Thursday, November 17, 2011

Would I Have Turned Around?

Their bodies were covered.  Consumed with an infectious, oftentimes, incurable disease.  Skin so ravaged by leprosy, the mere sight caused anyone daring to come near to halt in their tracks.

Their hearts were broken.  Shattered by years of isolation, years of embarrassment, years of pain.  Lives spent shunned by their condition, desperate for someone, anyone, to come near.

Then He, the One they'd only heard rumors of, made His way to their village.  Closer and closer He drew near.  

Brimming with hope, the ten of them got up.  Up from their assigned places outside the village.  Though they kept their distance, they were compelled to meet Him.  

"Unclean!  Unclean!" should have been their proclamation.  But against all mandates, they called out to the only One who might not avoid them.  The only One who might see them.  Not for the label they'd been given, but for whom they might become.  Maybe, just maybe, He would help.

"Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

He spoke just one command:  "Go, show yourselves to the priests."

Their instructions:  Go to the one person who has authority to declare you clean, if you think you have been healed. (Leviticus 14)

The problem:  They still had leprosy.  But, He told them to go.  So they did.  Filled with an unfamiliar, yet rapidly increasing faith, they went. 

Could this possibly be the answer to a multitude of prayers they'd prayed before?  Could this be the day God would hear from heaven?

*(Insert miracle)*

On the way, they were cleansed.  Completely.  Totally.  Healed.  All ten of them.

Inexpressible joy must have erupted from their shattered hearts.  Shouts of excitement had to burst forth from their lips.  Relief must have laced their troubled minds. 

Did they truly understand what this would mean in their lives?  No longer ignored.  No longer avoided.  No longer alienated.  No longer alone. 

Only one of the ten turned around and came back to Jesus.  Filled with the loudest praise, he could not contain his overwhelming gratitude.  Kneeling at His feet, he thanked Him.  Thanked the One who saw him and healed him.

The Miracle Worker's reply: "Were not ten healed?  Where are the other nine?" (Luke 17:11-19)

I nod in agreement.  Where were those ungrateful lepers?  After all they'd suffered, and all they'd seen, why didn't they all run back shouting, leaping and dancing?

It doesn't make sense.  That is until I put myself in their shoes--er, sandals.

Certainly there have been times I've prayed, but not praised. 
Times I've asked, but made no effort to acknowledge. 
Times I've inquired, but failed to extol.

I've stepped out in faith, walked in obedience, but neglected to stop and take notice when He intervened on my behalf.  Forgive me, Lord.  I don't want to be like the nine lepers.

During this season of thankfulness, I'm asking for a renewed, revived heart.  A heart consumed with gratitude for He is and what He has done.  A heart which continually honors the One who gives me great reason to stop and turn around, time and time again.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Moving Forward

"I prefer to fall back, not spring forward." 

This was my Facebook status last spring on the eve of Daylight Savings Time.

At the time, it was exactly how I felt.  Not just about physically losing an hour or gaining an hour in my day.  But more about the condition of my heart and mind. 

Ten months ago, I wished to stay where I was in my life.  Falling back to what was familiar and comfortable made me feel safe and secure.  And like most people, I happen to enjoy safe and secure.

Instead, I sensed God was about to move.  He was about to lift the cloud above our family's encampment.  Just like with the Israelites, this would be the signal to move forward.  Following Him.  To a new destination.  (See Numbers 9:15-23)

At the beginning of this month, Daylight Savings Time came again.  Graciously, we accepted an extra hour of sleep as we turned the clocks back in time before retiring for bed.

But in this season in my life, I struggled with the thought of going backwards.  I found myself wishing to press on.  To continue making forward progress.  Not to put this object in motion to rest.

Watching Lion King last weekend, reminded me of a conversation between two of my favorite Disney characters, Pumba and Timon: 
Pumba: It's like my buddy Timon always says: You got to put your behind in your past.
: No, no, sit down before you hurt yourself. You gotta put your past *behind you*.

Either way, that's sound advice.  Even if it comes from an animated meerkat and warthog. :)

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul says it like this,

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Paul knew he was in a chase, not just a race.  He was constantly moving forward when it might have been easier to fall back. 

At church we often sing a song entitled, "Moving Forward" by Israel Houghton.  Here are some of the lyrics:
"Not going back, moving ahead 
Here to declare to You, my past is over in You.
All things are made new, Surrendered my life to Christ 
I'm moving, moving forward. 
You make all things new.  Yes, You make all things new.  And I will follow You forward."

Each day as I surrender my life to Christ, I want to be found faithful.  Faithful to heed the lessons I need to learn.  Faithful to obey.

The alternative, as my wise friend once said, may be "another lap around the desert".

Forgive me for not caring to waste my days wandering in circles.  

As I understand it, there's only one way to get to the promised land in our lives.  One step at a time.  Moving forward.

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."
~ C. S. Lewis

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