Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Ebenezers

Or "Deliverance." Or "Three Things God Has Saved Me From."

In the Old Testament (yes, we're still slogging through our 90-day reading which is likely to become a 100-day reading), they are always reminding themselves of God's great acts of old. Constantly reminding themselves when things aren't so hot that God has been faithful in the past. (If I'm honest with you, sometimes I read it and go, "Do we really need to be told about the parting of the Red Sea one more time?" (Forgive me, Lord.))

But in my own life, it is so good and so important to remember God's past faithfulness. Because I'm dumb. And I forget. A bit like a goldfish am I. I need to set up Ebenezer's to remember how God has been gracious to me. 

It dawned on me today that in the past 5 years, God has delivered me in 3 big situations. Thus far has the Lord helped me. (Now come the embarrassing parts. Yay!)
  1. I went a little crazy several years ago. I won't go into too much detail here (if you want to know more, feel free to ask me), but basically I became obsessed with food. I first became obsessive about working out and being thin, which led to obsession with food. I forgot how to eat like a normal person and became a bit of a neurotic monster. If you doubt me, my husband could tell you stories of me throwing things. (But you wouldn't do that, would you, honey?) At the time, I thought I would never be normal again. Each day was a struggle. I was like a baby, relearning how to do the most basic things in life. It was kind of awful. But now I can say, five years later, that God has delivered me. it no longer is a daily struggle. It no longer consumes my mind. It took a long time, and it wasn't easy, but thus far has the Lord helped me. 
  2. Second, in the past five years, God has delivered my from a very real danger, that I will leave unspoken. Don't you hate it when people do that? But really, if you ask, I won't tell you. Suffice it to say, I was in danger and God delivered me; he kept me safe, not out of my righteousness, but out of his graciousness. Thus far has the Lord helped me. 
  3. And lastly, in the past five years, God has delivered me from bitterness and anger and expectations in my life situation. In short, my life has not ended up where I thought it was supposed to, and that has been my very real struggle for the past many years. I'm kind of slow on the uptake, and it's sad to look back and see how much time I've wasted on things inside my own head. This one is still in process, and perhaps always will be, but I can say that God has awoken me from my anger and replaced it with an acceptance, and sometime even embracing, of his will. Thus far has the Lord helped me. 
So, in your own life, what are your Red Seas and Ebenezer stones? In this time, that might be fraught with fears and difficulties, how far has the Lord helped you? 


Jon The Hart said...

I know it is not your intention, but when I read this what jumped into my mind was the idea that grace is less present in suffering.

I love Daniel 3:16-18 (18 in bold) and it often pops into my mind when I think about my attitude regarding expectations and God's grace.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

I guess what I'm meaning to say is that I don't know if I've felt like outside of my salvation I've been delivered from specific things, but rather God's grace has been showered upon me in allowing some suffering and sparing me some, as measures of discipline and love. To rejoice in the pain we were spared seems to misplace God in the pain we are meant to endure.

I'm not suggesting you have an imbalanced view, just that my notion of deliverance tends to begin and end at salvation.

Michael Jonathan Van Schooneveld said...

That don't make no sense, boy. But, anyway, the point isn't that God isn't present in suffering, but that he is present in salvation and deliverance from suffering. But then you said that wasn't was this was about anyway, so I guess I don't make sense neither. And God did save them boys. You're confusing me! Different kind of deliverance, though. That was more like deliverance from external circumstances; these were more like deliverance from internal personal issues through the work of the Holy Spirit. Anyway, jolly good show, all of you.

Jon The Hart said...

I no think in clear fashion, express idea poorly maybe.

I think the attitude of 'Even if he doesn't' is the important part, their attitude is that the outcome is not important, they are content to be God's instrument in whatever capacity He intends.

It feels like if I say, 'God has delivered me from a massive chunk of debt' I'm in some way failing to acknowledge the good God did by allowing me to experience the consequences of my folly in order to teach me to be responsible, all part of a chain of struggles that are intended to refine us.

The external seems like it fits better, I was delivered from harm in a pretty nasty car accident in high school. I had no control over the situation, I could have easily died, God saw fit for me to live, I was delivered.

Does that add any clarity to my first response? A question in this vein could be: Are we being fair-weather fans when we praise God for delivering us from an internal struggle by failing to acknowledge that His goodness brought about the struggle so that we should grow?

Haha, that's my brain at midnight...

Amber Van Schooneveld said...

I understand what you're saying, Jon, and it's very applicable to my experiences. For example, in number 3, I have NOT been externally "delivered," I'm still in the exact same situation. I have had to learn many times over that "though he doesn't give me what I want, yet will I trust him." (It sounds much better, "though he slay me," but this is what I've got.)

But I do know that, though my external circumstances haven't changed, it is God's grace that has gotten me though it. Perhaps that sounds like an over-spiritualization of the situaiton (one of my pet peeves), but it's not due to my own righteousness that I have been saved from becoming a bitter old granny. Were I left to my own devices, I would be a prideful, self-righteous, bitter, angry person; that's my bent. But some combination of God's Holy Spirit (the working of which in me is only God's grace) and the choices I made in my own free will have snatched me from an internal down-spiral. I see that as grace and deliverance.

It's the same in example 1. I struggled with a mild eating disorder. I didn't pray for deliverance and wake up one day healthy. Rather, I woke up every day messed up. Only through the slow listening to and application of God's truth every day over a long period of time did I slowly regain sanity. No angel came and grabbed me out of the fire.

So from a secular perspective, one could say there was no deliverance from God in these two situations--you could say it was my own effort to better my mind in both. And I was involved in that I made the choices. But the credit goes to God for 1. giving us his Holy Spirit to effect this internal change and 2. giving us his truth. Philippians 2:13--for it is God who works in you to will and act according to his purpose.

So even when God doesn't externally deliver us, he is still every day internally delivering us to faith and trust in him--if we'll but choose it.