Picturing Fear–or not!

I recently read that the number one disease that kills women is heart disease.  Stress is one factor.

Stress is a murderer.

Yet knowing that, how do I avoid what seems to be ingrained in my very nature: fear?

Fear not just of one thing or two things, but fear of all kinds of things.  It’s as though the walls of my mind are filled with masterpieces of phobias!!!

Paintings of big fears.  Paintings of little fears.  Paintings of known fears.  Paintings of unknown fears.  Paintings of fears of what could happen.  Paintings of fears of what has already happened.  Paintings of fear of fear.  Even paintings of fear of not being afraid.

What a gallery!

How can I possibly revamp this museum of terror in my head?  How can I even take down the picture of one fear when the very reason it’s hanging in my head is because I’m afraid of it?!?

Only in the artistic hall of trusting God is it possible to navigate the perils of a fearful heart.  If you picture perils as a wilderness scene with quicksand, carnivorous plants, leeches, bogs, cliffs, and vultures, trusting God is  like painting a new scene of gentle pools, good pasture, picnic blankets, exquisite flowers, oak trees, stunning birds, and speckled meadows over top (i.e., see Psalm 23).

In this spectrum, there are all sorts of brilliant colors to paint over fear and change how you think and feel.

But if artist’s masterpieces aren’t identical, you can guarantee the ways we fight fear through Jesus Christ won’t be, either.  Nonetheless, here are a few of my ideas–colors in the Light of God’s grace–to get your palette started:

  • Choose creativity.  Read a Scripture verse and reflect as you paint, write, cook, carve, sew–whatever gift God has given you.
  • Choose energy.   Take a walk, go for a jog, hop on an exercise bike, or take an aerobics class.  You can even vacuum the house!  Spend your time in prayer.  I find when I’m stressed that sometimes doing something as I pray can really help me focus.
  • Choose friendship.  Call up a wise friend, share a cup of coffee together, or meet at the park.  Your friend can pray for you, too.
  • Choose giving.  Sponsor a child, send a card, visit a lonely friend in the nursing home, bake cookies for your family, or serve a meal at the local homeless shelter.

Most of us will have to fight fear all of our lives.  But with the grace of God, the landscape of our lives can change.  Every time Satan paints a new fear into our lives, we can learn to paint over that fear with the goodness of God.  It’s not easy; it’s often not quick; but it is promised that, as a Christ-follower, we will be over-comers.

. . in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us. (from Romans 8:37, NCV, read Romans 8 for the full picture!)

Boaz: A reflection on love before you give your heart away . .

Before you give your heart away Ben carrying Teej

We all have hearts.  And most of us, at one time or another, give our hearts away.  This ‘giving of the heart’ treasure is a one-time honor meant for only the one person who will truly cherish your heart.

But how do you know who to give this honor to?  After all, you only have one heart.  How can you possibly make the right choice?

Absolutely only if you have given your heart to God first.  Only He can take your fragile earthly heart and guide you to “the one” your “heart loves” (see Song of Songs 3:1).

God arranged for Ruth to give her heart to Boaz.  And this romance happened between two otherwise ordinary sinners.  The only thing that separated these two from every other romance on the shelf was their extraordinary love for and trust in Him.  He held their hearts, and, as such, He changed their eternity–and even gave them a taste of the redemption to come in the extravagant romance that unfolded on this side of eternity, in a little book we call Ruth.

Though Boaz was never a king, he bore a line of kings . . and the priceless honor of being an earthly ancestor to the King of Kings, Christ Jesus.  But above even this astonishing honor, his place in history is chiseled into eternity by his worship of Jesus Christ.

Boaz is a man to give you heart to . . and Boaz is a man worth waiting to give you heart to.  But how will you know when you find him?  Only by the grace of God.

We often talk about “red flags” when we mean warning signs about someone you shouldn’t marry.  But when we look at Boaz’s life, we see it marked by an outpouring of “green flags”!

Here are reflections from the book of Ruth to think about and, most of all!!, pray about, as you’re looking for a man to marry.

The caveat is . .

If you’re looking for someone to fill your deepest desires and meet your deepest dreams, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.  Not even Boaz did that.

Only one Man was or ever will be perfect: Jesus Christ.  Every other man will at times disappoint you, ruin your special day, fail you, and do things you can’t believe he did.  That’s the reality of sin.  (Of course, there’s a flip-side: Every woman will do the same.)

Keep in mind, girls, that Scripture records some of Boaz’ good moments, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have tragic failures, too.  If you look only at the piece of his life we have in Scripture and try to find someone to fit that mold, you won’t.  Even if you met Boaz on the street, he wouldn’t!  So please don’t use the following reflection as a “checklist”–recognize we are sinners.

Rather, look at the life of the man you’re wanting to marry.  Does the kaleidoscope of who he is reflect the image of Jesus Christ?  That is who Boaz is, and that is the kind of man you want to marry.

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Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. (Ruth 2:1, NLT)

–Boaz had wealth and influence, but his heart was for God.

Questions to think and pray about for any man you’re considering marrying:

  • Does he use his wealth for himself, or for God?  (In America, nearly everyone has wealth.  The question is, how do we use it?)
  • Does he use his influence to make power plays, or to love on people?
  • Does he tout the authority he has, or does he care about others?
  • Most of all, who is his heart for?

One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied. (Ruth 2:2-4)

–Boaz treated those who were under his authority with kindness and he witnessed to them.

Questions:

  • If he is an employer, how does he treat his employees?
  • How does he treat people he meets in common, everyday places?
  • Does he find time and opportunities to witness?
  • When he has authority over someone, does he mistreat them, take advantage of them, lord it over them . . or respect them?
  • Most of all, does he fear God?

Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?” (Ruth 2:5)

–Boaz is attentive to what’s happening in his workplace and in the world around him.  (Field hands weren’t that important in Boaz’s day, nor would it have been expected for him to care about a poor beggar.  It’s doubtful that Ruth, after a long trip from Moab and with no money for perfume or beautiful garments, looked stunning as she gleaned that field.)

Questions:

  • Is he attentive to the world around him, or self-focused?
  • Does he take the time to ask about and get to know ordinary people and people of ‘no influence’?
  • Does he care for the homeless, the poor, and the needy?
  • Is he aware of what’s going on around him, or is he too busy with deadlines to notice?
  • Most of all, does he make time for what God wants him to do?

And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. . .” (Ruth 2:6-8a)

–Boaz took time to talk to a woman of ‘no importance’ and a foreigner!  He addressed her with respect and compassion, seemingly without regard to what anyone else thought about it.

–Boaz may have mentored his foreman to be gracious to  beggars.  The fact that the foreman allowed Ruth to glean from the field could well mean Boaz had a precedence for kindness.  Since the foreman did not seem ashamed to tell his employer who she was, this speaks to Boaz’ character.  (Ruth wasn’t just a beggar, but a beggar from a country that was detestable to them.)

Questions:

  • Does he mentor those under his authority (or those younger)?  Does he teach others to treat the weak with respect?
  • How does he speak about people?  (Does he use derogatory names for groups of people?  How does he address women?)
  • Does he take the time to introduce himself to people who aren’t high in social power?
  • Is he willing to talk to someone who others might judge him for talking to?
  • Is he willing to show kindness even if others don’t like it?
  • Most of all, is his heart anchored in a love for God?  (because if it is, it will pour out into a love for people!)

“. . Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.” (Ruth 2:8b-9)

–Boaz not only allowed Ruth to glean in his field–showing his fear for God in following the Law–but Boaz went well beyond this.  He didn’t stop at the fulfillment of the code, he went back to the very Ten Commandments and loved his neighbor, Ruth (as Christ would teach hundreds years later).  Very few of God’s chosen people seemed sensitive to this command in the way Boaz was.

Boas offered Ruth a welcome (v.8b), a plan to make friends and belong (v.8c-9a), protection (v.9b), and gracious hospitality/extra thoughtfulness (v.9c)

Questions:

  • Does he welcome others?
  • Does he help newcomers, strangers, and the socially awkward feel like they belong?
  • Does he protect your purity in how he treats you?
  • If someone comes to his home unexpectedly, is he a gracious host?
  • Does he do things that show extra thoughtfulness to his family (especially his mother), friends, and coworker?
  • Most of all, does he desire to live out the greatest commandments? (See Matthew 22:37-39)

Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers . .” (Ruth 2:10-11)

–Boaz didn’t make Ruth feel “in debt” to him because of his acts of kindness.  He wasn’t looking for an ego boost or sexual favors, but rather to bless her.

–Boaz seems to have kept up on the news of his relatives, maybe even good deeds happening in his village.

