

This knowing and being known, this sharing deeply and listening well, this uncovering of hidden places, takes,  quite frankly, time.

Oh, how I want  to know Jesus.  That means time and also not being satisfied with the superficial

I let myself get sidetracked sometimes.  It’s so tempting to stop pressing in for more, maybe because of the rush and the speed of things, maybe because everything else and everyone else in life can be noisy and demanding of my attention and time and others need bits of me so much of the time.

So it’s easy, far too easy to relax into knowing about Him, but not to press in more to actually know Him.

I’m a good Christian girl, so I do all the good things:  Stock up on the essential facts and details . Fill up on the Bible knowledge and the Bible stories.  Check off the daily Bible reading plan and fill in the blanks in the Bible study workbook.  Take the sermon notes.

These are all the good things and doing good things is….good.

But there’s got to be more.

Hosea the prophet wrote:

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
“He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:1-3 NASB). 

Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.

It’s an effort, a decision, a pushing forward against adversity, a fight for faith, a discipline.  We choose to press on.

We don’t faint when it’s hard or when trouble thrashes at the foundations of our faith.

We don’t falter and trip up with weariness when we’re bogged down by the mundane (and oh how the daily can wear us right down and tire us completely out.)

We aren’t satisfied with what we know of Him already or how far He’s already brought us.

We don’t let sin and temptation grab our attention and set us off on a detour.

We press on to know Him.

And it comes not just from facts and figures, memorization and note-taking . It comes from getting up each day and walking that faith out in all those everyday moments before us.  In the thick of the afternoon busyness and the packing lunches and the cooking dinner, in the chores and in the conversations, in the minivan rides and the coffee with a friend.

It comes from not stalling and stagnating. I

t comes from letting go of all the legalism and stretching out to rest in the fullness of His grace.

It’s not all easy, of course.  There’s the wounding and the tearing sometimes.  Hosea wrote of Israel’s sin and the discipline they received because of it.  But they returned to Him and they knew God better because He stayed with them in the hard season and brought them to the place of healing and bandaging, of reviving and raising up.

Now they knew, truly knew, how steadfast and faithful God was, always there, certain as the dawn, steady as the coming rain.

And this is what the rain of His presence brings:  Refreshing for the dried out, parched, dehydrated parts of our soul.

And also this:  Abundant fruitfulness.

If I’m in the weary place, in the hard season, feeling emptied out, feeling like heaven is silent, then I return to Him.  I press on to know Him and I look for His rain.

 

How my prayers shifted and why that’s a good thing

We started praying on Sunday.   In our round-robin family prayers at night, many of us chimed in with the same prayer:

“Lord Jesus, please help everyone who is sick feel better quickly and please, please, please, please do not let Lauren get sick this week.  Amen.”

The stomach virus rampaged through our family last week, making mockery of our schedule and activities.

But we prayed it would miss Lauren by leapfrogging over this middle daughter.

 

Not that we wanted anyone to get sick, of course, but Lauren had a big week.

Class picture day on Tuesday.

Field trip on Wednesday.

Math Bowl competition on Thursday.

Karate belt test on Saturday.

One upset stomach could sabotage any of these activities, so we prayed she would just stay well.

And then my prayers changed, shifted in one gigantic, mountainous move.

Because she got sick.  She woke me up in the middle of the night and we ultimately retreated to the couches in the living room until she felt she could sleep.

That’s when I started praying for something different, not “Lord, help her avoid this tough situation.  Help her not to be uncomfortable, disappointed, or hurt.”

Now I prayed,  “Lord, help her right in the middle of what’s hard.  This is disappointing.  Help her to overcome.  Work on her character and teach her how to handle it when life doesn’t go the way we want.”

She missed the Math Bowl competition after working hard for weeks to prepare, and she felt like she let her team down.

But at the end of the night when she was feeling totally back to normal and it was all over and done with, I leaned down and cupped my hand under her chin,  I told her I couldn’t have been more proud of how she handled the hard, more proud than I could have been about any math medal.

God answered my prayers.

He didn’t give me what I wanted.  He didn’t help my child avoid something I would have preferred to skip altogether.

But He did a work in her heart, matured her right before my eyes, and taught her deeply meaningful lessons that matter far more in the end.

We’re still a little sad, but we found ourselves surprisingly okay.  We walked through the one thing we didn’t want to happen, and we made it.

God is good.

It’s a little nudge to my Mom-heart this week that maybe my prayers should remain shifted.

Maybe I’ll always pray for my kids to be protected from hurt and that everything would work out all the time.  I am, after all, their mom and I love them.

And a life with no pain or heartache, no disappointment or difficulty sounds pretty great.

But it also sounds spoiled and easy.  It sounds too sweet, like eating a bowlful of candy and ending up sick and with a mouth full of cavities.

