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Lessons from the Wasteland: Living by the Promise

Published March 26, 2013 by joypatton

“Are we going to live by what he promised or by what life gives us?”  This was the question Lloyd Shadrach posed in his sermon “He Breathed His Last.”  Right now I’m not crazy about what life is giving me and I’m finding it much easier to focus on that.  The last two years I have been writing a book, piloting a study, building a “platform,” and wholeheartedly pursuing the life of the writer/speaker I felt I was called and created to be.  I thought that would lead me to a place where I could get paid to do what I love.  But it hasn’t.  I thought I had laid the foundation beautifully and all God had to do was come in a bless it.  He hasn’t.  I have dug the ditches in anticipation of rain, but it has not rained.  I have set the sails, but the wind doesn’t blow.  So I sit in the wasteland knowing I have no ability to make it rain or make the wind blow.  I can’t make someone want to publish my book; I can’t make anyone pick up the phone and call me to speak.  So I wait in the middle of nowhere, in the wasteland, in the wilderness…at least that how it feels to me.

In the wasteland, there is death.  For me, it’s watching my dream career die, and I mean completely die.  Other times it’s the death of other dreams…dreams of marriage, dreams of having children, dreams of financial stability.  Or maybe it’s a literal death of a person or a death of a relationship.  In Luke 23, it was the death of the Son of God.  The one who represented hope to a nation.  Many watched their dream of peace and power die as Jesus hung on the cross.

Lloyd offered two “comforting” lessons from this place of mourning.  1.) God is present in our darkest moments and 2.) God doesn’t prevent the darkest moments.  Both true, yet both not exactly what I was hoping for.  In our modern Christianity, we want the doctrine that allows us to work hard enough to avoid the house of mourning all together.  We want the version where there are no more tears, and we try to make it so here on earth.  In the church, we don’t know what to do with people in mourning.  We offer trite sayings and try to see how God is going to work it all out for good.  But the truth is first there is death, painful, excruciating death.

Lloyd also said, “The essence of real hope is to lose hope in everything but Jesus and his promises.”  In his infinite mercy, God was weaning the disciples and true followers of Jesus from their false hopes of earthly peace and power.  When he died on the cross, every selfish reason they had for following Jesus had to die as well.  This is what he is doing for me.  I have lost hope in agents and publishers to help me fulfill my dream.  I’ve lost hope that building a platform will make the dream come true.  I’ve lost hope in my own ability and some days wonder if I was a fool to think I could be a writer/speaker.  And truthfully there have been very dark days when I have lost hope even in Jesus, wondering if he cared or if he loved me.

I stood in church at the end of the service praying and asking God what his promise was for me.  Often I have reminded women that the promise is his presence, that he would be with me through it all.  But last Sunday, that promise was not enough.  And then he brought to mind a different promise, one that I’m honestly afraid to share because I don’t even know if it counts as a promise.  It was I Peter 5:6 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”  This one was enough; this one made me cry.

So I will hope for a resurrection.  A resurrection that will not come on my time table or in the way I think I should.  It will be a resurrection that comes exactly when God intends for it to come.  In John 11 when Lazarus died, Mary and Martha believed that Jesus had the ability to raise Lazarus from the dead, and they knew Jesus loved him.  When Martha ran out to meet Jesus, she says she believes that Lazarus will be resurrected, if not now then at the end.  Even in their own personal wasteland, they continued to hope for a resurrection.  I think Mary and Martha would have preferred Jesus to come and heal Lazarus when he heard he was sick, but he didn’t because it wasn’t time yet.  Why did Jesus wait and not go to Bethany right away?  Why did he wait until Lazarus had died?  Why did he wait for him to be buried in the tomb for three days?  “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  (John 11:4)

What Jesus wanted more than anything was to glorify the Father.  Because at the proper time, the resurrection will happen and no one else can take credit for it.  No one can say “he wasn’t really dead.”  No one can say “we prayed so hard and had so much faith that God had to act.”  I won’t be able to say “I just worked really hard at it and followed steps X, Y, and Z and that’s how I became a writer/speaker.”  More than anything what I want as His Princess is for the King to be glorified.  I know the wasteland does not end in death, but in life.  I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but for now I place my hope firmly in Jesus and his promises.  That is the difference between false hope and real hope.

Free Advice Friday: I used to feel like a Princess, but now I don’t. How do I get back?

Published November 16, 2012 by joypatton

I had two conversations with women this week who talked about how their time with the Lord has changed drastically.  Because of family, jobs and simply stage of life, things have changed.  In the past, they used to be able to have long quiet times with the Lord and lots of time to study the Word and attend Bible studies.  But now they don’t have that time, and as a result, they don’t feel as close to God as they once did.

Sometimes we forget that our relationship with God is a relationship.  It changes; it ebbs and flows.  Sometimes we feel close and sometimes we don’t.  One of the women had been married over 20 years.  I asked her if her relationship with her husband was exactly the same as it was when they were dating.  Did they spend as much time together now as they did when it was just the two of them and no kids? Well, no.  Did it make you any less married?  No.  Does it mean you love each other any less?  In fact, she told me that she loved him even more than when they were first married.  Life doesn’t stay the same, and our relationships change.

