I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10
A few years back, my good friend, Leslie, and I were driving North on the I-5, giddy with excitement, because for just one night and two days we were leaving all of our responsibilities behind and were on our way to meet with God. To say that we were anticipating this weekend is really an understatement. We both had little people at the time so the idea of adult conversation, not cutting up anyone else’s food, and big fluffy beds all to ourselves sounded heavenly. But truly, even more than all of that, we were headed North looking for God and we felt pretty certain He was waiting for us. Just as God promised in Psalm 81 we were coming with mouths open wide fully expectant that He would fill them. We both had attended previous women’s conferences and each time had been a mountaintop experience. We expected this one would be no different.
Our ride up there was almost like we were riding on the clouds, you know, so excited that nothing’s going to get you down…not crazy traffic, not parking a mile away from the event center, not sweating through our shirts as we walk, not crazy lady drivers…“Sister, I’m sure you’re here for the same event I am but seriously, get out-of-the-way, I’ve got a date with Jesus!!!”…Nothing!
We finally made it and walked in with our Bibles, journals, and carefully chosen pens. (Doesn’t a good pen just make the act of writing sermon notes a holy experience?!?) We found our seats, enjoyed some praise and worship, got comfortable with our Bibles on our laps and then waited.
We waited through this speaker and that speaker; through cute stories and funny anecdotes. We waited through touching video testimonies, interesting drama sketches, and quite possibly an interpretive dance. Still the Bible sat unopened on my lap and my fabulous pen capped. I could see the questions in Leslie’s eyes because they were mirroring my own but still we sat hopeful that this may just be the longest introduction ever to the actual teaching! We waited some more and then it was over. We gathered our things and walked dazed and confused back to the car. Neither of us really had the words to try to explain what we just sat through but we knew we still had another day so we tried to take heart that, surely, tomorrow would be different. I tried to hold it together but I could feel frustration brewing. We got back to the hotel and I took a long bath because I could and it, at least, was tremendous.
As you can probably guess, the next day wasn’t any different. Our Bibles sat like weights on our laps and my frustration continued to rise. Every story with a casual, fleeting reference to a Bible verse was like sandpaper to my soul. We were physically experiencing Psalm 42:1.
As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
Didn’t these speakers realize that we came hungry to hear them teach the Word? Don’t they realize that we paid good money to attend this thing for one reason only and that was to experience Jesus and hear what God had to say to us? I was baffled. Unfortunately, my frustration and me being spiritually “hangry” turned to outward sarcasm and there was no rescuing it. We had to get out of there. Ok, Leslie had to get me out of there. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.
Now let me stop for a moment and just say that women all around us were fully engaged and felt encouraged by what they had experienced. I don’t want to negate their positive experience because mine was poor. I’m sure many of them knew exactly what kind of format the conference would be so their expectations were on point. I, obviously, tried to expect apples from an orange tree. Hence, much of the disappointment and frustration I experienced rests on my shoulders.
The car ride home was sad business. Instead of riding home on a cloud we were in a fog of disappointment. I couldn’t understand what God was up to and why He would lead us to this event only to be so let down. Hadn’t I come with my mouth open? My spiritual hunger only grew on the way home until I was aching to get alone with Jesus and pour my heart out to Him. Opening the Scriptures that night by myself in my home had an incredible soothing effect on my soul. I can still remember it.
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. Psalm 19:7
It was a rough day all around, but something happened to me that day on the car ride home. Something I didn’t connect until months later. See, after I got home it was like I couldn’t get enough of my Bible. I wasn’t snoozing my alarm or “happy” with my daily devotional. I was using my Bible app and cross-referencing verses, you know all the things I had been letting others do for me. Now I was holding God to His Word that if I would seek for Him, I would find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). I wanted more! I still felt saddened when the conference would enter my mind, but on one particular day, months later, while cleaning the bathroom, God revealed how He had used that event for my good all along. It was during that drive that I realized, in all that frustration that God planted in my heart a love and desperation for His Word. A desperation for a connection that would be between me and Him alone. I had resolved that I was never going to put the weight and expectation for my connection to God and experience in His Word on another human being. I had the Word, I had the Holy Spirit as teacher and guide, and I would not sit idly by and wait for mountaintop moments a few times out of the year when I could feast on His Word and be in His presence every single day. And now, months later, I was still enjoying Him every single day and He was faithfully filling my mouth. It was in that clarity that I realized what I had labeled the “worst” event, God had purposed and planned as an experience that would be a tremendous catalyst for my growth. My heart was immediately humbled and I thanked Him sincerely for what was very possibly the “best” event for deepening our relationship and equipping me for His future plans! Only He can make that kind of dramatic heart change in a moment. Oh, and I also repented of my sarcastic attitude. It was a big day.
It’s been a few years since that event and I’m still desperate. Believe me, it ebbs and flows as life and seasons do, but my soul hasn’t forgotten that when I get that sandpaper feeling, there’s only one source of relief. I’m still looking for Him daily… in small group Bible study, in Women’s Bible study, in my own Bible study, in prayer, and yes, still at women’s events. But you know what’s changed over these last few years? You are now included in my desperation. I have a longing to see women (and men) who are just surviving actually move to thriving because the truth of the gospel is invading every part of their life. Jesus is alive! He cancelled our sin debt, and He’s filled us with His Spirit of power so we can accomplish really good plans! That is beyond exciting and running hard after those plans will most definitely be the greatest adventure of our lives. So, how do we get there? What specific steps can we take, starting today?
- We get serious about our Bible reading. We have to acknowledge that this Word is our only source of life and power. Our effectiveness in the kingdom and with our people relies on how we treasure and delight in it. Check out the language of Psalm 36:8 today and see how beautifully God describes how satisfying our pursuit of Him can be.
- We surrender to be obedient to just do the next thing about which He’s been talking to us. Get baptized, be consistent in church, ask someone to disciple us, find someone to disciple, start journaling, join that Bible study, lead that Bible study, or write that Bible study. We all have a next thing.
- We ask God daily to help us pursue lives that are supernatural instead of comfortable, and we do this according to the power at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)
Friend, I’m praying for you that wherever you find yourself in your spiritual journey, you would get desperate for Jesus and that no thing, no one, no fear, no doubt, and no complacency would keep you from running hard after Him. He’s totally worth it.
After all, The Aim is Love.