Questions:

  • When he pays for meals, opens the car door for you, or takes you out to a movie, is he looking to bless you or boast about you?
  • Do you feel pressured or obligated to give him sexual favors because of ‘nice things’ he’s done for you?
  • Does he pay attention to good things happening around him, or only the dark side of the news?
  • Most of all, what motivates his kindness?

” . . May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” (Ruth 2:12)

–Boaz shows beautiful theological understanding of his God–in his mind and heart.  (Little did he know that many years later, his great grandson David would use similiar poetry in Psalm 17:8).

–Boaz takes the opportunity to bless her–just what he did with his workers when he came on the scene.

Questions:

  • Does he read the Bible and talk about God’s nature?
  • Does his love for God inspire him to reflect that love?
  • Does he seek to bless others through Jesus Christ?

“I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over. (Ruth 2:13-14)

–Boaz tenderly honored Ruth, invited her once again to belong with his group, and demonstrated extraordinary generosity.

Questions:

  • Does he care enough about the poor to act on their behalf?
  • When he sees a need or hears about needs through his church, does he give to help when he can?
  • Does he give above and beyond what most people’s definition of generosity is?  (Is he giving obligatory gifts to the church and church charities or is his giving enormous and free?)
  • Most of all, what is his generosity motivated by?

When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket. She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal. (Ruth 2:15-18)

–Boaz is persistent in providing for Ruth.

Questions:

  • Is he persistent in helping the church and church charities?
  • Does he habitually watch over the weak, poor, and disabled?
  • Most of all, does he conceal his good deeds out of humility and reverence for God?  (See Matthew 6:2-4)

“Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

“May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.” (Ruth 2:19-20)

–Boaz is a man of considerable power, and yet two woman who have no power can truly speak graciously about him.

Questions:

  • Do people speak well of him behind his back?
  • What do those under his authority, or those in need, say about him?
  • If a woman goes out on a date with him, can she come back beaming to her family about how well he’s treated her . .or does she come back ashamed of how he used her?
  • Most of all, does he view his role on earth as to be a reflection of Jesus?

Then Ruth said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

“Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.” (Ruth 2:21-22)

–Naomi and Ruth trusted Boaz.  He wasn’t like other men who might not take such good care of Ruth if she came to their fields (perhaps because she was vulnerable, a woman, a beggar, and/or a despised foreigner).

Questions:

  • Do his actions cause you to trust him or mistrust him?
  • What does your family and friends think of him?
  • If your grandmother was sitting next you to on one of your dates, what would she say about him?

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:23)

–Boaz kept his word to Ruth.  He stayed faithful to what he’d said, and allowed her to gather grain in his field under the safety of his protection.

Questions:

  • Is he serious about what he says?
  • Does he often keep his word?
  • Is he faithful to his family, friends, and to you?
  • Was there a time in your relationship he was dating you and someone else at the same time?

One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.” (Ruth 3:1-4)

–Ruth’s mother-in-law had confidence in Boaz’ integrity.

Questions:

  • Does your family have confidence in his integrity?  (Does he give your father or brother reason for concern?)
  • Has he been rude and rebellious to your family . . or does he respect their feelings and concerns for your purity?
  • Most of all, does he view your family the way God does as He has revealed in Scripture?

“I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law. (Ruth 3:5-6)

–Ruth trusted Boaz.

Questions:

  • Do you trust him?  (What Naomi was asking Ruth to do was a picture of God’s covenant of redemption for His people.  Of course, you don’t want to place yourself in risky circumstances or tempting situations to test his intentions.  This was not a test of his intentions, but rather a step of obedience to trust God’s Word and in His provision.)
  • If you have been in a situation where something happened (like your skirt blew up in the wind or an inappropriate commercial danced across the TV screen), what was his reaction?
  • Does he make it a habit to protect your purity or does he try to pull a piece of it off each time he sees you?
  • Most of all, does he see your relationship as a picture of Christ and the church?  (See Ephesians 5:25-33)

After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked. (Ruth 3:7-9a)

–Even in the midst of a very confusion situation, Boaz doesn’t act violently, use bad language, or lose his temper.

Questions:

  • How does he act when something unexpected happens?
  • Does he have a bad temper?
  • What comes out of his mouth when he’s upset?
  • Does he ever act aggressively towards you?  (Does he try to frighten you when he’s angry?)
  • Most of all, does he feel accountable before God for what he does?

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

“The Lord bless you, my daughter! . .” Boaz exclaimed. (Ruth 3:9b-10a)

–Boaz continues to use kind language in a very surprising situation.  He brings the grace of God into even an awkward and confusing moment.

Questions:

  • Is blessing others such a habit of his that he does it even when he’s caught off guard?
  • Most of all, does he want to bring the grace of God into everything he does?

“. . You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor . .” (Ruth 3:10b)

–Boaz is deeply humble about Ruth’s proposal.  He thinks highly of her and lowly of himself.  He doesn’t boast that she’s asking him because he’s so handsome, powerful, or wealthy.  Rather than focus on what a ‘great hero’ he would be in her life, he honors her with a blessing because she is seeking after God’s provision.

Questions:

  • Does he look at himself as a “catch” and that you’re so “lucky” to get him, or is he humble in his love for you?
  • Does he see God at work in the good that happens to him?
  • Is your relationship based on outward appearances, or on the heart?

“. . Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman . . ” (Ruth 3:11)

–Boaz takes leadership.  Ruth has placed herself most vulnerable in hope of his grace, and his heart is set on not disappointing her.

–Boaz continues to address Ruth in honor: “my daughter“, “virtuous woman“.

–Boaz indicates here he would be willing to marry her because she is a follower of God, not out of pity or because she’s beautiful or young.

Questions:

  • Does he have, or is he trying to cultivate, leadership qualities?
  • Does he seek to not disappoint you when you are vulnerable with him?
  • Is he drawn most of all to a beautiful figure or a beautiful heart?
  • Most of all, is your love for Christ what matters most to him?

“. . But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you . .” (Ruth 3:12-13abc)

–This speaks possibly the most highly of all about Boaz’ integrity.  Here is a young woman, probably very beautiful in his eyes, who is asking for him to marry her.  The temptation for dishonesty, a bit of ‘fudging’ on God’s Law, had to be tremendous.  He could easily have justified that he had earned the right to be a bit unethical by how kind he had been treating her all along.  But he chose to tell her the truth, and to do things the way God wanted.

Questions:

  • Does he work to resist temptation?
  • Does he have integrity even when he could get away with a bit of dishonesty?
  • Is he honest with you?  (Do you catch him in lies?  Does he flatter you constantly?)
  • Most of all, is he concerned most about what God wants?

“. . But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.” (Ruth 3:13b)

–Boaz reflects a taste of the integrity and purity of God.  He foreshadows, in a little glimmer, how Christ will redeem His bride, the church.

Questions:

  • Does he take your heart seriously?
  • Most of all, does he reflect, in a glimmer, attributes of his Lord Jesus Christ?

So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” (Ruth 3:14)

–Boaz’ protects Ruth’s purity first, and then her reputation.

Questions:

  • Does he diligently help you stay pure, even when no one is watching?
  • If something embarrassing happens to you, does he try to shield you from further embarrassment?
  • Does he keep your secrets?

Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he returned to the town. (Ruth 3:15)

–Boaz’ love is more than words.  He moves to action that he demonstrates to Ruth.  Again, he is a flicker of the picture of Christ in His action at Calvary and demonstration of love for us.  (See Romans 5:8)

Questions:

  • Does he only tell you he loves you, or does he show you love?  (Girls, I’m not talking about kisses or playing with your hair.  That is no real challenge for most men.  And I’m not talking about buying you stuff like flowers and candy.  Ask around and see how many men did that for their wives while they were dating but gave it up or rarely do it anymore.  I’m talking about, does he ever inconvenience himself?  Does he ever go out of his way to do something helpful for you?  Does he ever sacrifice for you?)

When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.” (Ruth 3:16-18)

–Boaz demonstrates his love for Ruth to her mother-in-law, too.  From his reputation already established, Naomi is confident Boaz will take care of her precious daughter-in-law.

Questions:

  • Does he demonstrate his love for you in front of others?  (Does he withdraw or is he shy when others are around?  Is he embarrassed to ‘claim’ you around certain friends?)
  • Does your family speak well of him?  (Does he do things for them that show his thoughtfulness for your whole family–not just for you?)
  • Is your closest family confident in his ability to take care of you if you were to get married?

