On our journey through life, like a hike in the wilderness, sometimes we may come across a path that someone else has already forged, making our trek much easier. Incredible strides are made as we step in the footsteps of others who have gone before us, but there are times when, by doing so, we actually lose our way.
It is easy to see someone else’s success and want to duplicate it, to look at what they have done to fulfill their goals, dreams, and calling on their life and use it as a guide to do the same for ourselves.
So, what is the difference between a pattern and a formula?
God asked me this question one night as I pondered how to artistically give Him credit for the stars. For most of my life, I considered myself an atheist. At one point, I had a scorpion tattoo placed on my right shoulder to give credit to a constellation for my personality, my identity. Then, years later after encountering Christ, I considered what to get as a cover-up tattoo. To my surprise, God asked me why I wasn’t asking Him what He desired. Although I thought that seemed incredibly ironic because of the stigma of tattoos in much of the Christian community, I went ahead and asked. While you may imagine His response was for me to remove my previous tattoo, it wasn’t.
Instead, He asked me, “What’s the difference between a pattern and a formula?” I wondered if this was a rhetorical question or if He actually wanted an answer. As the Final Jeopardy tune played through my head, I couldn’t figure it out and gave up, asking Him for the answer. That’s when He revealed that the difference between a pattern and a formula is who gets the credit. (And, regarding the cover-up tattoo, God then asked why I didn’t give Him credit instead.)
You see, for years I gave the stars credit for who I was and why I am the way I am. But God showed me that giving credit to the stars is a form of worshiping them. And, like so many other things, it’s simply worshiping the created instead of the Creator. It was then that He gave me an image of what the first day of creation could have looked like as light appeared shining through the darkness. The image incorporated the scorpion constellation into the darkness, giving Him credit for the creation of the stars that this constellation is comprised of. This new tattoo tells a story: I no longer believe that I am who I am because I was born at a specific time; I am who I AM says I am simply because He says.
At some point, almost all of us do the same thing I did for so long. We look to the created – others’ successes, others’ creations, the paths they have taken – and we start to worship them. It isn’t a bad thing to look for help, nor is it bad when we find patterns or pathways that can ease our burdens, lightening our load. But, it can become a problem when we look at the pattern and no longer give the credit to God for providing it, instead, we decide to take the concepts, rebrand them, and take the credit for it ourselves. It’s even worse when we abandon the path that God has planned for us for the plan of others. It is so critical that we seek His kingdom, His will, His desire, and His path for us. When we do, it may still be challenging, but it will be well worth it.
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?
Have you ever felt overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time? Overwhelmed with tasks. Underwhelmed by God’s presence.
Perhaps this best sums up the past several months for me.
Since October, a mere four months ago, we have been in an accident which totaled our car and led to the need for physical therapy since, faced the passings of two family members, crossed the country by car twice to be near family in this difficult time, my husband and I have agreed on his making a transition to a new company, experienced new growth in our publishing company, keeping us on our toes and busy, and then there has been life to live in the midst (homeschooling, home projects, and the like).
In our nation, a new President took office. Awareness (and opinions) of the refugee crisis erupted again. Women pitted against women in the disagreement of “choice” and life. Protests and riots and loud mouths have prevailed. Not that I’ve personally noticed much of this with my head in the proverbial sand. I’ve watched practically no news. Engaged in practically no social media. Kept my thoughts to myself for some time, relying upon a few close friends to keep me abreast of the happenings.
In the face of such life extremes, have you ever wanted to hide? To go back to a time when simplicity reigned. When right and wrong were easily distinguished. When simply sharing a word could be taken at face value rather than receiving immediate backlash laced with offense? When perspectives were clear, untainted by tragedy and cynicism?
These recent months have left me feeling a sense of distance from my Creator, the Lover of my soul. Not due to any bitterness or blaming on my part. Rather, the race of busy, the tyranny of the urgent has often stolen the selah of silence. And, even more, it’s easy to lose sight of His nearness when you are struggling to survive the day.
Perspective is a powerful thing.
We are now into February, but I’ll let you know that I wrestled through December and January to seek my word for the year. Deeper than a New Year’s resolution, I needed a lens to view the world through – fresh for this season. Ultimately, the Lord clarified His word for me (rather than my word for myself)…
Viewing everything – myself, my family, my marriage, my struggles, the world, other people – through this lens of God’s kingdom. This kingdom which John the Baptist made the way for and Jesus ushered in. This kingdom which seems upside-down in its realities and truths. This kingdom which emphasizes the unseen over the seen.
This lens helps me see anew: Where is God in this?
Where is He when our loved ones die? Where is He when those left behind reel with grief and pain? Where is He when daily decisions press in and pull down? Where is He when our nation turns, brother against brother? Where is He when a people no longer grasp righteousness or purity or brotherhood or patriotism or selflessness? Where is He when I’ve failed, yet again, as a woman, a wife, a mom, a friend?
I am Jacob, wrestling with God through the night, desperate for His blessing, longing for His touch.
In the face of pain and loss, disagreement and uncertainty, chaos and struggle stay desperate. May we not seek answers. May we seek the kingdom – that realm of reality where God is King. King above kings. King above circumstance. King above fear. King above all self-focus.