Crossroads

When I was much younger, I used to keep dairies where I journaled activities of my everyday and I recently came across one such journal from 2007 and the early part of 2008. I picked it up last week and I was so humbled to read what my state of mind was in 2007 and 2008. My journal revealed that I trusted God for every single thing: I prayed about everything and it seemed like God was so present in my life. I would pray for something and a day or so later I would be writing a praise report in my journal about how God answered that prayer. My journal contained the most mundane things that I shared with God while counting and recounting all God’s big and small blessings in my life on a daily basis.

However, somewhere between 2008 and 2022 something changed. I stopped relying on God for everything and became self-reliant, cynical, a complainer, ungrateful, and a know-it-all. For the past few years, I have lived my life as if the things I have attained-my successes in life- are because of my own merit or because I am entitled to them from God. I have slowly drifted away from developing true friendship and a meaningful personal relationship with God and have used God as a genie-in-a-bottle who exists to meet my needs when I cannot do things for myself. Somewhere along the line, I stopped talking to God about everything and instead either complained bitterly to whomever would listen or took a cynical stance. Other times, I just took charge to problem-solve on my own, after all that’s why God gave me a brain, right? As I reflect, I realize that my sense of entitlement, ingratitude, cynicism, and self-reliance have severely hindered my ability to be fully in relationship with God. On the outside, people see someone who is well put together, can pray, can quote the right scriptures, provide the right encouragement, and speak the right words when needed. But recent situations in my life have exposed how far I have drifted from how I related to God in 2007 and early 2008. This week I realized a very haunting truth: I am at a crossroad and my next move will have ramifications for my life that would be as far-reaching as eternity. As I reflected on this, wondering what my next move should be, I picked up my bible two nights ago and my Good Father (who has stayed close by while I work through my life’s issues) encouraged me with this scripture:

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…(deliberate pause)”

Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

Goosebumps right! Well… there is more. This scripture was not only an encouragement about what I need to do get back on track with God especially now that His return is much more closer. This scripture is about choice and is also a warning. You’d think the people of Israel welcomed this invitation of God to return to Him ( just as He has invited me) with open arms. But No. See that scripture in its entirety:

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

And Jeremiah 6: 17-30 tells us more about what comes next for the Israelites because of their choice. I encourage you to read to find out more if you are curious. Today, I find myself at the same cross road with the same choice thousands of years later and God’s invitation is the same. I have a choice to ask for the ancient path, ask where the good road is, and walk in it or I can choose my own path. If you are at some cross roads in your life today, what will you choose? Rest or turmoil? I know I want rest. I am tired… I am weary… and I am worn… so Precious Lord hold my hand and lead me in the ancient and good path and lead me towards rest and lead me home. In Jesus’ name I pray for myself and for every one else who needs this prayer.

Yours truly.

Religion vs Relationship

So two weeks ago, I had a conversation with my pastor that started with the statement “I am very angry with God”. And after about a 15- 20 minute rant about why I was angry, she prayed with me and I went on my rather morose way! And for the past two weeks I have been thinking, “well I put that out there, God and so now its your move” and for the past two weeks I have been wondering how both God and I will get past my confession and back into relationship. Yesterday as I was getting ready for church, I heard a sermon playing on the TV from a preacher I had never heard before and he started by saying, “people are the angriest they have ever been” and that piqued my interest and then God in his special way managed to speak to me through all my anger. So here is what I learned:

  • Lesson #1- Look underneath the anger
    • The preacher in a very dramatic reenactment described Naaman’s journey to healing from leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-8:15) . When Elisha had asked Naaman to get cleansed in the Jordan river his immediate reaction was anger. One would think that for someone who had travelled all the way for healing, he would have been more excited that he did not have to do something so arduous but no…Naaman turned away in anger. Now Naaman was a highly regarded and valiant soldier, a man’s man and his current state was a far cry from the success he had achieved in life. There was a great chasm between what Naaman’s expectations of the life of valiant soldier should look like and his current experience. And this chasm was filled with anger and rage. As the preacher said, success has a way of sedating us to think that we do not deserve any form of suffering and perhaps this was the state of mind of Naaman who expressed anger at the instructions to go and wash in the Jordan river. Two weeks ago, in unburdening about why I was so angry with God, I had shared with my pastor how I felt God could not be trusted. I was angry because I have spent a greater part of my life in service to God in one way or another and did not feel that God was treating me fairly with the adversity and unanswered prayers I have recently encountered. And guess what? I am not alone! Many Christians are asking God questions like, “why did I lose my loved one?” “why did I get Covid?” “why did you not prevent my marriage from falling apart?” “why didn’t the healing come when I prayed?”… and so on and so forth. As the preacher said so astutely, our everyday success has a way of sedating us into thinking that we do not deserve our suffering and the truth of that statement hit me hard. I have asked myself if my whole relationship with God had been built on the notion of reciprocity – that because of the things I have done in service of God that somehow I deserve God to give me everything I ask for. Two weeks ago, my pastor suggested that I reflect on what I have anchored my faith to- whether my faith and trust in God was tethered to the fact that my whole family has been serving Him faithfully and so felt like God owed us something for our service. I have spent the past few weeks thinking about this and have uncovered something really valuable which I share in lesson #2.
  • Lesson #2- What is your faith anchored to?
    • In exploring why I have been so angry, I have ruminated on what my trust is anchored in and came to the conclusion that my pastor was on to something. Over the years, I have built my faith and trust in Jesus based on the things He has done for me. The answered prayers for provision and providence, the many times of deliverance from accidents and ill health, the times I have experienced God’s grace have served to increase and grow my faith in God and in His abilities. However, my faith has not been anchored to more than that. For example, instead of building my faith around the fact that God is a healer which is His character, His essence, I have built faith around his acts of healing- so not on who He is, but what He does. And while God’s many acts helps to build faith, anchoring my faith on His actions alone is not a sustainable way to develop trust in a relationship. So in keeping with this example, during those times when God chooses not to heal me or my loved ones, my faith gets shaken because there is a gap between my expectations and my experience. In reality, whether or not God chooses to heal in a particular instance does not, and should not change the fact that He is a healer. In many ways, I have become like the Israelites of old who sought God for his mighty acts and so that was all God was to them. However, this was not the case with Moses. Even though Moses got introduced to God through his acts (the burning bush), he grew in relationship to the point where he knew God and communed with Him as friend with friend not because of what God could do, but because of who he is. Think about this:

He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel (Psalm 103:7 NLT).

Psalm 103:7 NLT

So through all my anger, God managed to reach at the crux of what was bothering me and not only that, He has brought me into a place of deeper relationship with Him- just like He did for Naaman. When God got through to Naaman past all his anger, He not only brought healing to the leprosy but also healed his heart. This year I have experienced new dimensions of God and I find that the more I lean into it, the more it feels like my life is falling apart. And the more my life falls apart, the more it falls into place. So before I sign off, I leave you with this thought: Religion says God I did this so now it is your turn to do that but Relationship says God I trust you. so which one do you have? Religion or Relationship?

Yours Truly

P.s. here is the sermon I listened to: https://elevationchurch.org/sermons/the-cost-of-going-off/