Boaz went to the town gate and took a seat there. Just then the family redeemer he had mentioned came by, so Boaz called out to him, “Come over here and sit down, friend. I want to talk to you.” So they sat down together. (Ruth 4:1)

–Boaz followed through on the intentions he stated to Ruth.

–Boaz could have felt impatient and agitated since he didn’t know what would happen next.  But he spoke graciously once again, and this time to a relative he might have envied (since he had a closer place to Ruth).

Questions:

  • Does he usually follow through on what he says he will do?
  • Gauging by his usual actions, is he sincere when he makes commitments?
  • Is he gracious to others even when he could be envious or impatient?
  • Most of all, what motivates his actions?

Then Boaz called ten leaders from the town and asked them to sit as witnesses. (Ruth 4:2)

–Once again, Boaz’ character is reputable and his actions in the open.

Questions:

  • Does he invite others to view his actions toward you?
  • Does he invite leaders in the church and in his family to talk with him and advise him?
  • Does he see marriage as a commitment for life?

And Boaz said to the family redeemer, “You know Naomi, who came back from Moab. She is selling the land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don’t want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.”

The man replied, “All right, I’ll redeem it.”

Then Boaz told him, “Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband’s name and keep the land in the family.”

“Then I can’t redeem it,” the family redeemer replied, “because this might endanger my own estate. You redeem the land; I cannot do it.” (Ruth 4:3-4)

–It seems to me as though Boaz first states the positive so the other family redeemer will want to redeem the land–and then the negative so that he will not.  (I think Boaz was really in love with Ruth, and he didn’t want someone marrying her just to receive property.)

–Boaz also brings up that Ruth is a Moabite, so that if the other redeemer was prejudiced against her, he would know right away her nationality.

–Boaz wanted Ruth to be well taken care of.  He mentioned the Law of God (that this man would need to give Ruth children and those children her husband’s inheritance).  I think he may have been making sure that, if this man did marry her, he knew Boaz was holding him responsible to provide her what the Law expected.

Questions:

  • Does he try to anticipate problems and protect you from them when he can?
  • Does he care about your future–even if it is a future without him?
  • Most of all, does hold himself accountable to God for his role in your life–recognizing that he will always need the forgiveness of Christ Jesus?

Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction. So the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, “You buy the land.”

Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, “You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.” (Ruth 4:7-10)

–Boaz made a covenant in front of witnesses and asked for their accountability.  He clearly stated his intent to protect and provide for Ruth.

Questions:

  • Is he willing to make a covenant before God, his friends, his family, and a pastor that he will be faithful to you before he receives you sexually?
  • Most of all, does it matter to him to be known to everyone as a follower of Jesus Christ?

Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.” (Ruth 4:11-12)

–The people blessed Boaz because of his loyalty and integrity.  And Boaz certainly would become famous in Bethlehem through a Descendant, a little boy born in a manger . .

Questions:

  • Does he care about how others view his relationship with you?
  • Do other believers, especially older believers, want to bless his life?
  • Most of all, does he care about how others view his relationship with God?

So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife. When he slept with her, the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. (Ruth 4:13)

–God blessed their marriage with sexual intimacy and a child.

  • Is he committed to doing things God’s way, or his way?

Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! . .” (Ruth 4:14)

–Boaz’ reputation became as a redeemer.  What a high honor, more than he could even know in his lifetime!

Questions:

  • Does he have a reputation for reflecting a glimmer of who Christ is?
  • Do those who have witnessed his life see God’s work in it?
  • Do those who have witnessed your relationship see God’s work in it?
  • Is his mindset earthly or eternal?

” . . May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!” And they named him Obed. He became the father of Jesse and the grandfather of David.

This is the genealogical record of their ancestor Perez:

Perez was the father of Hezron.

Hezron was the father of Ram.

Ram was the father of Amminadab.

Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.

Nahshon was the father of Salmon.

Salmon was the father of Boaz.

Boaz was the father of Obed.

Obed was the father of Jesse.

Jesse was the father of David. (Ruth 4:14b-22)

–Boaz left a godly legacy.  Little did he know that his great-grandson would be a king and, many generations later, another grandson would be the King of Kings.

Question:

  • What kind of legacy does he want to leave?

______________________________________________

Reflection

You have one heart.  Give your heart to God.  God is the only One who can give your heart to a man who will really treasure it.

. . Even if your most intimate relationship fails in this life–even if sin tears apart your deepest love here–if your heart is given to God, it can never truly be broken by an earthly man.  Give your heart to Him, and receive a love that will last for an eternity.

He is our perfect Boaz.

I pray every single girl who reads this will give her heart to the One who can really treasure it.

And I pray she will be wise in who she gives her heart to here on earth.

This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:10)

________________________________________

Dedicated to the God who loved me first, and to my earthly Boaz named Ben.

<3

I’m so thankful for my dearheart Ben.

He’s so handsome and sweet and kind.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for my Ben.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. (James 1:17, NLT)

Published in: on November 30, 2013 at 8:31 pm  Comments (2)  
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Thirty (30)

It is true that today I turned 3 decades . . sort of.  Depending on how you count my time on earth, I could already be considered 30 + about 9 months.  🙂

However you figure it, I’m older than I have mostly ever wanted to be.  I wasn’t much into turning older on birthdays after my 21st . . for many reasons . .

one was that I simply didn’t want to become old (a common goal)

. . another that I didn’t want to outlive my dreams . .

nor did I want to lose the youthful beauty I think most of us girls long to have & to hold . .

But here I am, at 30.  Perhaps 1/3 of my life here is already gone.  If I live to be only as old as my father, over 1/2 of my life is already over.  I’ve taught 2nd grade, and I know in the fraction world of circles or squares, a half is a scary-big chunk of the whole.  And who’s to say I will live even that long?

And not only this, but the rest of the chunk of my life–however big that slice–isn’t promising to be good by anything I can muster.

My life is complicated: I find myself on the hard-gravel ground of disappointment.  When I look at my failures compared to my successes, I could pull out my hair.  Much of the time I trip, trip, and fall more than I even walk, much less run, toward what I most want.

Truth be told, I often do not feel confident I know what I’m doing.  At times I lose battles to intense anxiety and bouts of depression at, of course, inopportune times.  I struggle to cope with my own faults, and many times I feel downright detestable.

And that’s me, at 30.

But now let me tell the same story in another way:

It is true that today I turned 3 decades . . sort of.  But, however you count it, in the realm of Heaven, I haven’t even lived 1/100th of my life.  Not even 1/1000th.  Not even 1,000,000,000th.  Because of the righteousness of Christ, I will live forever.  And ever.  And 30 years is not so long in the sand timer of eternity.

I’m older than I have mostly ever wanted to be.  I wasn’t much into turning older on birthdays after my 21st.  One reason was that I simply didn’t want to become old . . but now that Christ has torn a gaping hole into the flat picture of my mortality–a wide, wide hole for me to escape right through–that problem is solved.

I didn’t want to outlive my dreams . . but my daydreams have changed, and my achievement in life is now based on the merits of Christ, not my own.  I can no longer outlive the plan for my life, because the plan for my life is no longer time-sensitive but instead eternally minded.

When I was 21, didn’t want to lose the youthful beauty I think most of us girls long to have & to hold, but now I’ve seen real beauty, and I can tell you it has nothing to do with being 21.  If you want to find out what beauty looks like, stand at the foot of the cross and look up.

Here I am, at 30.  About 4 years ago, I decided to yield my heart to Christ, and the last 4 years of my life have held more meaning than the first 26 put together.

I didn’t instantly become perfect (as anyone who sees me on any basis whatsoever knows) . . but I instantly gained His perfection.  All my fears didn’t run and hide . . but they will someday.  I don’t have it all figured out . . but I know the Master Planner who works despite the evil we’ve invited into His world, and I trust Him.

My life is still complicated, but at times, I glimpse the unspeakable simplicity of the freedom I have in Christ: He stood in for me at the cross.

When I still find myself on the ground of hard-gravel ground of disappointment, the hope I have in Christ is an earthquake on the Richter scale of 100 and KABLOOEYS my disappointment into smithereens.

When I look at my failures compared to my successes, I could pull out my hair, and that’s why it’s much more productive for me to spend my time looking at Christ’s track record.  He lived a perfect life because He knew I couldn’t; now I can be free from the bondage of always being imperfect and never measuring up.  His record is my record; my record is now perfect; I can live in His perfection with a whole new outlook on everything.

Much of the time, I trip, trip, and fall more than I walk, much less run, toward what I most want.  But, by the grace of God, I do get a few sprints in now and again.  And when I’m not graceful, and I land on my face, Christ is always there to pick me up.  When I am limping, He lets me lean on Him.  And when I can’t walk; He carries me.

