Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yea, though I walk through the valley...

Looking back over the past year plus, as many often do with the not-too-distant roll of the calendar, I see behind a deep and darkened valley.  I am on the slope coming out of that valley and though I am far from the pinnacle of where I desire to be I am thankful to no longer be present in the deep shade that is behind.  Over the terrain behind lies a fog, a vapour that light does not easily penetrate.  In fact, most often if one does not carry their own light with them into that night, they will find themselves blinded by the pitch, feeling lost, alone, disoriented.

Buried in that vapour are memories, regrets, even nightmares.  Sickness is there, hurt, lack, struggle.  Faith was crippled in that grove, demonic voices won out against heart knowledge of the One who never forsakes us.  Deep betrayals lunged forth from those thickets.  Paths were chosen that led to ruin, even when the foreknowledge of their destination was perceived.  Transformations occurred.  I watched as the realities of what I desired to become in this life as husband, father, son, and even faithful steward were transformed until I was often someone I did not recognize.  And in that state I would gaze upon the aftermath of my actions, of words spoken, of hurting hearts nearest to mine, of lost opportunities, of another mark missed.

But something else was present there.  A faithfulness of presence that was never further than a breath on my neck.

"I am here - I am with you". 

Inwardly I struggled in vain for strength to endure, to rise up out of this vale as if I could will myself to fly above the canopy.

"Rest in my strength - in yours you will not prevail, but I already have". 

With feeble effort I tried to push forward through weed choked paths, using intellect, will, and sheer determination.

"Don't rely on your understanding, trust in me with your whole being - I will clear the path and make a way."

Often I would collapse in exhaustion and tears, despairing at my own inadequacies and my failure to be the husband my wife deserved, the father my children needed, the man I knew I was called to be.  Sitting in that darkness I would hear:

"My Word is the light source for your feet, it will illuminate the path I have set before you."

Despairing that too much time had been wasted, that years had passed with little to show for it, I heard:

"I know the plans I still have for you and you cannot yet see how I long to prosper you, to lavish my goodness upon you and your household."

I tried to argue that I had made too many wrong decisions, that I, somehow, had forced a change in course for the Omnipotent One.

"I created good things and good works eons before you existed just for you to walk in during the wisp of vapor that is your life on this earth."

"But I've disappointed You!" I cried.  "I've disappointed myself!"

"You cannot disappoint me - to disappoint is to act in an unexpected manner and you cannot surprise me. I know you better than you know yourself.  Before you were formed I knew you intimately."

Why is it so easy to listen to the inspiring and moving words of others as to how God pulled them out of the treachery and mire of willful sin and rejection to a place that was so perfectly in His will and plan for them - and yet so hard to accept that this same God would desire to do likewise for us?  Why do we readily accept His grace toward others but furiously argue against our right to receive that same grace?  Doesn't his Word say He died "once, for all"? 

And yet it is not until we finally relax our grip on our own will, that we loosen our hold on our rights and our attitudes and simply seek out his love, simply begin to draw from the strength that is His Word - it is then that the fog clears a little.  Where you didn't see it before, a manicured path lays at your feet, possibly in a completely different direction than you were facing.  We see where we missed the mark - the very literal definition of the word "sin" and repentance is easy as it was meant to be.  Easy, not meaningless.  Not an invitation to repeat actions with deadly consequences, but an about-face in a different direction that leads to life.

The last year has been dark and difficult.  Trials and heartache, both external in source and internal, have assailed.  Some were met properly with the Word and faith and growth resulted.  Many were not and the dangerous precipice of bitterness has ever been present.  Through it all, I can honestly thank Him.  I can thank Him for the growth and depth that did occur.  I can thank Him for the pitfalls and snares avoided when I did seek Him.  I can thank Him for a better knowledge of myself, my strengths and weaknesses; a knowledge He had all along.  But most importantly, I can thank Him because He was always right next to me.  He was true to His promise to never leave or forsake me. 

We would all love to leap from mountain top to mountain top, but we would lose out if this were permitted.  We are all enriched for the valleys.  I am a far different being than I was before entering that valley.  I am tempered, strengthened, and better forged than before - a better tool in His hands.  There will be other valleys in my life - this is promised.  But what is also promised is when I am in those valleys, when darkness shrouds the mind and flesh rages against spirit for control, He is with me.  He will never be anywhere else.

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