Rare have been the quiet, slow Sunday mornings when I have had a chance to sit, relax, read, listen, pray…all before leaving for church as a family. As a pastor for the past five years, I’ve been the first to wake, the first to shower, the first out the door…usually all before the rest of the family is even out of bed. Now, for a time, I have the luxury of the slow and relaxed Sunday morning—something of a Sabbath, even. It is a mixed blessing, for the reason I can move slowly these days is because I am between pastoral ministries. One has concluded, the next is yet to be located. And the Between is uncomfortable on the whole. It is a time of wondering and wandering, a time of searching and not (yet) finding, a time of waiting and questioning.
The Between is a time of trusting, and if you have ever trusted someone, then you know the dichotomy of trust: it can offer both comfort and discomfort. We look for answers, for signs, for Presence. Too often, we find none of these. And yet we are called, still, to trust.
On this Sabbath day of listening, God spoke. First, through the opening minutes of a message from Psalm 73 and, of course, through the psalmist. “Truly God is good…. But as for me….” How often have I lived that reality of knowing (in my head) the goodness of God, but not feeling or experiencing or realizing—or trusting—his goodness? The psalmist (an ancient worship leader) confesses his envy of the wicked and their prosperity; he complains of their ease and folly…their arrogance. It is too much for him to understand on his own…until he goes “into the sanctuary of God.” And there he finds answers. Not, perhaps, answers to the questions of why evil men prevail or why bad things happen to good people (like worship leaders); but answers to the bigger question: “Will it always be this way? Will evil win in the end?”
And so, in my own wondering (“Will I ever find a pastoral role? Will God ever give us our dreams?”), I load up the family in the car and go “into the sanctuary of God.” (That, by the way, is Hebrew for, “we went to church.”) And there, in the presence of God and his people, he spoke again. This time, though, it was not through the sermon from Nehemiah 3, but through a song I’ve heard dozens of times over the past few years:
Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior1
As I listened to the words of this song, I began to realize the depth of what it asks. And I began to be afraid. Not the “I’m about to get mugged” sort of fear but the awesome God sort of fear. The song should scare us. It is a big, awesome, prayer that—if God really answers—will take us to places we can’t even imagine; places of fear, danger, threat; places where we are totally out of control, relying on a God we can’t see, can’t touch, and too often can’t hear. It is a prayer that demands trust…declares trust, whether we feel it or not.
And that is the life to which I am called; to which we all are called, if we want to follow this Jesus. it is a life of dichotomy: of trusting when we don’t feel trusting, of listening when all we hear is silence, of giving up control to one whose only appearance may be in clouds and fire. It is a life, at times, of walking on water; and at other times, in the middle of a storm-tossed sea, it is not waking the one who can calm the sea, but laying down next to him and sleeping.
For whether the wicked are prospering or the ocean is churning or the bills are piling, the Sabbath of trust and understanding is found in the mere presence the Savior.
1 “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”, by Joel Houston, Matt Crocker, and Salomon Ligthelm. © 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)