Monday, December 5, 2011

God's disappointing vineyard.

so often i find myself reflecting on or presented with things that bring me back to a memory or time of significance in my life. like, i can look at a picture and i can remember exactly what was going on my life and what exactly was going on in my mind at that time. and forever that thought is laced with that picture and it can never be separated. or there are times i'm steaming milk at the bar at work and it will be calm in the cafe and i'll be quiet and i find myself looking up at the door, waiting for him to come in like i used to do. or the other day i caught a wift of something nice and clean-smelling and it reminded me of what he'd smell like. i reconfigured my room coz i was sick of it looking the same way it once had when he'd seen it. i bought new clothes so that i wouldn't remember the compliments he had once said when i had worn this shirt or these shoes. i ditched the book he bought me to the back of my bookshelf because it just represents things i don't need physical reminders of. no, coz the thing is, that even without seeing these physical things, even without the reconfigured room and the new clothes, i still think about him. a lot. definitely a lot more than i want to. and i don't know if it's all self-inflicted; seven months past a stupid, nothing relationship and still thinking about him. why God?

i'm still in this limbo, a vicious, horrible cycle of (1) knowing that God has a plan for him (2) but wondering what my role is in this plan & if i even have one... (3) then remembering james 5:19-20... "if you know people who have wandered off from God's truth, don't write them off. go after them." (4) then i think that i'm game, "use me God", but i need action coz i don't really believe that God wants this to consume me so much... (5) then thinking that i may be catching a glimpse of how this breaks His heart, watching someone deliberately destroying themselves, and others, all in the pursuit of the flesh... (6) but as open as i am to being used, i want rest Lord, like You said in matthew 11:28 - "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest"! (7) and then i realize how small and weak my faith is, how short-sighted my view is, and how untrusting i am of the God that made the universe!! (8) but then i'm discouraged again coz i don't want this to go on for more months, or years. and i wonder why this has such a grasp on my life still when i have seen so many others walk away... (9) then i'm back to point one, "knowing God has a plan for him", wondering what my role is...

and so on, and so on.

last night as i sat writing my essay - again, another place of memory, for all the times i would be writing and then sneak on facebook to talk to him a year ago when the idea of a crush or something more was so exciting - and i mostly just sat there saying, Lord, why in the world does he still occupy this place in my mind so so much? how do i get past this? this is pathetic. this is embarrassing. this is ridiculous! and i knew right then that the only way i was going to get out of this rut moment was to pick up my bible and crack it open. and in a "k God, what do you want to tell me?" moment, He led me to isaiah 5 (usually when i think about him i end up reading an old testament prophet. and it always wrecks me).

isaiah 5 talks about God's disappointing vineyard, saying, that God, or "Well-Beloved" as isaiah refers to Him, has a vineyard on a very fruitful tree. He dug it up and cleared it of stones; He planted it with the best vine; He built a tower in it and made a winepress. He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. the study notes in my bible read further, "God had lavished loving care on His people and expected positive results. He was sorely disappointed". dang. right there, i was thinking, how much do we disappoint God? all the time, no doubt. i can only imagine how much my sometimes all-consuming thoughts must frustrate Him, coz they surely do frustrate me. and then i think, more so accuse, someone else for being the disappointing vineyard. i think, "well, i'm trying to pursue holiness here. i'm trying to live a life pleasing to God. i'm not purposely living in sin. i'm not the disappointing vineyard!" but then again i'm convicted. how easy it would be to take everything i read in the bible and apply it to someone else. i am actively and intentionally trying to pursue God and to omit sins in my life, but by no means am i excluded from being part of this disappointing vine. judah smith gave a great message on this (watch it here - called "where are your accusers?") that totally convicted my heart of this. i can't read the bible for someone else, what good is that? but asking God for guidance and understanding and release on this subject, i continued to search for answers of how to let this go.

verses 5-6 God says that He will take away the hedge of the vineyard, He will burn it, it shall be trampled, and it will become dry. it will be a barren, desolate land. recently i was thinking about the "grace experience" - how a lot of us have to go through some sort of circumstance to truly understand, to experience, the grace of God. sometimes this is seemingly small, like a break up, sometimes it's big, like an illness, and sometimes it's near-death, like a horrible accident. often through these things God's love becomes more evident and most real to us and, given a second chance at life, love, health, we grab onto God's hope and hopefully never let go. i have found myself since that thought and original conversation, passionately praying for him to have a grace experience. and i expect it will be a brutal one. because for the tiny bit i know about this guy, he's already had several. the Lord says here in isaiah that He will take away everything! that this vineyard - His people - will be barren, dry, unable to grow, without any source of nutrition or growth. and it's kind of a terrible image. in this situation, i think of how He has made someone so talented, so fruitful, so capable of building, nurturing great things, but that someone has not cared for these things, has cast it away and is using his God-given gifts to please the flesh and not the Father, just like the israelites were doing, who God is speaking to at this time in isaiah. they knew the power of God, He had been so obvious and intentional towards them, but they turned their backs anyways. gah! how!?? how could they do that having seen God work so obviously? but then here i am again, accusing others of exactly what i too am guilty of. i have surely turned my back on God. i do it on a daily basis. sometimes in ways i'm not yet aware of, sometimes deliberately. sometimes i do it without even a thought, making a decision that is contrary to what God wants me to do. i just stick my nose in the air and do it anyways... knowing it's wrong and displeasing to Him.

the chapter continues with six "woes", curses or reproaches. God says, "woe to you who is greedy for land and wealth" (vs 8-10), and "woe to you, for being drunk from dawn to dusk" (vs 11-17), "woe to you, who mock God by continuing in your sin while challenging God to prove Himself to you" (vs 18-19), "woe to you, who are so confused that you have lost the power of moral discernment" (vs 20), and "woe to you, the proud and arrogant, who have cut yourselves off from God, the source of true wisdom" (vs 21), and, finally, "woe to you, who are drunk and have perverted justice by accepting bribes" (vs 22-25). at the end of these verses i find myself thinking, yes, i am in all of these things in one way or another, and yes, the person in subject is too. if we honestly consider it, we're all in these.

but it gets worse. verse 24 reads, "but they won't get by with it. as fire eats stubble and dry grass goes up in smoke, their souls will [waste away], their achievements crumble into dust, because they said no to the revelation of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel." the anger of the Lord is aroused and He strikes them, and the hills tremble! what a horrific picture! the Lord, angered by His people, shakes the earth.

but then this line. this line that brought me to tears. two amazing lines of hope amongst a chapter of anger, pain, conviction, and justice.

For all this His anger is not turned away,
But His hand is stretched out still.


wow. despite our attempts to run God over, to repeatedly reject Him, to sabotage His love - and even as mad as that makes Him - He still wants us so badly. He still makes way a path to be with Him. He still stretches out His hand to us.

and then again, for the 100th time these past months, i knew that God does have it under control. and in a moment of crying out, He led me exactly to where i needed to be, and told me exactly what i needed to be told. and i'm reminded again to HAVE A LITTLE FAITH ALLIE SPENCER.

in the reading of one chapter, He showed me how this hurts Him too, how He will have His justice, how He too (and even more than I) is angry and saddened by this, but how He will redeem His people. one girl at campus alpha said it best, God spends the entire old testament trying to get His people back. and 2000 years later, that hasn't changed. He hasn't changed!

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