Encounter-to come upon face to face; to come upon or experience, especially unexpectedly. (Source: Merriam-webster.com)
“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”
Have you ever found yourself looking at your own life in shock? That was me in 2017. A memory from a day in March sums it up pretty well. While preparing for the arrival of our new (very unexpected) baby boy, I stood in the Diaper Genie aisle at Target, trying to decide if I’d invest in one this time around, later googling “tummy time” for a refresher on mothering a six month old baby. While at Target, my daughter, Grace, and our foster daughter at the time (also a senior) Face-Timed me from a dressing room across town, asking me for my thoughts on dresses for Senior Prom. That same evening, I found myself online, making a deposit for Grace’s college dorm. Throw in a the 4th Grade California Mission Project that had ruled our lives all week and you pretty much get a picture of what life looked like for me in 2017…mothering four different children in profoundly different seasons of their lives while transitioning out of a job where I’d found most of my own personal value and identity. It was slightly challenging.
This was a year of transition, and the word God gave me to shape the year, “enough,” was a way the Spirit gently reminded me of His presence throughout the chraos (that’s what I’m calling it). I was reminded again and again, through that word, that He would give me just what I needed, moment by moment, to live into the calling He has on my life.
So I’ve been talking with Jesus about what a word for 2018 might be…one that will shape the way I view life, a lens from which to perceive my little world.
This year I desire to encounter Jesus in places I might be unlikely to notice Him. One of the things that struck me again as I soaked in Advent throughout the month of December, was remembering how Jesus comes in such unexpected ways. He rarely comes in the time or in the manner in which we think He will. And this is how He came to me in 2017, through unexpected whispers and invitations, through a little boy I never thought I’d actually have!
I often encounter Jesus through the Bible, as the Spirit illuminates a new insight on something I’ve read countless times, or as I discover a phrase or concept I have never even noticed before and experience inspiration or hope or comfort or conviction.
I encounter God in nature as I see the beauty that immediately makes my soul take flight, soaring with worship as His creation seems to be filled with expressions of His love, His goodness, His peace, His wild, His power.
I encounter Him through the words of my favorite preacher, Jonathan Martin, as he prophetically challenges me by the power of the Spirit’s anointing on his words.
I encounter God in the transcendent moments with my children, when He seems closer than ever through these miracles He’s entrusted to me.
I encounter God through reading the insights of fellow travelers on life’s journey, and experience the presence of God often while reading books or blogs.
I encounter God through the encouraging words of my husband, my soul-friends, and my beloved mother and father.
And I want more of that…more of these delightful encounters with my Delight-Filled God.
This year, I believe the Spirit is inviting me to encounter Him more deeply through the hard things. We know that some of our deepest time of connection with God can be in our most difficult seasons of life, but often it’s after the circumstances are OVER and we can see what God DID…how He delivered us or how he was with us through it all and redeemed it for our good and His glory.
But what about encountering God in the places that are still hard and may be hard for a lifetime?
This does not come naturally for me. But…what about becoming aware of God’s presence in the daily disappointments, the mundane magic-less moments of life that aren’t what we’d hoped for or expected…Can we encounter God there too?
Life the definition above, encountering God here, would be quite surprising .
I read a book called Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown in December, and God used it to shift my thinking. I was struck by these words: “Remember…the things that annoy, irritate and disappoint us have just as much power to reveal the truth about ourselves as anything else. Learn to linger with what provokes you. You may just find the Spirit of God moving there…” (emphasis mine)
I have found that my goal has always been to move as quickly through the hard things as possible…the idea of “lingering there” has not been one of my strategies for spiritual development. I mean, I will “go there” and look at it, but my goal is always to move through it as quickly as possible to get to the good stuff.
But I wonder if I might have been missing some of the best stuff that God has to offer! What might God have for me in these hard places that include frustration, disappointment, unmet expectations?
“Don’t worry about trying to rid yourself of you fears. Instead, let your fears do the hard work of revealing deep truths about yourself. Our fears can be windows into the raw and unvarnished truth of our lives. We don’t cling to them or feed them, but we do listen prayerfully to what they teach us. We ask God what the fear is revealing about who we are and what we lack. We bring our fears in the light of God’s healing love, offering them up to God as an expression of our weakness and our need for him. Even our fears become opportunities for encountering Jesus, if we let them draw us close the Lord.” Sensible Shoes, Sharon Garlough Brown.
This quote struck me with a sense of powerful freedom. I was also drawn to replace the word ‘fear’ with other challenges or difficult emotions.
Even our disappointments become opportunities for encountering Jesus.
Even our frustrations become opportunities for encountering Jesus.
Even our toughest relationships become opportunities for encountering Jesus.
Even our broken dreams become opportunities for encountering Jesus.
How would you fill in that blank?
My life is overflowing with good gifts from God. Sometimes it takes my breath away. Other times I am completely overwhelmed. In every season, every change…in every good gift, every unmet expectation…in every life-giving relationship and in every disappointing one (most are a combination of both!)---my desire is to encounter Jesus.
Like Moses, I want to see Him, speak with Him, face to face, through it all.
Happy New Year
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