being clothes-minded towards Him

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known.” I Corinthians 13:12 (WEB)

“He’s got the whole world in His hand, the whole wide world in His hand.”  Who isn’t familiar with this lyric?  We’ve all sung it probably countless of times before beginning back when we were children.  Great, but when push comes to shove in your life because you find yourself in dire straits do these words carry any real weight, any real substance for you?  Do they make a difference in your day that is hanging by a thread of hope stretched impossibly thin?  If you’re a believer like me your immediate reaction to such a question quite possibly smacks of some degree of loftiness, “Well, yes, of course they do, don’t they for you?”  But, here’s the thing, though, in a maddeningly contradictory twist I have to admit that even as I sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands” I sometimes find myself wondering if He actually has me in His hand.  Even though I realize there are some lyrics later on in the song that say He does this question still remains.  I rarely hear those later lines sung, by the way.  All I hear is this first line like it’s on loop in my head so that’s where my attention goes.  It seems that there are times it’s far easier for me to believe He has the whole world in His hand than it is for me to believe He has me in His hand.  Certain circumstances, abnormally difficult circumstances that hover around me like circling vultures, cause me to  wonder if I was indeed in His hand at one time only to have somehow managed to slip through His fingers later.  “Yes, Lord, I know you have the whole world in Your hand, but do You have me there, too?  That’s what I really want and need to know.  To be perfectly blunt and honest with You that’s what matters most to me in this moment in these perplexing and trying circumstances because from where I’m standing it looks like You’ve dropped me.”

Am I the only one that struggles with these questions and doubts?  I’m uncomfortable even talking about this because these admissions force me to take off my Super Believer hero mask.   And, my cape, too.  To put it bluntly, my masquerade has been exposed by this unplanned confession.  I’m not Superman.  I’m not even Clark Kent.  Far from it, in fact.  I’m Clark Bent at least, or even more likely Clark Broken at worst.  I hadn’t planned on having my true identity revealed when I sat down to write, yet here I am like the emperor who was found to be wearing no clothes.  Meaningful transformation begins here in His light, of course.  There can be no healing so long as the enemy successfully keeps me in that dark place that encourages me to continue thinking, “I look pretty good wearing this mask and cape.”  Who’s to say to the contrary, then,  that so long as I stay in the dark that I don’t look like Super-Believer-man?  The truth is, though, that only comic book heroes experience benefits by keeping their true identities hidden in the shadows.  God’s Kingdom needs reshaped and retooled Clark Bents and Brokens, and the only way that sort of transformation can take place is in the warmth of His healing light.  So here I am, Lord, stripped and naked of costumes of my own making and in need of Your real clothes.

“to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:3 (WEB)

Can you even begin to imagine in your wildest dreams what an asteroid strike impact such a radically transformed group of sincerely outwardly focused, faithful, utterly trusting and healed believers clothed by the Lord would make in this whole wide world?  In his book, “Reformation Years,” John Eldredge answers that question saying, “If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair.  If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectations of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.”    Indeed!  As a believer I hunger to be contagious,  I yearn to be unstoppable, and I long to be revolutionary… don’t you?  Jesus was all of these and more.  But where or how can I obtain such priceless treasure?

This ground I now find myself standing on seems parched of God’s hand even though I know it is He who has led me to this place.  It is He who has ordered my steps.  I am not the first to walk here.  This dust bowl filled with swirling, choking, blinding clouds of doubt and lingering questions accompanied by fist shaking in His direction has been trod before.

“The Egyptians pursued them.  All the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horseman, and his army overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal Zephon.  When Pharaoh came near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were very afraid.  The children of Israel cried out to Yahweh.  They said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?  Why have you treated us this way, to bring us out of Egypt?  Isn’t this the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it were better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.”  Exodus 14: 9-12 (WEB)

Unmasked and cape-less I can now tell you that I used to look with disdain at the Israelites in this situation wondering how in the world they could so quickly and easily question God’s sovereignty and His might in this situation in light of all the miracles he had already performed for them regarding their exodus from Egypt.  Here they are backed up against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down on them and all they can see is their imminent destruction.  They have gone from praising God on their journey to severely questioning Him in short order.  How swiftly they have forgotten all of His Jordan stone moments of miraculous provision along their way.  Am I any different than these ancient travelers that I have been so quick to condemn and judge for their lack of faith and trust in Him?  Sadly, with my hat in hand and head bowed low as I stare at my shoes, the answer is, no, I am no different. Yes, I may sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” but when the going gets downright nasty and the world seeks to destroy me on this path He has led me on how quickly my song becomes, “He’s got the whole world in His hand, but not me.”

