This piece was written for the Joy Of It Blog. Read the full article HERE.
Last week I taught a class at my church to third – fifth graders. The lesson was about dwelling places for God’s presence found in the Old Testament. The object lesson was about taking God outside the boxes in which we put him; a reminder that there is no place we can go where His presence cannot reach. The final activity of the morning was to map out the events of each student’s day. I decided to participate. To no surprise, my map started and ended in the same place – my bed.
The lesson of that Sunday morning jogged my memory of a profound experience I had last year. Over the span of six months I had a recurring dream. The dream was disturbing. I consistently woke feeling unsettled. In the dream I was crying out to God and feeling powerless to face what was in front of me. I knew that God was there, but oddly enough he was contained in a shoe box underneath my bed.
Each time, at this same moment in the dream, I would wake up baffled and profoundly curious as to what it could all mean. Was God trying to communicate with me? Was darkness trying to intimidate me? Or was it some food I’d eaten? The fact that it was happening again and again felt significant.
I decided to share my dream with a trusted friend. As we dialogued about it, I communicated that in the dream I’d felt helpless and powerless; that God wasn’t acting and breaking through in my time of need. This was especially frustrating since I knew that He was in a box under my bed. Why was He not moving and breaking through on my behalf?
My friend asked me a simple question, but it rattled me to the core. She said,
“When are you going to let God out of the box?”
Hard stop. My mind was reeling. I had concluded that the dream was a tactic of Satan to intimidate me, but as soon as she spoke the words, I knew that God had been communicating with me. There was something specific that He wanted to reveal to me about how I was relating to Him and the limiting mindset I had in relation to possibility.
My friend encouraged me to pray and wrestle through these questions with God. In my dialogue I acknowledged the ways that I had limited and confined Him. I had been praying for specific things – a secure job for my husband, a clear destination for where we were to live and invest as a family, and a community of people we could live alongside and be known.
Having been uprooted from a place of comfort and familiarity that was over a decade in the making, this new ground felt shaky. We were now in a new state and in a place of transition living with extended family. It was a place of holding – with no job, no home to call our own, no clarity for the future and I vehemently disliked the uncertainty. I was full of questions and shaking my fist at God for not providing answers.
The disruptive question from my friend caused me to pause, and the pause made room for repentance to pour from my lips. I was beginning to see the ways that I had put confines around God. I didn’t want His answers and solutions, I wanted the specific ones I thought were best and that I was asking for. Of course God was not limited by my box; He will move as He pleases. But I realized that I had been looking within the perimeters of my small faith and limited belief for answers. God’s answers were bigger than my box, so I was unable to see or fathom them.
John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life to the full.”
Other translations of this verse use the following words to describe having a full life: rich and satisfying, abundantly, more and better, until it overflows, beyond our dreams.
I can’t say that I would have used any of those words to describe how I was experiencing life with God. That season felt like walking down a dark hallway, for much longer than I wanted, and I was looking for the small sliver of light to lead me toward the exit door.
What I realized that day as I sat and poured out my questions and fears, is that as I was straining to find a small light in the dark, God was about the business of removing the roof above me and flooding that dark windowless hallway with His light.
The light flooded in exposing that I was alone in a space that contained all my fears, wounds and failures. They had grown in the dark and I had nurtured them in that solitary place. Although I was miserable and wanted out, I had rehearsed that I was misunderstood, forgotten and alone. Believing those lies were the chains that held me there.
This nagging, recurring dream that bothered me so, was actually an invitation to live freely. To actually step into the very thing for which my heart ached. I’m thankful that God pursues me and even pushed me to irritation. In this instance it is what it took to get my attention.
I felt known and seen by my God. The response of my heart was to show him how completely I love him. 1 John 2:5-6 clearly laid out how I was to do that.
“But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. This is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”
In the months following this encounter, I began to see the weaving together of His perfect and good plan for me and my family. Each specific question I am asking, has a specific answer. Some have become clear and others are still waiting to be realized. What I do know is that a full life is waiting for me in the midst of each question and unknown – right here, right now.
The way Jesus lived is the gospel that we preach. His life made such an impact that it changed the course of history forever. And we are invited to live that same way, which implies that it is possible. Jesus experienced rejection, pain, betrayal, and loneliness. He was not exempt and neither are we. Jesus’ response to those difficulties was to live a life fully dependent on His Father; saying and doing only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19). His is the example we are to follow.
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