Thursday, January 19, 2023

Life Better Than We Hope- Genesis 24/25

Genesis 24:1 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. 

(14)  "By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

[15] Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. 

[21] The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the LORD had prospered his journey or not.

 [26] The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD [27] and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. 

 [31] He said, “Come in, O blessed of the LORD. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”

[34] So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. [35] The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. [36] And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. 

[52] When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the earth before the LORD. 

Genesis 25:[7] These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. [8] Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. (ESV)

I have pulled just a few selected verses from these chapters with a goal of putting a lifetime in perspective. Our journey on earth is very common. Births, marriages, daily employments, projects, and of course death.

The challenge is to worship and see the blessings God bestows on us.

Do we really understand "Blessing"?

In 2004, after some prayer and discussion we decided to move our young family from Birmingham to Nashville. We were there for seven seasons and we all have some amazing friends and memories from our time there.

But it was also much harder than we anticipated. The cost of living was about double from where were had been, and it wasn't long before we burned through about 4 years of savings. It just was tough in a number of areas.

After about 2 years, Lisa and I hit rock bottom about the same time.

She was driving one day in prayer and kind of had it out with the Lord. Did we accurately hear His call? Were our prayers a mistake? Where was the blessing?!

And quietly, the Lord impressed on her- "Open your eyes and see it". She still talks about that to this day. She had mistakingly thought of blessings as tangible or material. She now saw it to be the relationships and bonds we had made as a family. Instead of looking at life in terms of what we didn't have.... she started seeing all that we DID have. And the list is too long to count!

My meltdown happened in a very similar way.

I remember waking up on a cold morning and the darkness was nothing compared to the inner depression that pushed deep down in the cracks of my heart.

Most of my professional life has been involved with coaching and part of the darkness was still feeling the pain of an early end of the football season. It has always intrigued me how symbolic football is -  a snapshot of real life. The summer freshness, the youthful expectations, the time change - the season change - all pointing to a narrative of life to death.

But this was deeper and darker- On Tuesday Nov 1, 2005 I posted a blog called "Hurt"- and later on Nov 11, I posted these words in a blog called "Laboring in Vain":

I confess to You O Lord that I am powerless to do even 1 good thing. I cannot change a heart, I cannot build a family or a program- I desperately need You.

I am under some questioning now and results are not seen- Father- You must protect me, I cannot protect myself. I have stepped out and made decisions- these are mine and represent me.

In my deepest heart of hearts, I know I am doing right- I am willing to stand firm- but Lord- only You can change the hearts of parents and students in our school. I want to be Your man to stand for right- even if the whole world fights against me- If You are on my side- I will win.

It is dark- a winter of discontent- Lord I need the sunshine of Your smile- Only You can grant victory!
Sometime after that I was up and dressed for work- hurting, sad, lonely, doubting..... I got in my old Mercedes station wagon and drove in fog and darkness to work.

On the way to the school, I finally asked the darkest question out loud- "Father, what are you doing? I have moved my whole family and working as hard as a human can- but it seems so fruitless right now. I need help- I need to see you- I NEED to see you THIS MORNING"

The fog was thick- my radio was broken- it was bone chilling cold- the sun had just come up but was hidden in gray- I was in a crisis of faith.

I pulled around the front of our school and turned down to the football field house. I pulled up just in front of the garage entrance to our weight room. Turned off the key.. and.... I saw God.

We had a black chain link fence that went around the football stadium. And inside each of the cells of the chain link were hundreds of little spider webs. The fog had condensed in such a way that the invisible became visible.

I got out of the car and stared deeply into one of the webs. It was a perfect design. As was the next one... and the next one. These had been there for a long time- but the gray background and the dew covered silk threads were brilliantly outlined in complex, strong, and mosaic designs. There were several hundred small, beautiful little spider webs in each part of the chain link fence!

Then- a deep voice, unspoken, warmed a deep core in my being.

"I am here"

"I am always here- just as the webs have been here for weeks and weeks- you just don't see ME sometimes- but you need to walk by faith and not by sight."

It is one of the more palpable experiences with God I have ever had. I still remember the intensity of it 17 years later.

Looking back to those days are now special to me. I see all of the good ways God was with me. Indeed, He blessed us in ALL THINGS!

I imagine Abraham must have wondered about his encounters with God every 25 years or so in his life. Yes, God was vividly powerful at times.... but there were also just long decades of normal life when God seemed to be silent and absent.

But in the end, when it comes to the end of our days... we have to learn to see 'blessing' as God defines it.

Lord, let us SEE IT!

Genesis has been a blessing so far this year.

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