God knows best for my kids and I can trust Him.  I can pray that He helps them through, gives them strength, teaches them to turn to Him, bringing their hurts and needs to Jesus.

And God knows best for me, too, and for the friends I pray for, the family I love, and the missionaries and the persecuted church I want to cover in prayer.

I read Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus:

 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might (Ephesians 1:16-19 ESV).

He could have prayed  so many things for this beloved church, that they escape persecution, that they prosper financially, that their businesses were successful and their families strong.

But He didn’t focus on their physical needs or wants.  He prayed that they know Jesus, know the hope they had in him  and know his power.

What if I started praying that for myself and for others?

Lord, may they know you.  

In anything they face, anything they go through, when they are facing the worst or receiving the best, may they know Jesus more and find Him so very faithful and so very strong.

May we always make knowing Him our deepest desire and our greatest pursuit.

“Facts” About Mom and “Facts” About God:

It seems to be a Mother’s Day staple for elementary school children.  Both of my older daughters made these projects and, according to my Facebook feed, so did the kids of most of my mom friends.002

On Mother’s Day, my daughters presented their handmade creations:  An ice cream cone picture with six adjectives to describe their sweet momma and a worksheet with “Facts About My Mom.”

Mostly as various moms posted their own kids’ responses to similar projects on Facebook, we laughed over the outrageous things kids say about us.

Like when they get our names wrong (!!!) or guess that we’re either 15 years old or 100.

But I opened the handmade gifts on Mother’s Day and didn’t read silly, mistaken or perhaps outrageously funny comments from my kids.

Somehow my daughters got it right.

Sweetly right, but maybe painfully right, too.

(Well, other than the “fact” that I’m probably 20 feet tall and probably weigh 45 pounds.  That’s a little off.)

Yet there were other “facts,” too.

There was the objective data, of course.  Adjectives to describe her mom?  “Married” and “pregnant” made it on the list.  Undeniable truth.

My other girl included “musical, gardener…..and competitive.”

What second grader diagnoses her mom as “competitive?”  My girl.  The one who has heard me apologize for my struggle to her face, and the one I held close while confessing how wrong I was to fret and worry over foolish competitions and how sorry I was that I ever put even one ounce of pressure on her shoulders when I’m so proud of her just as she is.

What does your mom like to wear?  Pants and a sweater.

Simple and sweet truth-telling right there.  Those are my happy clothes.

What is something your mom always says?  Do your homework.  Play piano.  Hurry up.  Go to bed.

Oh, here I pause.  Because last year on this same little assignment, she wrote that her mom always says, “I love you.”  And now here it is in pencil on paper, how I’m always giving instructions, always directing, always focused on getting those daily tasks done.  Why is it so hard to make the words, “I love you” ring truer and louder than the drill sergeant commands of everyday necessity?

What makes your mom mad?  When everything is out of control and no one listens.

When everything is out of control…..

Yes.  Isn’t that what smashes down all of my hold-it-together personal strength? Isn’t it what makes me grumpy, short-tempered and anxious?

When I feel like I’ve lost control so therefore there must be no control, always forgetting that God is in control…. yes, that’s what makes me “mad.”  That’s what God uses to plow right through my heart and break up all of that well-tended ground covering over my insecurities and my deep-down sin attitudes and misplaced trust.

Second graders can be so wise at times.

But I wonder, given a worksheet like this, what would I say about God?

Would I get the “facts” right and answer the questions correctly?  Not giving the dictionary facts or the Bible study answers.  Not the good church girl responses or the pat Christian phrases that tie Mighty God up in neatly packaged paper with a perfect bow on top.

No: Would I know Him?  Would I know His heart?  What makes Him happy?  What makes Him mad?  What do I love about Him the most and why is He the perfect Father for me?

Or would I get it all wrong?

In the book of Job, one man lost family, friends, servants, status in the community, riches, property, and physical health.  And without sinning, he questioned God.  Why this seeming injustice, he wondered, why this tragedy and pain for a righteous man?

Job wants to call God into court and question Him on the witness stand.

Yet, God remains silent.  He waits.  He listens and doesn’t answer. Finally, after almost 40 chapters of Scripture, God speaks.

In her book Wonderstruck, Margaret Feinberg writes,

Instead of focusing on the Why’s of our life circumstances, God calls our attention back to Him and reminds us of the Who that controls everything (p. 37).

That’s God’s answer to the incessant questions.  He never answers “Why,” but He tells who He is in one thundering declaration of sovereignty and power over all creation after another.Wonder Struck

It isn’t until the taking away, the sorrow, the mourning and the grief that Job doesn’t just know about God; He knows Who God is.

And that is enough.

Job says, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you” (Job 42:1).  Yes, now he knew, not about God, but now He had seen God with his own eyes (Job 42:5).

Intimacy in silence.  Intimacy in the listening, the waiting, the mourning.  That’s how we know Him, too.

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 the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King