mercy, blindness, and the rug
I love dates. This is one of those qualifiers that separate people into two categories: you’re either a Date Person or you are Not A Date Person. I remember dates and mark anniversaries – oh, not in a lets-all-have-cake kind of way, but in a private heart treasuring kind of way. I forget many other important things (Me? Forgetful?), but for some reason, the day that something special happened, if it marks me, I notice. When it comes around again, I feel it.
And sometimes a familiar date will come back to me in a tangible memory, complete with characters, smells, and feelings, that slips peripherally into view, catches me off-guard, and reminds me of who I am. And why. I’m always grateful for these. Because I forget.
Recently when I saw that it was July 3rd, my mind raced back in time to the blog I wrote about that moment in 2011 in Rwanda, and I let God fill my heart with memories of HIM answering my prayer- one I had been praying daily for months. I had been asking that God would give me a heart of wisdom. And asking. And asking.
Proverbs 2:3-5 says this:
Yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
Oh, I wanted it. In 2011 was panting for it. I had been reading a Proverb daily for 3 months, corresponding to the date. Billy Graham carried this discipline daily, and, that was good enough for me. (Proverbs has 31 chapters; perfect for every month. Have you done this? What was it like for you?) At that time I had never ever in my life wanted wisdom so badly. With good reason. As much as I don’t want to go there, me and God – we know. What I didn’t know was that I was blind and being blinded. That a month later I would get a taste of a vision for a hard calling at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. That a month after that I would learn we were losing our house. That within 6 months, we’d live in Manchester and I’d be on staff at my church, living out the hard calling. Does that sound like rags to riches? If so, then you must not be in ministry.
On July 3 2011 in Rwanda I got to stand on the rug in Rubengera Sector, Karongi District, Rwanda, and “bring the Word”, or in other words, preach. We were guests at the Restoration Church, my friends and I. Jess, Evy, Michelle and I were members of the HIV/Aids Awareness Team from Manchester Christian Church in 2011 and we were there for just a few weeks with the unimaginable privilege of bringing life saving information. As a part of our 2 day workshops those invited to attend were entrusted with myth-debunking facts and tasked to carry it to 7 other families.
On the way to church that morning, we were reminded that in Rwanda, guests are often asked to bring the Word – to share a short Bible teaching, and I volunteered. The day before, July 2, the Proverb of the day had been particularly meaningful for me, so I knew I was meant to share it. I was excited in that nauseous kind of way, and my friends were back-patting me and silently praying for me – probably to not throw up! In this open air church the way they signified that the someone was going to preach was by unfurling a small oriental rug, and setting the podium on it. So when I saw two men stand to get it out for me, my heart jumped in my chest. Honestly, getting the chance to speak a few words of truth from Proverbs 2 to them on the subject of wisdom was at once ridiculously ironic and deeply natural. Let me explain.
Truth: God just loves it when we ask for wisdom. I picture Him as joyful as a 6 year old when she gets her way, clapping and stamping her feet. We ask and He breathes out, “Yesssss! She wants wisdom! Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. Yes, here you go.” I was just starting to learn this about Him.
But here is wisdom – the seeking of it.
Seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasure….
I can’t even tell you why Proverbs 2 is living vibrating pulsing truth to me every single time I read it, but I can tell you this. I understand what it feels like to find myself entirely strangled in an unsolvable trifecta of agony, holiness, and good intentions, and to be unable to escape on my own power. I look back now at that year and the list of lessons I like LEAST to talk about, but my heart knows it like braille on my skin. One reason my soul remains tangled and tired in life is that so many of her great wise lessons are buried in shame, just like this one is. Shame complicates mercy. Oh, my heart. If I were to speak or write of why I understand that God gives wisdom after we desperately beg, cry, scream, swear and sacrifice for it, I would have to say how I got there. To my knees. And from my knees to the rug. The rug on the dirt floor under the pulpit in Rwanda. The one they only unfurl for those who preach the Word, and when it’s over, they roll it back up and lay it aside. The one I would never ever, E-VER, be worthy to stand on by myself, and I sure as hell was not that day.
Here’s the deal. The rug was Jesus. He was the worth that day and this one. He alone makes his word holy, and his people pure and worthy of the wisdom they get after the fitful asking.
To those who gain a heart of wisdom, it is not a pretty sight. If you have gained a heart of wisdom, its because you whored after it with the passion of an addict. Wisdom does not come like a sweet scented breeze. When wisdom comes it’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in San Andreas, coming for you in a speedboat through the rubble of heinous debris. And you still want it, at any cost. Wisdom rips up a path for bruised and naked feet.
Did I ask for that? Nope. And I certainly had no idea that asking for wisdom as I did way back then, the daily begging, would lead me through preaching, visions, losses, and callings that have been so hard I can’t believe I ever dared want them. I was blind and blinded, mercifully. That’s the best part – the mercy of blindness. When we ask for wisdom, that thing that God loves to give, we normally don’t know (until we DO) that we are destitute fools without it. Because THAT knowledge (which is part of the wisdom gifted to the askers in Proverbs 2) is also devastatingly humbling. To receive it, you have to have eyes to see your pitiable lack, and that is a deep ditch of darkness to climb out of all its own. The Oh Crap moment of reckoning the mercy of God it took to just bear with you and not snuff you out, as you spoke the living Word while standing on the rug. In Rwanda. To people who have nothing but they need nothing because they have Jesus. They HAVE him.
Wisdom is worth her price, though. OH, God knows it. That’s why he made it pricey. But look at what we get for asking?
…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
And it goes on. So so good.
The other day, my husband cried out in pain and I ran to our room to see if he was OK. He was just yelping because the puppy had leaped onto his chest, which was alarming enough for him to yelp. When I had recovered from heart failure, I reminded him, “So this is the deal. When you cry out, I will come running. That is what is always going to happen.” I want him to know this so he saves his crying out for real danger – because we have had a crazy year of injuries and pain, and I am weary of my impulse to save people under false alarms. True alarms abound. But as I left the room (after cracking up over the silliness of it all), I heard the Spirit repeat my words to me.
“When you cry out, I will come running.”