Overwhelming circumstances seem like such an incredibly unlikely place to plant trees of righteousness don’t they? Hope is a scarce commodity to the naked eye and weak heart.  Yet, it is in exactly such dire circumstances where hope in our Father is abundant and ready to be gleaned.  Yes, as improbable as it may seem, this is exactly the soil in which oaks of righteousness grow nourished by His hand that liberally supplies hope and trust to the faint heart.  How does this happen?  Fortunately for the likes of even a Clark Broken of little faith such as me the Lord is not bound by human understanding or standards, or by our little faith not even the size of a mustard seed.  The Lord is incredibly long-suffering isn’t He? He certainly has demonstrated that to me time and time again on this journey of mine.  Continuously my Father rises above all of my questions and doubts and proves Himself to be trustworthy and true…and amazingly patient and kind.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful.  He can’t deny himself.”  2 Timothy 1:13 (WEB)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”  Isaiah 55:8-9 (WEB)

“Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today:  for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them again.  Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.’”  Exodus 14: 13-14 (WEB)

Just a few weeks ago my attention was drawn to the reflections seen in the puddles of water left by a recent rain.  A continuous sheet of water on the parking lot would’ve been able to mirror image practically the entire immediate surroundings, but it was the interrupted reflections found in the numerous isolated puddles that caught my imagination that day.  Sensing some inspiration at hand I tried to take photographs from several different angles of various puddles only to be quickly reminded by the Lord as I did so that this scenario visually sums up the differences between the way He sees things as compared to how I see things.  I see my life only in part consisting mainly of upside down bits, pieces, and snippets of the world immediately around me.  Meanwhile He sees everything in its complete entirety and that includes my own very limited vantage point as well.

“while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18 (WEB)

A few days passed before I was able to finally sit down to begin collecting my thoughts to begin writing.  As I did so I began to think that perhaps this specific parking lot filled with puddle sized reflections is far too narrowly focused, far too limiting of God, the Creator of the universe.   “Why not use a picture of the entire earth, like a globe, to depict what our Lord sees?” I thought to myself.  “If I did that then I could use a much smaller segment carved out of the big global picture to illustrate what I see for comparison’s sake.”  It was at that moment that the “whole world in His hand” song lyric came into my head.  “Yes sir, things are rolling along just fine now,” I thought.  In a moment of clarity, though, I realized that, no, that’s not the way to go here at all.  Far from it, in fact.  Why do I say that?  Because you see it dawned on me that God was somehow using these parking lot puddle reflections to address my question as to whether or not I’m in His hand even though the answer was not yet apparent to me.  Yes, the world is important to Him, but the plain, beautiful, life-giving truth here is that He sees my much smaller world in incredibly vivid detail, too.  In short, He knows and greatly cares where I live and that means He knows and cares where you live, too.  The photos I originally took that day in the parking lot are from my world, my life as I see it and live it day in and day out.  While the globe and far beyond is certainly well within His reach, it’s well outside of mine.  That’s why I have trouble truly relating to “He’s got the whole world in His hand.” I can’t really grasp the earth in its entirety, but this parking lot on that day was intimate to where I live and what I’m experiencing.  Yes, I exist on and in this whole wide world, but I experience life on just a small portion of it.  And in this moment of “this is where I am, Lord” He’s graciously and generously reminded me that this is where He is, too.

