GROW. Growing in our Relationship with God. Week 2- 8/10 - Pastor April's Sermon

I have two pictures that I’ve brought with me today to help with today’s message. The first picture is of my 4-year old son Marcus. CSC_0123

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I knew I wanted to have children in my life but in my 20s, early in my marriage – I was in no hurry.

I was surprised how strong that maternal urge hit around the time I was 30. And so we started on that journey of preparing for a family. And then we waited. And we waited and we waited. I’m not sure why I thought it would happen so quickly, but as 3, 4, 6, 9 months passed by – I wondered if something was wrong. As the months continued to pass by – it seemed that everyone around me was expecting a child. My friends seemed to have such an ease getting pregnant. And the months went by – and I was still waiting.

 

When I would voice my frustration and monthly disappointment to others – I would often get the same answer – “It will happen – all in God’s timing.”

 

But I wasn’t so sure. What if it NEVER happened? Many, many people are unable to have children. As a person of faith, how would I respond to God if this were the case for me?

 

And the comment about God’s timing was even less comforting – I mean –

I’ve read Scripture – Abraham and Sarah waited for their child for 25 years!

So God’s timing – was no comfort at all to me.

 

After about a year of waiting, I knew something in my spirit needed to change. I was praying – a lot – that God would give me a child.

And since what I wanted wasn’t coming - I was finding myself growing bitter and angry. Easily frustrated and frequently irritable.

 

This waiting was MUCH MUCH harder than I had anticipated. And the fact that I couldn’t control ANY aspect of it – that I simply had to wait and trust – was something I wasn’t very prepared for.

 

I was re-reading my journals from that season of life this week – and I could see the moment when my prayers began to shift.

Shift from being prayers for God to give me what I wanted – to prayers for the grace and wisdom I would need to be faithful and open no matter what.

 

It was on Easter of that year – an Easter that I had struggled with the emotions I was feeling.. And this is what I wrote on that Spring morning –

 

“I sit at the empty tomb and weep, because I don’t know what else to do. The only thing I know is that you are alive. You are somehow in the world, somehow present in ways that I can sense but never explain, you are somehow pouring grace on all of us – even on those of us who are supposed to be the ones leading the way. And somehow – all of these things I am powerless to change.

Instead – I am invited to walk into this mystery with no real promise of anything other than love, grace, forgiveness and the presence of the living God. (As if these are small things!) I want it to make sense – for everything to fit together and for God to be what I want God to be.

So, thanks Lord for the invitation. I want to say yes. Show me how to open up. Help me to let go of my fears.”

 

Last week, I began talking about how we grow in our relationship with God –

How the heart of prayer – is less about changing everything around us – and more about changing each of us.

 

Part of what I experienced in that moment and in the moments after that – when I really began to speak to God about what was happening in me. And what I knew God was inviting me toward.

 

Nothing changed in my external life. I did not become pregnant. Not for quite a while after that.

 

But my heart felt at peace. And I started the slow process of healing and

Slowly – I began to learn how to walk in the dark – toward the place of uncertainty and to listen to God.

 

It was during that season of waiting –

that

Slowly – I began to realize that what I needed most – was God’s grace to walk ahead.

 

Though it felt long at the time - In hindsight, the season wasn’t that long –

And I am thankful for what God taught me during that time…

 

Our psalmist today finds themselves in a place of waiting.

In a place of darkness – in a place of uncertainty.

 

Out of the depths I cry to you.

The psalmist is seeking forgiveness.

And the psalmist is WAITING – and WAITING and WAITING for God to move and work in their life.

The waiting is an active waiting – they wait for God MORE than those who watch for the morning.

It is with expectancy – God –hear my voice!

 

When we read this passage together in our Tuesday evening bible study – we talked at length about the ways that we struggle with waiting.

 

We are an impatient people.

There are few things harder than waiting – especially – if there is NOTHING we can do in the meantime to speed the process up. Especially if there is nothing we can do but trust and wait.

 

We much prefer to take things into our own hands. It’s part of the reason we have trouble turning off our cell phones and email – we want the answer we want now. We don’t want to wait. I’m struck by how utterly irritated I can be in a matter of minutes – when I have to wait just a little longer than I expected.

 

So it shouldn’t surprise us that we struggle – when we are waiting on our child to heal and grow, or when we are waiting to find work, or while we are waiting to hear back about whether we’ve been accepted to grad school, or while we are waiting for this depression to loosen its grip on our spirits and our psyche.

 

It’s out of our hands – and we struggle to know how to walk forward.

 

The psalmist has some words of wisdom for us. Out of the depths she cries – she waits for God. And the psalmist knows – the power for things to be different is NOT with her - only God is the one who can bring her out of this place. For God alone – can bring forgiveness, love and power. God will redeem the situation and bring life and light. And so the psalmist makes a very intentional choice.  To put her focus and her energy and her hope, not on herself, but on God.

 

My second picture that I brought today is of my dog Peaches. She is 14. And after 7 years of health issues, which involved losing one of her eyes, going completely deaf, and having spotty vision… about 10 days ago – she went completely blind.

photo

Peaches and I have spent a lot of time together these last 10 days as we’ve tried to help her re-learn how to maneuver her way through the house. Even though she’s made the trip downstairs to her dog bowl hundreds of times, doing it without vision is different.

 

For the first few days she stayed very still.

 

And she waited with trust on us. To show her where she needed to go.

 

And after about a week of showing her the way – and guiding her on a short walk each morning and night.

 

She started to figure out how to walk on her own – how to find the stairs with her nose – and even one night this week – how to get up in the night for a drink of water and return to the bed safely.

 

And as I’ve watched her maneuver her new world with peace and patience – I’ve thought about how much I have to learn from this sweet animal.

 

In the moments when the room has gone dark and I can’t hear.

What does it look like to wait – with trust?

To remain still and wait for the one that will show me the way and teach me anew how to walk in the dark.

 

I want to close with a poem and a prayer – a kind of psalm written by a deeply spiritual and faithful man – Thomas Merton – a Trappist monk who lived in the 50s and 60s down at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky –

 

Merton seemed to understand the importance of seasons of stillness and waiting – and how they can shape us into the people God is inviting us to be. Possibly in ways that no other seasons really could.

And I want to leave you with this prayer – as you continue to seek to grow in your own relationship with God – may it be helpful to you in the seasons of waiting – as you seek continually to allow God to make changes in your own spirit – and help you learn to walk with trust in the seasons of darkness.

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”