(Photo from Rocky Mountain National Park, hike to Something [Bear?...Long?...Pretty?..Whatchamacallit?] Lake)
I have been reading Romans for the past few weeks, and it has been wonderful. Romans is such an amazing part of the Bible. I can't believe I've never read the whole thing before. It's not just encouraging (which it is very much), but it's also challenging. It's telling just how things are. It basically says "This is how it is. Take it or leave it, but you'll never be the same now that you know the truth." I've been reading a chapter from NIV and then the same chapter in The Message. The language of the message really does help me to understand more and relate the Word to my life. Here's chapter 9:30-33:
All those people who didn't seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened our their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their "God projects" that they didn't notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together: Careful! I've put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can't get around. But the stone is me! If you're looking for me, you'll find me on the way, not in the way.
I've heard this passage before, but I never realized the stone is Jesus! Whoa, how true is that? It really shows how much God desires relationship with us. He's trying to make it so plain. He's standing in the middle of our path, like a massive stone. He's basically telling us it's easier to see him and choose him, than to muddle some strange path around him, avoiding him, rejecting his knock on our hearts. And I have still gone around the stone! It seemed easier somehow. What in the world is that? The gentiles saw the stone and embraced it! Jesus, I pray for a pure heart, an untainted, unhardened heart that can see the stone for what it is, and embrace it for its truth, Your Truth, with joy.
(This is me "embracing the stone" on a hike by Palmer Lake, Colorado. I was actually not so much embracing the stone as trying to climb on top of it!...no luck there, but Beth and I got this great, classy photo to remember it by.)
After I read Romans 9 this morning, God put this image in my head. It happened so quickly and naturally that it's hard to put words to. The image was basically me meandering around the stone these last several years. Sure, there have been other ways I've embraced the stone. Nonetheless, in terms of career/job/what-to-do-stuff, I have muddled my way through mostly.
This is how it began. Yesterday a friend and colleague mentioned to me that she was thinking about becoming a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer, and she thought I might really be into it as well. I have thought about joining CASA before, ever since babysitting for a woman in CO who volunteered for them. I also happen to know the director of this program in WF. Anyway (I guess making this a short story is out of the question now), I thought about it (Bible in hand) and decided it wasn't quite the "specialty" I want to pursue. I want something that includes the environment and education. Wow, I thought to myself, you just made a decision! Not a I'm-choosing-this-decision necessarily, but a narrowing-down decision. Just as good.
And here's where the imagery started. God reminded me of a time seven (wow, I'm getting old) years ago when I had "narrowed-down" my career interests to environmental education. This was before I changed my major, mind you. At the time I thought that was too narrow; there was no way I was going to find a job that narrow moving around with Matt (which I was pretty sure was going to happen). So I switched to Human Development and Family Studies and a career "idea" so broad surely no one would hire me for that either! I look back at that "narrowing-down" and hear God saying he was a part of that. That was good, that was Him. I was too young a Christian to recognize that, for sure. I went on MY way trying things that seemed good and interesting and safe, careful not to step into a potential failure. What I got was a fraction of the picture, a fraction of the joy set out for me. And here I am again looking at this huge stone in the path.
Is the stone on my way or in my way? I pray, Dear Father, that my thoughts, words, and actions will come from a heart that knows you are always ON my way, never in my way. I pray I can recognize you, your voice, your truth, and embrace You with my whole heart.
When we go around the stone, are we just "getting through" something, getting past it, getting it over with? The imagery would suggest that embracing the stone equates to rising above that get-it-done-mentality. What do you think about that? What if the path is not so much through, ahead, or onward, but up?