At the time when I took this photo I paid no attention to the fact that the sign said the clearance of the nearby drive-thru was “10’6.”  As I contemplate it now relative to the “whole wide world in His hand” lyric it would be easy to say that measurement seems well short of any sort of ceiling or clearance one would expect our Father to create for me, for you.  It’s certainly no “the sky is the limit” sort of grand arm waving unlimited boundary one might expect to hear as the answer from someone if you were to ask them about what God is capable of accomplishing in your life.  While it’s true that whenever God is involved there are no limitations to the possibilities,  I can, however, emphatically tell you that 10’6” is far greater clearance than I can possibly use or need right here where I am right now.  As far as I’m concerned in this season I’m now in it might just as well say the sky is the limit instead of 10’6”.   The clearance He is giving me here in this spot at this time is far more than I could ever possibly need.  There’s at least 4 feet of extra provision present.  Such extra clearance will allow me to easily pass through with no worries whatsoever of bumping and bruising my head.  I feel unlimited and unrestricted because  He has exceeded my immediate needs has He not?   He gives me what I need plus some.  Of what possible use would it be to me to have a “sky is the limit” sort of clearance from Him in this situation?  It occurs to me that such extravagance at this time in my life is probably just exactly what I don’t need, in fact.  Whether it is a clearance the height of the sky, or 10’6” it is still miraculous and perhaps even more so because I’m able to at least somewhat grasp the nature, kindness, and generosity of His provision.  He has graciously allowed me to see His hand at work.   He is more than capable of providing me with “the sky is the limit” clearance, but it is far too grand for me to comprehend in this season, but not so the 10’6” clearance.  Yes, Lord, I see that you have recognized my needs in this moment exactly where I am, and not only that, You have abundantly exceeded them.  I have room to spare as I pass through where I am because You have made it so with Your hand.

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him.  I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day.  The night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva, anointed the blind man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means ‘Sent’).   So he went away, washed, and came back seeing.  The neighbors therefore, and those who saw that he was blind before, said, ‘Isn’t this he who sat and begged?’ Others were saying, ‘It is he.’  Still others were saying, ‘He looks like him.’ He said, ‘I am he.’  They therefore were asking him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘A man called Jesus made mud, anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash.’ So I went away and washed, and I received sight.’”  John 9:1-11 (WEB)

Did you know that numbers “10” and “6” have Biblical meaning?  I was aware certain numbers have meaning in the Bible, but I didn’t know if such was the case for these two numbers so some research was needed.  It turns out this is an intriguing combination.  The number “10” is understood as a perfect and complete number as are 3, 7, and 12.  The phrase “God said” is found 10 times in Genesis 1 testifying to the Lord’s power regarding creation.  Man was created on the sixth day so the number “6” represents man who is weak and dependent on our Heavenly Father.  Without Him we simply wouldn’t exist.  Our very existence, then, testifies about Him.  What is one to make of all of this?   Well, that depends on one’s perspective doesn’t it?  For me, I find this combination interesting because I am now in desperate need of safe passage through my current season of difficulties that are of such magnitude that only God’s creative provision can make that happen.  That probably sounds overly dramatic, but the truth of the matter is this 65 year old’s almost 3 year old startup business is in desperate need of a miracle in order to survive.  My family’s financial future is on the line.  Yes, we are on the ropes as the saying goes.  We need a “but then, God” lightning bolt strike of provision to happen otherwise the sea drowns us, or the army destroys us.  Our future is…in His hands.

I can’t help but suddenly laugh with delight as I listen to myself saying that last sentence because I now realize He’s brought me full circle in my understanding using nothing more than a clearance sign and reflections found in isolated puddles in my church’s parking lot.  Today’s journey has taken a while, but it has been worth every step, every word…and then some.  He has brought me to the place where He has wanted me to be all along.  My Father has gently and generously reminded me that it is only in and because of His hand that I exist in this whole wide world.  I can’t think of a safer, more secure, and glorious place to be in this world than in my Father’s hand, can you?  Father, thank You for there are no clothes that warm my soul and bring true meaning into my life such as Yours do.

“for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Galatians 3:27 (NIV)

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,”  Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

“He humbled you, and allowed you to be hungry, and fed you with manna, which you didn’t know, neither did your father’s know; that he might teach you that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of Yahweh’s mouth.”  Deuteronomy 8:3 (WEB)

“Therefore I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear.  Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns.  Your heavenly Father feeds them.  Aren’t you of much more value than they?  ‘Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan?  Why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They don’t toil, neither do they spin, yet I tell  you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith?  Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given you as well.  Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Each day’s own evil is sufficient.” Matthew 6:25-34 (WEB)

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