You told yourself years ago
You’d never let your feelings show
–From Lobo and I’d Love You To Want Me
At 5:30 this morning, this was on my heart, and to be sure, I could make better attempts at profundity. Suffice to say, that herein lies my own self-conscious surrender.
Several years ago, I became acquainted with a young woman named Laurel. She was an interesting person, passionately chaste, yet with a sordid past; annoyingly gruff, yet quite religious.
Laurel was pretty, smart and educated, but she gave up her career to earn $16,000 a year as a church secretary. I always suspected that part of her hope was found in Rebecca, the wife of Isaac. When Abraham sent his chief servant to find a wife for his son, he chose Rebecca who voluntarily dipped buckets and buckets of water from the well for his tired and thirsty camels. Rebecca’s servant-heart served her well, even if I’ve always secretly wondered if she knew in advance why the chief servant was in the village that day.
So, Laurel, who often requested prayer for her bombed-out car, had a crush on a very wealthy bachelor who was a lay leader at the church where she worked. Despite her pursuit of holiness, the bachelor never paid her any real attention. In fact, the women he chose to date were far sexier than Laurel. At any moment she could have turned it on, but instead remained true to her convictions. She believed if she followed the path of righteousness a righteous man would find her and want her.
During the brief time I knew her, Laurel, frequently quoted the following Bible verse, which is found in the slim, four-page book of Habakkuk.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.
Last I heard, Laurel was still single and still passionately pursuing God. I continue to hope for the happy, fairytale ending I know she wants. But, who among us lives in a magical, enchanted forest of gnomes and elves? I’m left to wonder if the goblins of doubt ever loom large for Laurel. In the middle of the night, does she see the dancing shadow of the folklorist’s giant on her bedroom wall?
Of course she does. There are demons in every fairy tale, but still we must believe that good prevails over evil in the end. Habakkuk believed this and so do I.
Of all the lines in this passage from Habakkuk, the one that resonates with me the most is the fifth line: the flock will be cut off from the fold. The prophet was referring to sheep separated from their shelter. I imagine a flock in a field in the middle of a terrific storm.
I have been there. It was many years ago, but I was there. Naked, alone, soaked, injured. I was cut off from the fold where for years I had taken shelter. To make matters worse, when I sought alternative shelter among the most likely suspects I was met with more injury. Honestly, how much worse could it get?
Something in my soul just cried, I see the want in your blue eyes.
So, when there was no herd in the stall and no fruit on the vine, there was only one thing left for me to do: Rejoice.
When I rejoiced, God gave me the strength and ability to make it across uncertain terrain. This took years. The more I breathed in His Word, the more amazing things happened to me. I became confident and surefooted. Like a deer, I could run fast and sure up a mountain.
Many days separate me now from that first day, more than a decade ago, when I stood in the field after I was separated from the fold. And, this is my confession. The further God carried me away from that place, the more infrequent became my rejoicing. But, those days changed me forever, and this is what never ceases. When God opens my eyes to someone standing in a field, soaked and naked, injured and alone, I gather up what sheaves I have and I carry them into the tabernacle.
You won’t see me or a thousands others, but we will hear you rejoicing in the herdless stall, crushing and beating the bundles on the threshing floor, separating the wheat from the chaff, the truth from the lies.
These sheaves are an offering of faith in God. I have been conquered by the belief that He will carry the soaked doe, the injured buck fast up the mountain.
Recently, I heard about a young man who posted a dreadful lyric on his Facebook wall:
And all your prayers will go Unanswered
Why do you think that is?
For the families that waste their time
Open your (expletive) eyes
As you can imagine, this brazen wall post invited shame and admonition from the young man’s family. I’ve been thinking about it for more than a week, searching my heart for how God might respond. The first image that popped into my head was of Jesus calling a sheep into his arms, cradling the lyricist, if he would let him. He probably wouldn’t, at least at first, but the Shepherd keeps calling and calling and calling, I think.
When I read Habakkuk, I think the prophet’s cry is not unlike that song lyric.
O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? I shout to you in vain; there is no answer. Help! Murder! I cry, but no one comes to save me. Must I forever see this sadness all around me.
And, who knew in the slim, four-page book of Habakkuk we could find God’ response to heavy, bitter metal:
Look, and be amazed, the Lord says. You will be astounded at what I am about to do!