I often do not feel confident I know what I’m doing, so I’m so thankful He knows what He’s doing.  At times I still lose battles to intense anxiety and bouts of depression at, of course, inopportune times, but He’s at the end of the WAR on sin and the Curse and He’s the victor.

I struggle to cope with my own faults, and many times I feel downright detestable . . but He hasn’t given up on me yet.

Even though I’m not an asset to Him . . even though I don’t profit Him anything but what He Himself gave to me . . even though He has no need for me . . even though He has every reason to hate me . . even though there’s nothing about me that could invite Him to take an interest in me . . even though there’s nothing in it for Him to become my friend that He couldn’t have equally well without me . . still, by His nature–by the very nature of who He is–He seeks me, for my sake.  For 30 years He has had His eye out for me; for 30 years He has loved me; and for 30 years He has given me the next heartbeat, the next breath, the next grace of another moment.

Since I am with Him, 30 is just the first 3-0.  Next up: 300.  Then 3,000.  Then 30,000.  Then 300,000.  Then 3,000,0000, and eternity is just beginning, and I will still be getting to know my Christ . .

I told you I would tell you the story another way.

Christ is the Way.

And He makes all the difference.

“I am the Way,” replied Jesus, “and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, Weymouth NT)

Published in: on August 28, 2013 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Rediscovering Cinderella . . Part I

One of my favorite fairy tales is the story of Cinderella (and I’ll tell the Disney version I grew up loving).  

Cinderella, a lowly, abused maid, and her little mice (including the adorably chubby Gus) live in a high-up tower in the house that she herself should rightfully own as her father’s only heir . . except that the house belongs first, by law, to her stepmother.

Surrounded every day by loads of laundry, piles of dishes, demanding, selfish stepsisters, a calculatingly malicious stepmother, and an evil cat to boot, Cinderella has no means of escape.  None.

But then one day, an opportunity– not an opportunity of a lifetime, but a supernatural opportunity that does not come in anyone’s normal lifetime–appears when she least expects it.

Stripped of the dress she tried to make for herself to reach qualification for the ball–her dress literally ripped away by her sisters who (truthfully) claim various pieces of it were stolen by the mice–Cinderella lays on the floor of her own home where she is a slave, weeping . . and the sound of horse-hooves disappears outside, her stepmother and stepsisters carted away to the ball.

At the lowest point in her life, with no hope at all, surrendered to her bondage forever, the final straw of her will broken, who should appear but her fairy godmother?

Now, no one has ever even heard of a fairy godmother (no one in Cinderella’s world).  In fact, looking at this story through the eyes of Cinderella’s world, her world is less expectant of such an event occurring than our world, because in our world we at least have heard of fairy godmothers . . but in Cinderella’s world, no one even knows such a gift exists!

Cinderella had absolutely no expectation of her fairy godmother’s coming.

Unlike other fairy tales, Cinderella didn’t wish for the gift to come . .

. . she didn’t pay or earn the right for the gift to enter her life . .

. . she wasn’t smart enough to invent something to connect her to the gift . .

. . she didn’t discover something to take her to the event . .

. . she wasn’t clever enough to discover the gift on her own . .

. . and it wasn’t by an inherent right that she received the gift.

Her fairy godmother shows up when she least expects it, transforms her rags into a ball gown the like of which has never been seen in her world, and creates for her a carriage to take her to the ball.

The fairy godmother’s magic, however, is limited to midnight, and at that point, Cinderella’s dress is turned back to rags, her carriage to pumpkin, her horses to mice.

. . Amazing, isn’t it?  Versions of this story have captured attention around the world for we-don’t-even-know-how-long.  Type in your search engine “versions of Cinderella stories around the world” and you find a list of countries in which some form of this story appears.

But . . why?

Have you ever wondered what’s behind the Cinderella story?

Is something striking you very familiar about it, but you can’t quite place your finger on it?

Or have you already realized its origin?

If you go back thousands of years, you will find what I believe is the trunk of this story that so captivates the hearts of children–especially girls–everywhere.

But if you’re to understand this trunk, you need to know the real name of the first character who I think experienced the story of Cinderella:

Joseph.

That’s right.  His name was Joseph.

He lived a long time ago, with his father, his mother, his stepmother, his stepbrothers, his stepsister, and his little brother.  You see, in his family, his father was tricked into marrying his stepmother, and, as a result, a devastating family furrow was laid.  The stepmother and the mother fought for the husband’s favor–but it wasn’t so easy as to say the stepmother was evil and the mother was good.  Not at all.  Both were in a heart-aching struggle for love and both more than likely wronged each other.

The stepmother had many children, but the mother only had two: Joseph, and his little brother.

But the father loved Joseph and his little brother most.  Far most.  And the stepbrothers knew it.

When Joseph was still young, on the day his little brother was born, his mother died.  We don’t know who raised him after that point, whether it was his stepmother, or one of his father’s servant-wives, or who else it might have been.  But we knew he grew up as a treasured favorite of his father.

Joseph fell in ill favor with his stepbrothers for many factors, the first of which was more than likely simply because he was the favorite.  When looking at the events that led up to what would happen to him, there are different theories on whether Joseph brought some of the troubles on himself or not, but, however it was, his brothers hated him.

And then, one day, his father gave him a special gift.  A beautiful, beautiful robe.  But when he visited his stepbrothers, they stripped him of his coat and threw him in a pit, an empty well.

He begged and pleaded with them to pull him back out.  To set him free.  But they sat down for a meal.

While he was in the worst anguish of his life, they were getting ready to eat.

And then, what should come along but a caravan?

Joseph’s circumstance dramatically changed, but not to dramatically better.  Rather than being left in a well to die slowly of thirst, he’s sold to merchants headed to Egypt–a country of pagan gods, extravagant Pharaohs, and desperately lowly slaves.  And from the way his stepbrothers thought later, they seemed to view this slavery as leading to death.

Cast out, exiled to become a slave, Joseph was powerless to change his circumstances.  Trapped in a caravan, very likely bound by ropes, he was led away to a country he’d never been in, to serve a people he did not know.

Joseph worked as a nobody, a nothing, a slave, probably for years.  Then, thrown in prison under false accusation, he found himself in the pit of Egyptian society with no way out.

But something happens.

God steps in.

God gives Joseph, with total clarity, the explanation to two dreams.  And two years after, his knowledge of dreams becomes known to the king.  The king, who’s had a dream that bothers him very much, commands for Joseph to be brought before him.

Given (probably hurriedly) an opportunity to clean up and change clothes, Joseph–this nobody of nobodies–is suddenly, surprisingly, supernaturally brought before the king of all the land.

And God again gives him, with total clarity, the explanation for the dream.

Instantly (quicker than a fairy godmother can wave her wand!), Joseph finds himself dressed in expensive clothes, wearing Pharaoh’s signet ring on his finger and a probably impressively weighty gold chain around his neck.  He’s the shocked new owner of a chariot,  accompanied by servants running ahead of his chariot proclaiming his importance, renamed to fit in the order of Egyptian regalia, gifted with a wife who was probably very beautiful and her father probably very powerful, and, by the way, commander of every person in the nation except Pharaoh himself.

(Not even Cinderella’s godmother could have accomplished all this before the clock struck midnight!)

And not only this, but the clock does not strike midnight for Joseph.

During a famine, he lives in multiplying wealth that I would imagine would be comparable to the top wealthiest in the world of our day, he’s gifted with at least two sons, honored and feared most likely wherever he goes, and, as if this isn’t enough, he’s given a double inheritance of his father’s land, a gift that becomes very significant hundreds of years later when the Promised Land is divided for the 12 tribes.  Joseph lives the rest of his life without the clock striking midnight.

Wow.

And I thought the story of Cinderella was good.

But just wait.

Because the story of Joseph is next to nothing compared to the Cinderella story to come.

For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! (Isaiah 64:4, NLT)

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9b, NLT)

Read Joseph’s Cinderella story for yourself.  Backdrop: Genesis 29-30, Genesis 33 (the game of favorites), Genesis 35 (the death of Rachel), and Joseph’s story: Genesis 37, 39-50.

Have you ever been broken by God?

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

I don’t know for sure about you, but I resist being broken.

I’ve never broken a bone that I know of except for maybe a rib, but one of the most painful experiences I had as a child was a time when astonishingly I did not break a bone.

I was in a park on a playground, and I’d guess I was about 8 or so.  I was fascinated by the teeter-totter, and I wondered how the mechanism worked that tilted it up and down.

