I was standing in my kitchen wondering what to write today. There are always funny sayings from my two year old.
Today I asked Elaina the philosophical question, “so what do you think about life?” Her answer was “something Jesus.” When I asked her later she said, “TV.”
After lunch I started browsing on my phone and found this verse for today,
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
If God made the universe with his words can you imagine what his singing is like? The most amazing thing about this verse is that it is in the prophetic writings, writings that declare judgement and devastating consequences for people’s actions.
I have always struggled with the prophetic writings because God seems so angry and wrathful and mean. The images are so violent of cities being destroyed and people being led away as exiles or killed. But this year I started reading the passages alongside the history of the people addressed. There I saw the acts of oppressing the poor, murder, rape, sacrificing children, and hearts turning from flesh to stone as they put their hope in statues. I realized too that all of the horrific predictions by the prophets were predictions. That wasn’t God’s heart but a natural consequence, one they could still avoid. And even if they don’t avoid it and keep going down the path of destruction their Creator is waiting to restore them. That is where the singing God verses fit in. He knows the people won’t listen and the predictions will come true. But the story is not over.
“On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,” (3:11-12, bold mine). And that is when they can hear God sing over them.
I have recently started going for walks in the evening once or twice a week. I don’t bring my phone or listen to music. I go alone and that is when I can hear my heart and the heart of God. At first it felt awkward. Caring for a toddler, listening to music, podcasts, reading messages etc.. doesn’t leave much room for silence but now I am starting to enjoy it and my faith is becoming a relationship.
Someone can have a belief in God or knowledge about him, they can sing songs about their faith and write about it but without interaction there isn’t relationship. And I mean real interaction not forced. I used to believe that I had to read the Bible every morning and pray for several minutes or God would be mad at me. That would be like saying I have to kiss my husband every day or he will be mad at me. Do relationships take effort and intention? Yes. Forest and I came to a point where we weren’t connecting emotionally and I was starting to be attracted to other guys and long for attention elsewhere. Our solution was to make sure that we connected every day after Elaina went to bed. This often is sharing about our day, reading, praying, playing a game or, ahem, other activities. The point is that we connect. Sometimes we miss a day and that is okay but if it goes too long we miss each other and become more stressed and disconnected.
It is easy to see God as a genie to appease so we can have a nice life. That is how gods worked in ancient times and even now. Sacrifice to the god of rain for your crops, the god of fertility for children. For me it was the god of religion so that I would be a good girl and avoid punishment and also true relationship. Avoid really needing God.
“They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord”. No matter how much I think I can hold it together I can’t. It has never been more apparent than now that I don’t know what the future holds. I never have, but when things were going well it was easy to have that facade. As I look ahead I have no idea what will happen this year. I can make plans in pencil but that’s it.
On my walk I said to God, “I need your help. Help with parenting, with marriage, living in the chaos and uncertainty of life. I want to enjoy the good things and be able to grow through the bad.” I can’t do it on my own. I can delight in my body and mind and strength and the beautiful things and people around me. But I know they all have their ups and downs. My refuge comes from the God who both humbles me by revealing my weakness and rejoices in me with singing.