Thursday, April 14, 2016

Quite literally, the first step

About a year ago now, some unseen tension caused a slow split in the trunk of an enormous oak tree in our yard.  And when that mighty oak fell to the ground, it splintered like gunshots in the middle of one night.  The mortally-wounded tree blazed a violent path and took down a half dozen other mature trees with it as well as part of our deck down by the creek. 

It was a mess.

But unbeknownst to us, it was about to become messier.  There is grace in what we do not know is coming.

We knew that these huge downed trees were more than we could handle. The next morning, we had a tree guy appointed to chop up the tree carcasses and haul them off.  And then, we waited.

After a span of several months and a laundry list of excuses, the tree guy finally showed up.  Instead of admitting that the task was beyond his expertise, he caused even deeper damage, taking down even more trees and foliage.  We finally employed another who cleaned up the big trees and left the rest to us.

We were stuck for months with a monumental task of restoration staring us in the face.  And I was reminded through so many times of being confronted and paralyzed by the enormity of a situation – those both real and imagined –the very first step is to lay it before the LORD. 

Hezekiah received the letter
 from the hand of the messengers, and read it; 
and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD,
                  and spread it before the LORD.  
And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD…   
                                      2 Kings 19. 14-15.

When the impossibility of a situation grabs me around the neck, I have two choices:  panic or pray.  “O LORD, give me Your peace or give me Your direction.”

In this past year, I have realized that anxiety is just my need for God coming to the surface.

When I lay a situation before the LORD, what does He lay before me?  Usually not a complete solution gift-wrapped and tied with a bow, not even a full set of directions, rarely the end of the story, but a single step on my radar.

The key to getting unstuck is to do something, no matter how insignificant it may appear.  Do something that God reveals to you.   God uses it to loosen things up in some way.

How in the world could we repair the deck?  The obvious first step was literally one step.  One of the bottom stair treads was demolished.  If we were to do anything, it would need to be fixed first.  We shuffled through salvaged wood, sawed off both ends of a plank, and nailed it into place.  A whole hour had gone by.  This is going to take forever, we thought.

But also in that literal first step, it was like the whole load shifted just a little bit.  We took one footstep of trust, and the next one was made obvious.  The reality is we can do this, not in one day, but one step at a time.   All those seemingly unrelated obediences are connected.

Naturalist John Muir once wrote, “When you tug at a single thing in the universe, you find it’s attached to everything else.”

It is not so much that the circumstances will change,
as much as God changes my heart and my vision
and replaces what is overwhelming
                                   with trust in Him.

 Pray first
         and follow Him into it.

…it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until  I went into the sanctuary of God.
                             Psalm 73. 16-17

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