I don’t remember how exactly it happened, but I went over to the teeter-totter to check out the axis.  While I was sticking my hand in to see how the mechanism worked, two kids got on either side of the teeter-totter and started using it.

It was one of the most extreme pains I’ve had.  The weight of the teeter-totter bearing down on my arm was so agonizing I could not even find my voice to tell the children to stop.  I’m sure it all took place in a matter of a few seconds, but I found my voice and in what seemed to me to be a dazed murmur asked them to get off the ride.

They got off, in surprise, and I pulled my arm out.  I was in shock about what had happened as I held my throbbing arm out.

Since then, I’ve rarely put my hand in any kind of mechanism again without seriously thinking about it first (I’m reluctant to get something out of the garbage disposal).

The idea of God breaking us is not one I think any of us can honestly say we are comfortable with.  For one thing, many believers still don’t fully trust that God is love, and so when they (and most of the time I am included here) think of Him breaking them in their lives, they think secretly of some ill-purpose or ill-will.

I would assert that we try very hard not to be broken by God.  Have you ever been listening to a sermon that was convicting, and found a way to distract yourself?  Have you ever been reading a book that was too uncomfortable about radical devotion to God, and found something else to do?  Have you ever felt God convicting you of a sin and been too fearful to face the consequences?

We are masters at resisting God’s breaking.  At 3:00 in the morning, if God is working on your heart, you can not only read a book, but you can turn on the TV, surf the internet, play a video game, or chat on Facebook.  Some people are even able to work from home and answer emails or write new proposals during the uncomfortable time.

The goal for us seems in whatever way possible to resist God’s breaking of us.

And for reasons that seem very valid to us.  God’s breaking of our hearts can be far more painful than the time my arm was caught in a seesaw.

But why would God want us to break?  If He doesn’t desire to be mean to us–He doesn’t enjoy kicking us around the way a criminal might kick a dog around–and He doesn’t seek as an end result for our sorrow, then why would He cause something so terrible to happen to us such as breaking?

Here are a few reasons I can think of.  You might add your own.

  • Salvation.  The most obvious reason is salvation.  Many people feel broken before salvation, though some (because they were a small child or because they had already gone through a breaking time previously, or for another reason) may not experience this breaking pre-salvation, but post.  After months of feeling broken, God in His grace brought me to His salvation in a time of healing.  God knows how each of us work.  Many come to Him in broken-hearted repentance.  (For me, much of this repentance came after inviting Christ into my life.  I was on a journey to confessing [and admitting] all of my sin before God, a journey I’m still working on, fearful that He wouldn’t forgive me if He really knew me.  But I did come with the mindset of already knowing I was a sinner, and having known that for years.)
  • Confession to evaporate guilt.  There are two ways to look at this: God is cruel or God wants you to be free of entanglements and burdens.  The entanglement and burden of unconfessed sin is huge.  If you are too afraid to give God a sin because you think if you “acknowledge” it He’ll stop loving you (personal experience here), then you carry a weight that God doesn’t intend you to carry as His child.  And He will increase the pressure and pain of that weight until you give it to Him, so you can walk free.
  • Confession to evaporate denial.  Sometimes, it’s easy to not give certain sins to God, mainly if we want to keep doing them (again, spoken from experience).  Rather than looking at God as someone who is all to overjoyed to punish you for your sin, realize that He wants you to walk a life that is a witness to others, and that He is working to bring about your sanctification (the purity of your walk before Him).
  • Eternal perspective.  It is so, so easy to hear the message of Christ drowned out by the so-called ‘goodies’ of this world.  I find myself struggling to resist looking at magazine covers as I walk through the grocery store aisles; distracted by bulletin boards that idolatrize materialism and physical beauty; and overwhelmed at times by the plethora of possessions one can own in their lifetime–each with the personal, very intimate, and totally deceitful promise of a and then I lived happily ever after claim.  Other times we feel inundated by work or relationship demands, sexual cravings, physical needs, retirement concerns, etc.  The list is nearly endless.  And in all this, the eternal perspective we should have is forgotten or put on a back burner.  When God breaks us from these things, what happens?  We are able to focus on the delight of Him, and to truly draw others into His Presence.
  • Passion.  Becoming dull for God can begin to happen in a single moment.  One choice can cause us to stumble and fall out of fellowship with Him.  In this time, we are not only on a self-destructive path for ourselves, but we do warfare against the precious testimony we have toward the world.  God wants to create in us a zealous, earnest passion for the lost, for His Truth, and for His everlasting love.
  • HumilityWe can get to where we think we are the coolest Christians on the block.  God breaking us reminds us to have an eye out for the broken.  When we are standing proud with our chest puffed out, showcasing the ‘metals’ we think we’ve earned in our Christian walk, we nearly always ignore the needs of the lost around us.  God wants us to remember the lost, including the ‘undesirable’ lost.  And not just to throw money at them or pity them, but to reach out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them!
  • Dependence on God.  It’s hard to believe, but sometimes in our Christian walk, we can think we are soo special that God could scarcely do without us, rather than that we cannot do without Him!  Ever been there?  I have.  When God breaks us, it isn’t an act of trying to force us to see Him as boss, but a gracious kindness to remind us that He is our Life.  When we stray from dependence on God, we become dependent on things that serve as ‘mini-idols’ in our lives, like our relationships, our career, our plans, etc.
  • Bravery.  When we have an area in our life that we feel we can’t achieve victory over, God can give us the courage to have victory by breaking us of our love for that wrong thing or or the fear holding us back from doing the right thing.  God can break us of our fear of sharing our testimony, witnessing to people on the street, etc., or our love of materialism, forgiving those who have hurt us most, etc.–by destroying the false hope we have in doing something wrong and destroying the false fear we have in doing something right.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

I am so afraid of being broken.  I am so afraid of suffering.  If you’re like me, you probably are, too.  But there are times in my Christian walk when I’ve prayed for God to break me.  In fact, one Christian song we sing, Hosanna (Hillsong United), invites God to do just this with the line,

Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

We may artificially request for God to break us and be shocked by the very real answer He gives us.  True brokenness is terribly painful and we struggle to accept it, even from the hand of our Rescuer.  But think about the verse from the Psalm, and these other Scriptures, and you and I will see a bright torch of Hope in our brokenness.

“Son of man, groan before the people! Groan before them with bitter anguish and a broken heart.” (God, Ezekiel 21:6, NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (David, Psalm 34:18, NLT)

My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart’s desires are broken. (Job, Job 17:11, NLT)

“I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD.” (Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:15b, HCSB)

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. (David, Psalm 147:3, NLT)

I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. (David, Psalm 38:8, NIV)

Ezekiel (whom God commanded to groan), David, Job, and Hannah all followed God.  They had hearts that sought Him.  Job is a man whom God said about him,

“There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8b, NIV)

Surely Job had a life that we should look carefully at to learn what a follower of Jesus might expect to experience in this world.  (By the way, “blameless” does not mean “sinless” but that he followed God exceptionally and was forgiven of his sin.  In Job, he refers to sin he has had in the past, and indeed he sins against God in his anger/doubt towards Him.)

What do we find?  Job had a time of intense grief, questioning, doubt, struggling, and terror.  God broke him.  And in this, Job discovered the wonder of God.

What about Hannah?  She wanted children, probably more than just about anything.  Maybe even more than she wanted a relationship with God.  But she came to God in great brokenness, laying her grief at His feet, and she rested in whatever answer He would give her.  Then, when God did give her a child, she did something that seems almost unthinkably hard–she gave her first child to Him, to live in the temple.  She got to see her child, the boy she’d so longed for, once a year.  And how did God honor her for giving over what she most wanted to Him?  He gave her sons and daughters to raise, and the baby she dedicated became perhaps the greatest Old Testament judge during the time before the kings.

And David?  David lived a life of soaring highs and terrible lows before God.  After he became trapped in sexual sin, he killed men, including the husband of the woman he had violated.  He became terribly broken (see Psalm 51).  God forgave him, and in his beautiful, broken Psalm about his sin (Psalm 51), we find these words:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

so that sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

you who are God my Savior,

and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

Open my lips, Lord,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart

you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:12-18, NIV)

David knew something that many kings who came after him didn’t: only the Messiah could truly take away sin.  No matter how wealthy David was, or however mighty a warrior he was, or however talented with musical instruments, nothing and no one but God could take away his sin.

In summary, there are many reasons why God might break a person.  For a lost person, the reason is always for the purpose of salvation.  For the saved person, God sanctifies us through times of brokenness.  Resisting His brokenness as a lost person is to resist Eternal Life.  And resisting His brokenness as a believer is to resist His work to purify your life and testimony here on earth.

