We took family pictures on Monday. Last year, I remember looking at the family pics taken at the Shuffleboard Club and Mirror Lake and thinking it may be the last year we would be at that gathering location as a church.
Because it was around that same time that a specific building came into the sights of our church as a possible next step. So, we began the inquiries and sought information. It seemed like so many things were going to fall seamlessly into place. It was ideal—in multiple ways. For instance, we had been told that we were losing our office space as the new office building owners had different plans for the space. No problem. It’s perfect. We could move right into this new space as the office space closed down. Maybe we’d have to do a month in storage and then voila---our next location. Look at God’s timing!
Not to mention our family pics would be like a little memorial to the time there at the Shuffleboard Club.
Isn’t it perfect?
Isn’t it a neat little package with a red bow on top?
And often, I’ve seen God work in those mysterious ways when everything is so neat and perfectly wrapped up and it seems so obvious that this was exactly how it was always ordained for it to work. Yeah. I love those times.
But then sometimes, God says, “And when it doesn’t look like that, what then?”
“Will you trust Me, even when it looks differently?”
Differently than you expected.
Differently than you wanted.
Differently than that life plan you love so much.
And here’s the one that gets me-- Differently than you’ve seen God act on your behalf before.
I think Anna, from Sunday’s talk and Luke 2, probably felt the same way.
I’m certain her life plan did not include losing her husband after 7 years and living as a widow the rest of her life. When she married, did she dream of a large family surrounding her? Of little girls that looked like her helping her get water from the well and laughing and giggling all the way there? Did she dream of little boys with large brown eyes looking up at her enraptured as she shared the heroic stories of her people? That’s what her life plan might have included. That’s her wants and what she would expect as a little Jewish girl. And it was the way she had seen God work in the lives around her. That wasn’t what her life would include.
What do we do when the bottom drops out? What do we do when life throws us disappointments that knock us back on our heels and take our breath away? That leave the large rock in the stomach feeling. Because what we do in the worst of times is what truly defines us as people…as followers of Jesus Christ. When the death in the family, death in the relationship, death in our career, death in our own soul comes, where do we go? Because that’s what defines you.
Anna runs to the temple and sits in the courtyard day and night praying, fasting, and prophesying. When the bottom fell out of Anna’s life, she ran to the place and people associated with the presence of God. And that action places her in the story of Messiah. I don’t know what you’re going through, but I know this- throughout your life you will face moments when you will find out what you’re really made of. When you will find out if what you say you believe about God is true. I have witnessed so many of God’s saints be placed in circumstances that like Job they have opportunity to say, “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him.” In other words, nothing can happen that is too bad for me to run from Him instead of to Him.
For me, it was a week after my Dad’s funeral. Everyone had left, it was just myself left at my parents’ home with my Mom. I was laying in the cherry wood bed that had been my parents’ bed for as long as I could remember. I was sleeping there because Mom had told me she would never be able to sleep there again. So I had taken their bed while she used one of the guest rooms. As I lay there numb, with no more tears, I said, “This is it. No matter what happens to me or who you take from me. I’m in. Fully committed.” Because you just don’t really know, until the bottom drops out.
Anna maybe didn’t know what she was made of… and then her husband died. It was in that worst case scenario she met her God and she met herself. Her destiny of prophet may never have been realized were it not for her response to tragedy. And then ultimately, she prophesied over the Creator Himself born in baby form. I love the redemption of her story. It is tragic. It is long. It is beautiful.
And so back to a year ago—no, we didn’t step into that building in the “perfect timing.” And we’ve worked without an office and in the same gathering location for another year. And God’s work doesn’t always look neat and have that red bow on the top that meets all your expectations.
When God whispers, “Will you trust Me, even when it looks differently?” what will you do?
Be an Anna. Run to His presence. Discover who He is and what you’re made of.
It’s not always a Neat little package with a red bow.
But it’s real and it is filled with Promise. Be hopeful. Be expectant.
Join us this Sunday as we Continue our series Expectant.