I'm on a journey back to God. He didn't leave me, but I certainly walked away from Him. I allowed a few significant life experiences to alienate me from the Lord and from several of His people (whose responses to my trials felt very un-Christlike). I entered a wilderness time and reacted much like the Israelites, with complaints about His provisions and doubt that His intentions were reliable on my behalf.
For quite a while, I've wanted to return, but the chasm seemed impassable. I think the thing that bridged that mighty gap was my return to Scripture. At the end of our CBLI encampment this year, I purchased a new NIV Bible. My old one had pretty much fallen apart (from previous use, not recent use). The prospect of a fresh clean Bible and a conviction that I really was neglecting the Word (one of several convictions resulting from an excellent course on Titus, taught by Linda Himes) propelled me into a commitment to read through the entire Bible and underline any verses which held significant meaning for me.
After finishing the NIV version, I decided to read the New Testament in The Message version. I have never read The Message version and must say that, so far, Romans has been my favorite. For today's reading, chapters 8 - 14, the section opened with the title "The Solution is Life on God's Terms." How true!
Several verses jumped out at me: "Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God," "I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times," "refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it," and "No one who trusts God... - heart and soul - will ever regret it."
It goes on to say of the loyal to the Lord, "They're holding on, not because of what they think they're going to get out of it, but because they're convinced of God's grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago." In describing those who fail to hold on, it says, "The 'self-interest Israel' became thick-skinned toward God. Moses and Isaiah both commented on this: 'Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways, God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears, Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors, and they're there to this day.'"
And I believe that is where I have been - trapped in a hall of mirrors, seeing only myself and the hardships I have been called upon to face. My eyes have blurred to His love and my ears have dulled to His voice. I began to convince myself that He really wasn't there, or if He was it was only in the shadows. What I didn't recognize was the focus of my perspective. I didn't know I was in a hall of mirrors.
Now, I'm determined to shatter that hall of mirrors. Just as I said focusing on losses deprives one of hope and joy, focusing on myself and the hardships of life causes me to be deprived of a closeness to my Maker, who is standing, anxious to call me back to Himself.
Another meaningful verse: "In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in." God persists in testing us and wooing us.
But my focus has to return to God, not away from myself and onto others. When I was living briefly in England, I was asked to give a devotional to the Upper Norwood Band (amazing, really, given that I was a woman and a very young person). In that devotional, I compared our walk with God to being a bandsmen. We cannot blindly play the part we think we're supposed to play. And we cannot listen to those around us to determine whether we are on the mark. The very best that we can do is to play our part, to the best of our ability, while focusing on the conductor of the music. Ignoring the conductor or focusing on the sounds of those around us both fall short of creating the best music.
With the father of the boy healed by Jesus in Mark 9:24, I say, "I believe. Help thou, my unbelief." I say, "shatter my personal hall of mirrors. Lift my eyes from myself and others and focus them on You."