In a time of brokenness, however deep and fearful and even hopeless it may seem, remember that God’s ultimate desire is not for you to remain in this brokenness, but for you to be saved by it (if you are lost) or for you to experience His delight more deeply and draw the lost to Him (if you are already saved).

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Solomon, Proverbs 17:22)

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. (Solomon, Proverbs 15:13, ESV)

Although this blog might seem like a detached commentary on the pain of brokenness, it is far from it.  I write this during a time of very personal and painful brokenness in my life.  I am not fully out of the feeling of having my arm caught in a seesaw yet.  I still feel the new wound of brokenness and I still have an unsettling, restless angst of, What if it does not go away?  I don’t know who said this first, nor is that really important, but I hold to the line, God does not waste our pain.  Whether you are a believer or not, God isn’t bringing suffering on you because He enjoys tormenting you.  Rather, He longs for you to be saved, or, if you are saved, to know Him better.

Although much of my heart still wants to resist the experience of breaking in my life, and though I still at times feel like a wild animal struggling to be tamed, I believe in, I hold to, and I desire to cling with white-knuckled grasp to the love of Christ.  I know that times of breaking are not senseless, needless, or for the purpose of my destruction, but rather to bring my heart closer to God, to bring my will in dearer alignment to His, and so that I may “rest on His unchanging grace” (Edward Mote, hymn On Christ the Solid Rock).

And one more Scripture each for unbelievers and for believers going through a time of brokenness.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9, NIV)

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” (Hebrews 13:5, NASB)

On ham, being a ham, and why I love surveys

Less than an hour ago, Ben and I got out of the car to head into Giant, a local grocer.  We had the intention of using their Wi-Fi.  We’d been sitting in the parking lot, talking to my mom on speaker phone about wedding plans, and we’d gotten disconnected.  I needed to go to the bathroom really bad, so we decided to head on in to the store and wait for Mom to call back.

Or so I thought.

But that was before the ham.

Whence upon entering the grocery store, both of us lugging our laptops (because I hadn’t brought the carrying case), a grocer waiting at the doorway asked me a simple question.  It went something like this,

“Would you like to take a survey?”

Unfortunately for Ben, he was still in that section of the grocery store that has the mat and usually the carts, and sliding glass doors separated him from stopping me.

Already in the star-dazzled I’ve-been-asked-to-take-a-survey daze, I asked, “What’s it on?”  Or maybe she just volunteered the information.  It happened in somewhat of a blur.  😉

She said something like, “You’ll get to try two kinds of lunch meat ham and answer questions about it.”

Now, let’s back up for a moment.

I do not usually eat lunch meat.  Lunch meat, as a general rule, bothers my stomach.  Furthermore, I do not like the taste of most lunch meat very much.  If I do, rarely, eat lunch meat–unless it’s at a work function and I’m temptingly hungry–I only eat natural or organic.

Furthermore, I do not particularly care for cold lunch meat ham.  If I did splurge on lunch meat, it would probably be bologna or roast beef or thick-sliced ham.  Not thin-sliced, salty, salmon-colored lunch meat ham.

Poor Ben.

I was whisked away on the adventure of a survey and he was left coming in with a drying umbrella, laptop under one arm, and possibly wondering, What . . happened?

In fact, he said something very much along those lines.  He tried to ask me what I was doing.  But I felt far too important to answer him.  I was, after all, the winner of the prestigious You have been selected to answer regal questions about lunch meat ham survey.

He looked confused.  And a bit frustrated.  He thought we’d both established that we had to go to the bathroom.  He thought we were going to work on our computers for a quiet evening.  He wondered what I was doing as I snubbed him and walked over to a long, royal table with a cream tablecloth and several laptop computers.

As I was heading over, I heard the store attendant ask Ben, “Would you like to complete our survey too?”

Well, he was very fortunate.  Clearly she was inviting him because she’d seen he was with me.

I sat down in a wooden chair in front of a laptop computer with a smallish keyboard and a grocer served me a piece of lunch meat on a disposable plate.

Let’s back up a moment.  Do you remember when the grocer said something like, “You’ll get to try two kinds of lunch meat ham and answer questions about it.”?

Here’s what mattered most in that statement to me: “You get to try blah blah blah blah blah blah and answer questions about it.”

She could have said, “You get to try our new line of pumpkin squid stew and answer questions about it.”  (Although I would have drawn the line at aardvark squid stew.)

The important thing was, she was asking me to TALK!

I LOVE to TALK.

And I LOVE to take SURVEYS.

I love to tell my PREFERENCES (even on pumpkin squid stew or lunch meat).

I love for someone to want to know my OPINION.

My phone began buzzing.  Mom was calling me back.

Under my relationship with God, planning my wedding is one of the most important planned events coming up in my life right now.  It’s a serious responsibility.

But I ignored the call.

Since one of the survey questions on the laptop asked me about the aroma of the ham, I sniffed the ham authoritatively, as if the Food Network camera crew had just dropped me off for the day in front of the grocery store.  Then I chewed the ham.  It was still the way I remembered it.  Salty.  Salmon-colored.  Too thin.  And very lunch-meaty.

I did not rank that ham very high.

At some point, the phone had buzzed again . . and I think again.  I felt guilty, and tried to send a standard message, “Can’t talk right now.  Call you back in 15 minutes.”  There wasn’t a standard message for Doing ham survey.  And I didn’t want to answer the phone and lose the momentum of the importance of this moment.

Under the notes section for the first ham, I wrote what even I did not consider sagely or prose: Ordinary lunch meat ham.

Ben’s phone rang very shortly after my third call.

He said, “Your mom is calling me now.” with a slightly unfriendly tone, I might add, as he was sitting next to me at his laptop survey computer, fully aware that I hadn’t answered my phone.  He had the audacity in his tone to indicate that perhaps I should be answering the phone, perhaps since my mother has been devoting hours to wedding planning in the last several weeks.

I bungled some excuse to him, flustered by the interruption from the ham tasting, about trying to send her a message that I’d call her back.

The second ham was better.  Less salty.  More bland.

Ben at his second ham and answered the questions too fast.  ‘Clearly’, he wasn’t taking this seriously enough.  He finished his survey up.

Under the notes section for the second ham, I wrote in high culinary cuisine that the ham could be improved with a honey or maple or something else smell that I’ve already forgotten.

But we only got to answer questions about two lunch meats.  😦

I did manage to get an extra refill of my little water cup as I took the survey.  The grocers made sure we had enough water, were ready promptly with our ham plates, and one grocer said that if we had any questions, we should feel free to ask.  She was so friendly.

But then the attention ended.  😦 😦

I got a thank-you, a $1 off coupon, and then we had to leave the special table. (Awwww . . I do not WANT to leave the special table . .)

And then Ben (who’d also had to go to the bathroom all along) let me go first (remember we had our computers with us) . . without actually commenting anything about the delay or my regal ignoring of him while I sat down for the survey-by-special-invitation (i.e., by walking through the front door).

Mom got a good laugh when I called her back.  Avoiding talking about why I’d ignored her calls until she straight-up asked me, I did admit to taking a ham survey.

. . Why am I like this?

Why do the words, Do you want to take a survey? sound to me like, You have won a small jackpot!!

I see here in myself something very much like the beauty . . and the fall . . of Eve.

In the beauty, that I want to be loved.  I want to be special to someone.  I want for someone to want to know my heart.

In the fall, that, most of the time, I want to be important more than I want to love others.  I want to be special even if it isn’t to someone, but to something, like a ham survey.

For Eve, it was Satan talking through the serpent that lured her away from the beauty and into the fall.  The serpent talked to her.  He asked her a question.  He opened up her vulnerability to wanting to be special . . so that he could garbage her.

The tragedy was, she already had been special.  Btu she didn’t realize how much so until she took the first bite of trying for more specialness than what God had already fully given her.

The serpent knew that, when Eve fell, it would be her fall, not her beauty, that would define her.

But the talking serpent was wrong.

For shortly after, God gave Eve the hope of a redemptive beauty: One who would crush the head of the talking serpent and bring her beauty back to her.

Tonight, the ham survey reminded me of something.  I am prone, very prone, to coveting importance, in the wrong things.  Like a piece of ham.  And it’s easy, so easy, for me to lose sight of the real importance: that Jesus loves me–already fully.

My life should never be on center stage; the world doesn’t hinge on my opinion.  That spot is reserved for the One Redeemer of Eve (and Adam): Jesus Christ.

And that isn’t just my opinion.  That’s the reality of the only One who could destroy the mouth of the serpent.