While God never changes, my season of life and the way I relate to him does.  I have heard from the college student who gets a career that by the time she gets home from work, she doesn’t have the energy for Bible study.  I’ve heard from the new mom that getting up early like she used to seems impossible when she doesn’t get that much sleep to begin with.  I’ve heard from the mom of elementary students that when her kids become teens, they need her even more, and she doesn’t have the time to herself that she once did.

We seem to think that our relationship with God is based on a specific formula of Bible study and prayer, a certain amount of time, or a certain time of day or a specific method that fits our personalities.  While it’s nice to find a groove, it’s also good to get out of a rut.

In those seasons where quiet time is not easy to find, God has sweet reminders for me.  He reminds me that he still loves me whether my quiet time is hours of Bible study or a quick prayer.  His desire to know me and be known by me is still there.  His grace is there to cover the days when time eludes me.  He is always standing at the door with open arms to welcome me home.  I’m reminded that faith is not about all the things I do like reading my Bible and praying and going to church.  Faith is simply opening my eyes to see him in my life.  It’s opening my ears to hear his voice in whatever moment I’m in.

When my seasons changed, it was good for me to put down my colored pencils, put away my concordance and learn to meditate on His Word.  When I walked and memorized my “pet” Psalms, I learned to hear his voice.  I learned to listen with my heart instead of filtering everything with logic and academic explorations.  I realized I trusted my systems to make me feel like a Princess more than trusting His Word.  Instead I had to trust that he could still speak to me even without my rules and routines.

The truth is that nothing has changed in your identity with Christ, just the way you feel.  If you wake up one day and don’t “feel” married or in love, it doesn’t mean you’re not married any more.  You didn’t become a Princess because you woke up and “felt” like a Princess.  You are God’s Princess because he loved you and picked you to be His beloved daughter.  Your adoption wasn’t based on what you did or didn’t do, it was based on what you believed.  This is the Truth.  This is grace: you didn’t deserve to become a Princess, so you can’t do anything to “undeserve” it either.

So how do you get back?  Open your eyes and believe that you are still His Princess, even on the days you feel like an ugly stepsister.  Let the mechanics of the relationship change so that it can go even deeper.  Beware that it may not fit all the rules and guidelines you have made for yourself over the years.  He knows where you are, and he’s not standing at the door tapping his toe and looking at his watch.  He just wants your heart, whatever and whenever you have time to give.  He stands at the porch looking into the night, hoping to see you come down the lane.  And when you do, he runs toward you and embraces you like his beloved daughter.  Open your eyes and turn toward Him.  He is there for His Princess.


Published January 23, 2012 by joypatton

A poem by Joy Patton

I am a tinkerbell.
Come to me, I’ll make you well.
I have the solution, you will see.
Just follow steps one, two and three.
I will tinker with your heart
And give it back in parts.
I am a tinkerbell.

I am a worry wart
Anxious about things that aren’t.
I fret and worry all night long
Afraid that it will all go wrong.
I will worry for your little heart
And quietly take it all apart.
I am a worry wart.

I’d rather be a carry-well
With no goods to sell.
The only thing I know to do
Is carry you to One who’s True.
He will heal your soul,
Only He can make you whole.
I’d rather be the carry-well.

(If you don’t like it when Christians explain their art, you can stop reading.  If you don’t mind it, feel free to continue.)

Are you a tinker bell? I have discovered that I like to tinker with people and situations.  I spend a lot of time analyzing people and situations and trying to make them better.  It’s part of how I escape the reality of my own brokenness.  It’s part of what allows me to sit in a seat of self-righteous pride oblivious to my own problems.  Either way the art of tinkering stems from unbelief.  I don’t believe that God is big enough or powerful enough to act in the situation.  Therefore I must step in and save the day.  This is how the Ice Queen thinks.  She tinkers so that she can fix, and ultimately control, the people around her.  She operates under the belief that she knows what is best and has the solution to the problem.  I am ashamed to admit that I have a trail of relationships that I have messed up with my tinkering attitude.

Are you a worry wart?  I have found that when my tinkering can’t fix a situation, I resort to worrying instead.  I spend much time worrying and planning for “what would happen if…”  Worry keeps me trapped in fear and despair, unable to move or make a decision.  I don’t believe there is a God who sees or knows or cares about me in my hopeless situation.  Surely he has bigger problems to solve than mine.  This is how the Orphan thinks.  She worries because she feels powerless to do anything else.  She doesn’t believe she has a Father who will take care of her and the people around her.  I’m ashamed to admit that I worry far too often about far too much.  Even now I am stuck, unable to move, lacking hope.

Are you a carry-well? I have found that whether I tinker or worry, prayer is the answer.  By its very nature, prayer requires that I admit that there is Someone bigger and more powerful than me who can handle the situation.  I’m forced to admit that I don’t have the answer to the problem, and as I pray, my heart begins to trust the One who does.  When my Ice Queen and Orphan patterns start to get the best of me, I must remember that I am a Princess with access to the great King Father.  Like the friends of the paralytic in Mark 2, the Princess carries the people and situations around her to the King Father, believing that he has the solution.  So rather than tinker or worry, I must carry it all to Jesus.  I must choose to believe that God sees, that He cares and that He loves.  I must believe that he is powerful enough to overcome any obstacle.  I will carry it all to him and lay it at his feet over and over again even when my head says to run the other way, my feet must go.  I choose to believe.

So are you a tinkerbell, a worry wart or a carry-well?  What will you carry into the throne room today?

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