A Pebble in the Trench

Pebble

When I was a little girl, I loved playing in mud puddles after a hard rain.  There was nothing like the squishy, oozing feeling between my fingers and against the palm of my hand, the way the cold mud would encase my hand like a glove when I pressed it down as far as it would go, and the sucking sound when I pulled it free.  And I loved making a little trench between two mud puddles, watching the water flow and then adding pebbles to steer it where I wanted it to go.

God steers us in a similar way.  He’s not a puppet master, forcing us to do this and that, nor is He waiting with a lightning bolt to zap us when we make a mistake; thank goodness for that or I’d be so electrified I could light up the night sky for miles around.  But God loves us enough to steer us away from danger and to the life He has waiting for us.

So if you’re sailing along from one mud puddle in the hopes of reaching the next and you see a big fat obstacle blocking your dream or goal, maybe God set up that pebble in the trench so you’ll wait on Him to make another way to get there.  Perhaps He’s protecting you from danger or maybe the timing isn’t right.  Or maybe He has something different, something better for you altogether.

So what do you do when you’re face to face with the pebble blocking your way?

You wait.  And while you’re waiting, God is working.  (You may not see what He’s up to, but He’s always working.)

But maybe you don’t want to wait.  Maybe you think waiting is a waste of time.  Well, you can always abandon ship and walk around to get where you want to go.  Just don’t be too surprised if your feet get stuck in the mud. Really stuck.  Then you’ll be cold, wet, and tired from trying to pull your feet out.  Only you won’t be able to so you’ll be forced to stand there in the mud that is now up to your knees as you wait on God.

Or maybe you like the idea of moving that pebble.  Ha!  Did I mention that in God’s hands it IS a pebble, but in yours, it’s more like a boulder or the moon?  Good luck.  Hope you don’t throw out your back.  But if you do, you can just rest your hand on that boulder and wait until you can stand upright.

Again, the waiting!

So it seems instead of getting stuck and wearing yourself out by hoofing it in your impatience, or instead of hurting yourself by trying to do the impossible, you can trust God when He uses a pebble (or in your case, a boulder) to block your path.  He knows what He’s doing.

Then finally after all of your waiting (which could be mere hours or many years), God shows you another way.  He’s been busy making a new trench, a new stream that flows easily down and into this amazing pool of fresh water; no more dirty water!  And here, the sun reflects off of the water like a thousand sparkling diamonds and there are enough cool breezes to help you catch your breath.  You close your eyes and thank God for putting a pebble in your trench and forming a new stream that led you to this place where you know you are about to do what you were created to do alongside the One who created you for such a time and place.

“Trust God from the bottom of our heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.  Don’t assume that you know it all.” (Proverbs 3:5-7a The Message.)

The Puzzle

puzzle

If you think about it, your life is like a puzzle.  You gather pieces as you grow, as you move forward in life, and learn about who you are.  You begin collecting them from the first, “Why am I here?” to the last breath you take.

But you don’t know what the end picture is going to look like.  Not really.  You can dream of course, even take all the pieces you can find and try to force them to make the picture you want.

Take it from me.  That doesn’t work.

I wanted to be a nurse until microbiology came into my life.  I drove to Nashville to be a songwriter until reality smacked me in the face and asked, “Do you really want to do this?”  I decided not to accept the flight attendant position when I learned I would need to drop my life the instant I was called for a flight.  This list is enormous, so I’ll spare you the rest.

The point is I tried so many things to find out who I’m supposed to be.  I tried to force myself into places and jobs I thought I would like only to realize I wasn’t qualified or gifted and when push came to shove, I didn’t even want it.  I just wanted the label; to be someone with a purpose.

So I stopped trying to force the picture I wanted.  I knew I had this small pile of puzzle pieces waiting for me, those I had gathered since I was a little girl, but without the box, I didn’t know what the end picture was going to be.  I suppose not knowing really scared me.  What if it’s something I don’t like?  What if it’s something so boring I wind up chewing on my own foot just to pass the time to keep my sanity?  Umm, I guess if I’m chewing on my own foot my sanity would be long gone.

That’s when I started asking other people what they thought about my life; what they thought my final picture would look like.  They brought all these other puzzle pieces and dumped them on my little pile.  I asked for it.  No one did anything wrong.  No one but me.  Instead of going to the only One who really knows the big picture, that final picture of what my life is all about, I tried my own way.  And when that didn’t work, I checked around to see what everyone else thought.

Now my little pile of puzzle pieces had grown into an enormous mound of confusion.

The good news, God is not only the artist Who meticulously painted each and every piece just for me, He knows which pieces are mine and which ones are not.  And He can help me find those important corner pieces, those four pieces that hem me in and stop me from going too far in any one direction.

So let me ask you:  How big is the pile you’re working on?  Are you working on the little pile you’ve been gathering or are you grabbing those “good” pieces and trying to force them?  Or are you frustrated, sorting through the mound that others have loaded on you?

Feeling lost?  Overwhelmed?

I understand.

Let me tell you:  You really can ask God to help you.  He’s the One who sketched that beautiful, final picture of you smiling.  He’s also the One who gave you the most beautiful piece, Jesus Christ; the One who adds all the light to your picture.

Once you’ve asked Him for help, He will help you sort through the mess.  He will even point out the pieces you should pick up and those you should leave behind as you walk together.

And when the day comes and you find you’re holding the last piece, a piece that resembles a tiny droplet of water, you’ll notice the only place left for the piece to fit is on the very face of Jesus Christ.  As you take your last breath and the final piece of your puzzle slips into place, you’ll realize the water droplet is a tear belonging to Jesus.

You see, He is so pleased, so deeply moved that you believed in Him, you asked Him for help, and now you’re finally home.

What a glorious picture that will be.

“I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.”  (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV.)

 

Don’t Lose Your Fizz

 

fizzle

Have you ever tried one of those bubbly vitamin drinks? You stir the powder into a glass of water and if you wait long enough, the fizz will die down and you can drink it. That’s fine for a drink, to let the bubbles dissipate so they don’t tickle your nose, but what about the fizz in your life?  What do I mean?

Let’s say you’ve had a dream your whole life, possibly (and hopefully) a God-inspired dream, and you feel like you’ve hit your head against a brick wall time and time again trying to make it happen. You’re no closer to your dream coming true today than you were two, five, maybe even ten years ago. You’re tired and bordering on giving up and trashing the whole idea.

You’ve lost your fizz, my friend. That spark. That bubbling-out-of-you joy that the world needs. Please don’t give up. Get it back.

How do you do that when it’s flat or so stale it’s worse than the bag of chips you forgot to close last week that’s hiding out in the back of the cupboard?

You go back. That’s right. Go back to the last thing God said to you about this dream, about this task of yours.

What I’ve found, if I may share here, is that God will not tell me the next step until I finish the last one. I believe He told me in December to, “Finish what you’ve started.” What does that mean for me? Gulp. Finish the novel I’ve been working on for over a year. Do it. Get it done. Sit down and write. Yes, do the hard work. Quit worrying about the outcome. Finish it.

And do you know what I’ve found? When I started to do the work, hard as it is, the fizz came back. I started to share my love for writing with our little girl who is now writing her own story! (Proud Momma alert!!) And I’m finding there is more joy in the second draft than I would have thought: imagine you’ve got the structure of your house built and now you get to clean and decorate it!

So if you’ve lost your fizz, go back to God. He knows all about the fragile state of your bubbles and how easily they can pop. And He also knows just what you need to get them back, even to overflowing, bringing even more joy than before.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV.)