“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” –James, brother of Jesus
I’m leaving for work today as usual, but there’s a mental cloud over me. The cloud is thick, like a late fall fog when the frost from the evening is evaporating into a warming sky and you can’t see beyond your headlights. It’s mental claustrophobia. I’m not even thinking about what I’m doing, this route to work is so second nature. Get in, drive, get out. Same route, day after day. My thoughts stumbling around, reaching for the wall for some orientation.
I have this hiding place I’ve been running to when things get difficult for me. I’ve been running to it in various ways for years. It’s a very lonely place because Jesus doesn’t like to go there with me. He offers to go somewhere else each time, but I tell him that’s fine for him, but I want my spot. I feel good there. He knows that when I come back, I’ll need to talk with him and I’ll feel worse than when I left, so he pleads with me, but I usually ignore him.
For several weeks now, I’ve been ignoring my hiding place and following Jesus to his spot. It’s taken incredible strength and unrelenting faith to follow him. I feel worn out, stretched thin, “like… butter scraped over too much bread.” With each step, my hiding place looks more undesirable and yet more seductive. If it was a person with a phone, my minutes would be eaten up just with the voice mails and text messages sent to me. “Just one last time! Please?! I miss you! We used to have so much fun!! Remember how I used to make all your problems fade away when you were in my arms?! You can have that again!” I’ve turned off the phone and thrown it in a river in another state in another country that I never visit. Occasionally, I pass a phone shop… but I’m walking with friends who remind me how destructive my hiding place really is.
Either I never noticed how often I went there, or that hiding place is calling ever more strongly in so many other ways. I’ve gone through some things recently that have daily tested my decision, day after day, week after week, but the barrage this week has been stronger than ever. Daily I remind myself that Jesus is better. The way of Abba is more desirable and I claw my way forward through a tube too small for my body, littered with broken glass. Opposed on all sides.
Jesus seems very determined to not let me slip. Disciplining me each time I go somewhere he is not. Letting me experience the full pain of being where he is not, revealing the truth of being in darkness. He relentlessly brings me to places and situations where I have gone to my hiding place and He asks me to stay with him. It’s the most difficult fire I have experienced and it takes every wisp of faith to believe Jesus will not abandon me. Seems that this week, he turned the knob of pain to 11.
I will choose to remain in the fire, that I might become like gold. God help me. I walk in the shelter of your strength. Stay your hand, Abba. Keep my enemies occupied and prevent my darkness from overwhelming me. Let me see your faithfulness this week with my eyes. Refresh me, Abba!