Saturday, September 28, 2013

Markers of Time

Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.  He said to the sons of Israel, ‘When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, “What are these stones?” then you shall inform your children, saying, “Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground,” For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.’”  (Joshua 4:20-24)

Two years ago marked the 30-year reunion of the 1981 National Championship at Clemson.  I remember that time so vividly.  We were headed to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl for the National Title.  I remember how the reporters talked all week about “the powerhouse.” The University of Nebraska and their proven coach, Tom Osborne, were there to play Clemson.  Clemson who?  From where? 

Danny was a young coach, only 31 years old.   I was 30.  Our team, which was much smaller in size than the Nebraska team, had gone down two weeks earlier to become conditioned to the warmer weather.  It was still middle of winter in South Carolina.  At that time we had two little girls and a baby.  Trying to pack for those weather conditions was quite a chore.  Then having to deal with things that didn’t go right, such the kids’ suitcase with all their clothes (and some of mine) being lost.  I think I kept a headache that whole week.  But I kept telling Danny, “If we win, this will be worth it.” 

It happened.  We won!   Since we had also gone undefeated that season, we were voted National Champions.  One thing my husband could instill in a player was how to play with his heart.  He developed a player’s talent and work ethic to make a winning player.  He had his team’s respect and they gave ll0% of themselves to him.  Yet as wonderful a win as it was, with all the honors that go along with that kind of success, somehow, I couldn’t let myself really enjoy this blessing of God to us, or my husband’s gift to our family.  Something was wrong in my heart, and even the win couldn't fix it.

It was several years later, around 1989 when I met with a relative of my pastor.  (My pastor and his wife knew that I had been struggling and had been very supportive of our family.) I sat with this lady for about an hour, telling her how hard I had tried to be the best Christian, best wife, and best mother I could be.  But it wasn’t enough.  I still felt miserable.  She said, “Deborah, I think you have sin in your heart:  resentment, bitterness, and anger.  For what seemed like an eternity, I sat there looking at her.  I thought to myself, She hasn’t heard a word I have said.

After stewing for a while, the Spirit began to work in my heart.  I saw that this woman’s thinking about me was right.  There was resentment and bitterness and anger in my heart.  When I confessed my sin, I was cleansed.  I felt filled with love and joy.

This brought me into a new way of thinking about the gospel.  This was the beginning of me realizing that I need the gospel (repentance and faith) every day.  It wasn’t just for that one moment in time when I first became a Christian.  This was a major step in learning to enjoy love and intimacy with Jesus and the Father through the Spirit.  I was being set free.

First, God had been faithful to show me that the blessings of great success could not compensate for not having a right heart with Him.  But He was also faithful to identify the sin areas in my heart which needed my confession, and then give me the heart change of repentance and His forgiveness.  

Those are only two markers of time in which I recognize God’s faithfulness.  There are many more, but I will never forget what God did through these two markers in my life.  I have told these stories many times over the years.  Sometimes when I have been struggling again to believe. Sometimes when God has not seemed near and I was feeling depressed, in a dry and barren place.  Other times just in reminiscing with God, thanking Him for how He has used all things in my life for my good and His glory.  Many times during worship I remind myself of God’s past work in my life.  I reflect.  I remember.  And I tell these stories of “markers of time.”

God uses our stories of His faithfulness to increase and strengthen faith within us, and in others.  It reminds us of the hope we have in Him for the present and the future.  For me, I feel strengthened physically, and I feel my joy restored.  I can once again rest at His feet.  I return to His embrace.  I am surrounded in His love.  I return to walk in His presence in love by faith.  I begin again to remember the promises, and that they are for me.  It gives Him glory.  This is why I remember.  This is why I write.

The most important marker in time is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  That is the gospel.  He felt the pain and paid the price for our sins, guilt, and shame, so that we might have a personal relationship with Him, with the Father and with the Spirit.

Christ incarnated.  He lived the life I could not live, and then gave it to me in the gift of His righteousness.  He, God in person, can now sympathize with our sufferings and our temptations, because He knows what it is to be fully man.  Now I can come boldly to the throne of grace with confidence and love and affection for Him who delights in me, and who enjoys being with me.  He’s the one who loves me no matter how much I fail.  I can come to the Father who sees no sin when He sees me.  I can rest, mind, body, and soul, in His loving affection for me.  I can return to that unspeakable joy, and the peace that passes all understanding.  I enjoy eternity with Him, beginning now.

Thank You, God, that You are not some deity who is distant and far off, to be worshiped only on Sunday or Christmas or Easter.  Thank You that we can know You, Father, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit.  That You are a God who cares. One who has been brought near and who longs to be the lover of my soul.  That You desire to be first in my life, and for me to take confidence in Your love so that I exist in that love every moment of every day, and I can give it away. 

To Him who is worthy of all our worship and praise.