I don’t need to take a survey to be special.

I can simply look at the nail-scarred foot that crushed the serpent’s head and remember:

I am loved. ❤

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

The thirst for eternity

Ben, “Will you hold my hand?”

Me, “I will always hold your hand.”

Ben, “I will always hold you in my heart.”

We thirst for eternity.

In this short, short life, we thirst for eternity.

When we’re thirty, we want to be twenty.

When we’re fifty, we want to be thirty.

When we’re eighty, we want to be fifty.

We long for more time.

More time for romance.  More time for family.  More time for friends.  More time for achievements.  More time for plans.

We thirst for eternity.

Why?

We were created to be eternal creatures.

In fact, everything God ever made was created to be eternal.

We fell from our eternal state with Him when we broke truce with Him.

We said we didn’t want eternal life with Him.

We got what we wanted.

Only now that we have it, now that we see it up close, we don’t want it.

We thirst for eternity.

I’ll be thirty this year and I’ll be thirsty this year.

I don’t want to grow old.

I don’t want to die.

I don’t want for my body to break down.

I don’t want for my last breath to leave my lungs.

I don’t want for the last beat to pulse in my heart.

I don’t want to die.

I want to last for all eternity.

But there’s only one way I can:

If God reverses what I did in my rebellion.

If He takes the curse I deserve for my sin and places it on Himself.  Only He, as the Eternal One, can take the eternity-away-from-Him that I once asked for and destroy its effect.  He can do this, because in addition to being eternal, He is infinite.  He is able to take the infinite consequence for eternity in a finite span of time.  He did this on the cross.  The rest of us, because we are not infinite, nor qualified because of our unholiness, would have to pay the infinite consequence eternally.  Only He can pay it in a finite amount of time.  And only He can take away the burden of death from us forever.

I receive this work of His in my life.  I receive His eternal payment and I know that I can now live forever with Him.

Ben and I will certainly not be married in Heaven.  Heaven is much better than the sweetest romance we have on earth.

But could we hold hands in Heaven?  I think maybe we could.

And it could be (off and on) forever.

But we can’t hope for this because of sentimental feelings on romance cards or flighty hopes in romance movies of foreverness-even-though-it-really-isn’t-ish.  We can hope for this (or something even better) only because of Jesus Christ.  He is our forever.

Forever. ❤

For the believer:

. . the truth lives in us and will be with us forever. (from 2 John 1:2, NLT)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (Jesus, quoted in John 14:6b, NLT)

The mouse-deer I want to be

The Malaysian mouse-deer.  Exquisite.  Frightened.  Almost unbelievably beautiful.

Mouse Deer Permission

From Simonandfinn.com

The mouse-deer reminds me of God’s goodness and who I am to be before God.

The delicacy of the bones, the fragility of the life, and humility in the expression of the creature draws my heart to remember God’s heart for me and who I can be in Him.

A metaphor for how I feel about the inner vulnerability of the heart.

The secret heart.  The part of my heart and your heart that, if it was exposed to anything but the tenderest touch, would gush raw blood.  The part that is not even possible or accessible to share with our closest family or friends, not even if we wanted.

Mouse Deer 2 Creative Commons

The mouse-deer in me.  The fragile dreams.  The realization that I am a short-living and easily humiliated creature.  The hidden, inner trembling because I know I am small and breakable.

The fearful hope the mouse-deer represents of exquisite, fragile beauty.

This is who I want to be before God.

I want God to see me as a little mouse-deer.  I want to show God every one of my straw-like bones, and I want to touch my tiny and fearful nose to His palm.  I want to take huge mouthfuls of the fruit He has laid out in baskets for me, very aware that, if this is a trick, I can never escape in time.  The faint, uncertain pitter-patter of my heart as I trust no trap awaits me and I taste the moments of my life He’s given me.

Mouse Deer 4 Creative Commons

Only God sees the mouse-deer within my heart.  Not even I can really view the vulnerability and beauty of myself before Him.  There is no mirror in the wilderness where He meets me.  But He sees me.  And that is enough.

I trust only Him to reveal the frailty and marvel of the new person that He has breathed to life within me.  I trust only Him to tenderly care for the secret me.

I trust only Him to see the mouse-deer within me.  I spend time either straining to see myself or fleeing from the vulnerability of myself during this delicate heart-working, this delicate heart-working of who I am in Him.

Mouse Deer 3 Creative Commons

As God knit me once in my mother’s womb, so He knits my dainty, exquisite, pride-less, beautiful inner being for His eternal Kingdom.

The clunkiness of sin, the weight of guilt, the carnivorous desires inside me all veil the deer-mouse I fear to become and yet desperately want to be.  But they none of them have power over God’s work within me.  No feature of who I used to be has the ability to mutate the new creation God is knitting every moment since my salvation.

Only God can see all the features within me that do not match what He wants my delicate heart to become and forgive me.  Anyone else would run in terror, jeer in amusement, or condemn in wrath.  Only God through His Son can lift the heaviness of the burden that I, in my sin nature, am the predator . . and only through His Son can He create in me the new birth of the exquisite.

Mouse Deer Creative Commons

.                         .                         .                         .                         .

The little deer-mouse longs to tiptoe on tiny hooves up to the Presence of God.  The weak-hearted, tiny deer-mouse aches to trust Him enough to approach the baskets of fruit He has for her.  Not to scarf them down with eyes wandering violently from side to side in search of predators, but to delight in every mouthful of fruit He has for her, fruit of many colors that represent the many moments left of her dwindling and fragile life.

The little deer-mouse fears to think what might happen tomorrow, when the jowls of an alligator snap shut on her or a net buried in the leaves cinches up around her or her feeble heart simply stops.  There is humility in knowing she has brought this on herself by her own sin; there is a reason she comes tail tucked and head bowed.

The little deer-mouse is afraid to think about eternity, or of a time when she must yield her failing heart to God in trust that He will give her the next heartbeat as soon as she crosses into eternity.  The trust of really believing He has already knit for her an eternity with Him; the faith to believe that He will keep her everlasting heart beating even as the ugly body of her old self . . who she was . . rots away with all the other forgotten corpses in the wilderness.

To the outsiders, her corpse will be just another expected occurrence in the inferior and easily forgotten life of wilderness living.  She must trust her Creator to remember her.  She must trust her Creator was really sincere when He promised her He was knitting a new self for her inside her old one.  She must trust that her Savior really did pay for every regret in the dead body . . that she really can leave it behind and become who God is longing for her to be . . who God has surprised her with becoming on the inside.

She must believe the invisible will become visible, the hidden secret of the knitting will become the reality of who she now will be.

Afraid of the humongous, humongous fruit basket that eternity represents . . braving both overwhelmingly fearful and overwhelmingly delighted glimpses at it . . peeping at the basket with bashful blinking eyes.

But the little-deer mouse still trots on shy hooves up to the Presence of God.  A God who is gaspingly huge and unnervingly fearsome and unimaginably powerful.  A God who the deer-mouse would find impossible to visit, was it not that this very God became the most exposed, the most vulnerable of all in His substitutionary death for her.

The deer-mouse is frightened, but the deer-mouse cowers up to the Presence of God.  The all-mighty hand of God rests on the tiny creature, and the deer-mouse begins to understand . . this is not the least-preferable way to come to God.  This is the only way for her to come to God.

_____________________________________

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves.We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:3-7, NLT)

_____________________________________

Photograph of Mouse Deer 1 by SimonandFinn.com, website allows permission to share with credit

Photograph of Mouse Deer 2 by Just Chaos (Jean), profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/7326810@N08/

Photograph of Mouse Deer 3 by Peter Gordon, profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/superwebdeveloper/  See MartialArtsNomad.com

Photograph of Mouse Deer 4 by Eden Pictures, profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/edenpictures/

Photograph of Mouse Deer 5 by Bjorn Christian Torrisen, http://bjornfree.com/galleries.html

Photographs 2-5 licensed under Creative Commons License.

Engaged

Between trying not to hyperventilate, crying, laughter, and shock, I got to watch my own proposal.

Engagement Ben Ring 3

It started with an invitation.

Ben asked me out for dinner on Sunday, June 2.  He suggested I change from the capris I’d been wearing for street ministry back into the skirt I’d been wearing at church that morning.  He’d never asked me to do something like that before.  I found that suspiclious.  Very, very suspiclious.

We got to the special place Ben had in mind, and my fright grew.  Was this the night?  Was Ben going to ask me?

We sat on the top floor of a beautiful restaurant, the only ones there, in a curve-around booth that was on a turret over-looking the city below.  (I didn’t know what the turret was called until I overheard Ben’s dad accurately labeling it later.  It’s like a “bubble porch” enclosed by wall but with windows to look out.)

It was a very special seat, not like any other in the restaurant.  Then Ben told me he had to go to the bathroom, and I was almost sure.

Engagement Flowers 2The manager of the restaurant then dropped off an extravagantly romantic bouquet of flowers.

And then a card.  From Sniffy the brown bear.  (With Sniffy holding the card.)

Sniffy the brown bear has played a quirky part in our relationship from nearly the get-go.  I introduced Sniffy and Ben the first night we dated (we were with a group of others) and the two hit it off.  Sniffy’s been my teddy bear since I was about ten.

Sniffy Engagement 3The card Sniffy held was a Hallmark.

If you’ve read my other thoughts, you might already know how I feel about Hallmarks.  I’d warned Ben that, if he sent me a Hallmark, we’d have to marry.  😉

So the card was VERY SERIOUS.

From my lofty perch, I saw him (Ben, that is, not Sniffy) jog across the street to the parked car.  I ducked my head (because I wanted whatever he was doing to be a surprise).  I was really sure now.  My heart was pounding, pounding, pounding.  Would you believe that Sniffy was able to stay calm and not give the surprise away?

Then, the Italian music in the restaurant stopped playing.

It was really happening.

In came Ben, playing his guitar and singing a song written just for me.

So

It was a Hallmark.  He just had to marry me after that.  😉

Somewhere between having a breakdown of hysteria (if you knew how I normally handle stress, you would understand why), wanting to bawl profusely, and wondering why I couldn’t cry at all, I watched Ben singing.  Singing to me.

He got down on one knee and the shock was like thunder.  I lost most sense of reality.  The reality I did have was how unworthy I felt for this to be happening to me.

I don’t remember Ben reaching for my hand.  He was talking to me, wooing my heart, and I was sitting there like a bird that had just smacked into a window.  I remember knowing that he’d asked me–and realizing it was up to my reply.Ben Teej Hands Ring

I guess I had this idea that, somehow, I would think of something magnificently romantic or marvelously witty to say when the time of my real proposal (not one I’d daydreamed) came.  In reality, uh, the only word I could think of was yes.

But it was the right word, and it worked, and I guess he had taken my hand, because then there was a ring on my finger.  I honestly can’t say I know for sure when that happened, but there was the ring, and there was the proposal, and there was me, dazzled, overwhelmed, and overjoyed.

If Ben had been having dreams of me being brilliant and wonderful that night, I am sure I did not live up to what he had in mind.  But I got the feeling that he didn’t have any expectation other than for me to say yes.  And, he’s known me long enough to know how pathetic I can be under stress.

I am also a person normally filled with doubt.  But in that very special moment, God gave me a beautiful gift.  It was the gift of knowing.  Of not doubting.

And I was engaged.

Only watching, and with my yes, I was engaged.

I said yes.

I said yes.

The work, the time, the arrangement, the expense, the gifts, the timing, and the asking.  It was on Ben’s shoulders.  I didn’t have to carry any of it.

That doesn’t mean from time to time in our relationship (or a lot of lots of times) I didn’t try to carry some of the burden of it, but it never worked, and I knew God wanted me to wait on Ben.

Only the yes was up to me.

All the work, the time, the arrangement, the expense, the gifts, the timing and the asking: Ben (through the work of God).

And yet, the yes: left up to me.

Engagement Ring 1

.                         .                         .                         .                         .

The engagement I experienced is, in an infinitely tinier realm, like what Christ does for us on the cross.

We could not carry the appointment of when Christ would die.

We could not arrange for it.

We could not cover even the slightest portion of the expense He would have to pay with His life.

We could not give Him any gift to win His heart into such an endeavor (in fact, we were His enemies).

We could not push Him on the timing of giving His life.

And we could not ask Him to do so (nor did we even know what was required).

The cross–and all the work it took to get to the point of laying down His life–was totally laid on His shoulders.  We didn’t have to carry any of it at all.  In fact, we couldn’t.

Every drop of blood from His brow, every print His foot left on the street, every cry of anguish from His lips, every fulfillment of the Law He kept, He did for us.

Do you realize that as Christ fell with the cross, it was as though He was down on one knee, asking you and I to be in His Kingdom?  Do you know what He did to win the heart of His children?  Have you seen the work on the cross clearly before?

Nothing in Christianity makes sense if you do not first understand the proposal.  Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.

What would cause Him to do this?  Love.  Sheer love.

All we are left with, the only thing we must do to be saved, is our yes to Him.  We do not have to be perfect in our moment of asking.  We do not have to be free of all doubt.  We do not have to be free of the addictions that torment us, or of the past guilt that haunts us, or of the affliction of an ever-growing sin nature.  Christ, yes Christ, takes care of that.

All He waits on is your yes.

From Ben’s Pen:

. . as always, I am deeply honored when you compare any part of me or our relationship to Christ . . it was very interesting to see this from your point of view.

The env

The envelope for the card Ben gave me.

I planned the details, practiced the song, rehearsed the speech, but I didn’t really have an expectation of your reaction.  I’d imagined it many times, of course.  Would there be exuberant joy, or stunned silence?  Tears?  Friendly, in-love, laughter?  Once I even briefly feared there would be a look that said, “It’s about time.”  But expectations?  I expected a “Yes,” most likely either whispered or shouted, and a big hug.  Beyond that, I had no clue how you’d react, and I didn’t really want to have a clue.

As soon as I parked, I realized it was a bad spot.  When we got up there, I looked out and saw the car.  But I thought maybe you’d be looking around the room instead of out the window, and anyway there was nothing I could do about it.  Plus, although it would be sad to ruin the surprise, it wouldn’t ruin everything.

You can see Ben's blue car from the window.  :)

You can see Ben’s blue car from the window. 🙂

All day, it seemed odd to me how nervous I wasn’t.  I kept thinking, “I’m getting engaged today.  Shouldn’t I be all shy and fidgety?”  But I’m glad I wasn’t.  Then it was very hard not to react when Rachel (a church friend who went to street ministry with us) asked if we were going to get engaged.

Engagement Ben Teej 2Driving, walking into the place, taking you upstairs, still not a hint of nerves.  Going back to the car, handing Sniffy over, getting out my guitar, still not a hint of nerves.  Strumming the first few chords as I walked across the room, still not a hint of nerves.  It hit me when I started singing.  I’ve sang for you before, with and without music, and I knew you wouldn’t dump me for my poor singing.  I even wrote a line about it in the song.  But that’s when I was nervous.  But it was “I’m going to mess up the song, I’m going to forget the speech, I’m going to screw up and kill the mood.”  There wasn’t any “She’s going to reject me,” or even “we’re making a mistake.”  I had no doubt that this was the right path, or that you would say yes.  I only doubted my ability to follow the plan and not ruin the moment.

I did not forget the third verse of the song, which had given me so much trouble.  I got a little choked up when I saw you crying during the speech, but I did not stumble over the dialect, or forget the sections I usually forgot when practicing.  And then there was the “Yes.”  Not so much whispered or shouted, but said with love, conviction, and no hint of doubt.

Teej and Ben holding hands

We took this picture on our first solo date.

“I guess he had taken my hand, because then there was a ring on my finger.”  One part I’d been looking forward to was putting the ring on your finger.  After you said “Yes,” there was a ring on your finger.  I assumed you’d taken it and put it on, but I hadn’t noticed you doing it.  But I wasn’t disappointed.  When you took it off to look at the inscription, I made sure to take it back and put it on you that time. 🙂

Engagement Teej 4

Shortly afterwards, I tried to think of metaphors.  Jesus compares salvation to a marriage, but I was trying to think what part of that is like a proposal?  I couldn’t find anything.  But now I see why.  I was looking at the proposal from the groom’s point of view, but now I see salvation from the bride’s.

While your “yes” to me bears some small resemblance to our “yes” to Christ, my path to asking you bears very little resemblance to His.  I had to put forth some effort, but I didn’t suffer.  I had to get creative, but He knew His path all along.  I wondered how you would react, but He already knew.  I knew you’d say “yes,” but He knew most wouldn’t.

If I knew you’d say “no,” I wouldn’t have bothered to ask at all.  If I thought there was a very good chance you’d say “no,” I wouldn’t have been motivated to do nearly as much.  But I knew you’d say “yes,” and I wanted to make it special.

He knew most would say “no,” but still He went.  He knew even those who said “yes,” would turn their back on Him at times, but still He went.  He knew we didn’t deserve it at all, but still He went.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8, NIV