Aside

In order for something to be good, it needs to be new. Isn’t that what our culture teaches us? Second hand, cringe. Trying a relationship again, nuh-uh. Even working at an existing relationship to make it better isn’t something that is accepted or even encouraged.

New is best. New, shiny, exciting, that’s what is going to make you excited!

Divorce is accepted because there’s no way the wrongful person will change. Move on, improve yourself and find someone you deserve. Hashing through the same old arguments and expecting that person to have a change of heart is just putting yourself through unneeded torture. People don’t change and there’s someone out there that will accept you for who you are, that will give you what you need and that will love you in the way you need to be loved.

I was reading in Ezekiel last night, flipping through my highlighted verses, and skimmed over Ezekiel chapter 36.

On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will settle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.

Ezekiel 36:33

I’ve read this verse many times. Over and over. I just love how, regardless of how many times you read something, new lessons always pop up.

Isn’t it interesting that God didn’t tell the people “I will build a new city for you, I will give you the homes and land of your dreams!”. Nope, he said “You’ll stay where you are and I will rebuild your towns and all the ruins around you”. I wonder how many people heard that and thought “Drag, I totally wanted to move somewhere new. This rebuilding stuff will be a lot of work…”

This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden;

Ezekiel 36:35

God’s plan wasn’t just to rebuild their lands to their former glory. It was to completely renovate them. To make them so beautiful that people noticed and that they would compare them to the garden of Eden. God’s plan wasn’t to give them back what they had before, but to give them a place that they had only dreamed about. A beautiful, lush land. A place where they had pure relationship and interaction with him.

God is into restoration…but more than that, he’s into transformation. If you obey God, if you return to him, on that very day, he says, he will cleanse you and he will resettle your towns and rebuild your ruins. I love the end of verse 36:

I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.

Ezekiel 36:36b

It’s a neat practice to put accentuation on different words in a verse. If you put accentuation on the second ‘I’, it shows that GOD will be the one that works, HE will be the one that does the rebuilding. If you put the accentuation on “will”, it shows that God WILL do it! He has said it and he won’t back out of it! God never goes back on his word, he never changes his mind, what he has said he will do, he WILL do!

Just because God is promising you the Promised Land, doesn’t mean that this land will be a new place for you. It doesn’t mean that it will be somewhere different. It could very well be that God’s promise means that such an immense change will take place that you won’t even recognize your current land. That it will be everything that you could have ever dreamed about and more.

I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake.

Ezekiel 36:32

He is restoring your land, he is building your garden of Eden, not for your sake…but for his. This isn’t about your glory, it’s about his. Everything you’re going through is about bringing God Glory. Your life isn’t about making you happy or making people notice you, it’s about bringing people to the recognition that God has given us everything we need and is the reason our lands have been restored and transformed.

If you are praying for transformation in your life, for restoration, God will do it. HE will do it. You need to step back, to be still and allow him to work. He will transform your life, your lands, your marriage, your children, your parents, your job…whatever it is, into something you never expected it to be, into a garden of Eden that people step back and notice. Not only will God be the one to do the work, but he will do it. He has promised and God doesn’t make false promises. Be patient. Don’t set boundaries of time. Give God space to work and with the time you would have spent worrying and making demands, spend that with God instead and you will be amazed at the changes you’ll see around you.

Aside

Freewill. That’s a hard thing to explain in a Christian life. We have been given freewill, that’s part of the uniqueness of being human, a feature that God purposely put in us. But freewill means that we can choose to do what we want, when we want, how we want…and potentially live with the consequences, good or bad.

This could mean though, that we subconsciously tend to think of God as an errand boy. A force that picks up the pieces behind us and deals with how we have decided life should go. We often get confused about God’s roll in our minds and hearts and how his influence in our daily lives actually leads us to decisions and choices that without his direction we would not have come to. Because this just wouldn’t be true ‘freewill’ would it?

The bible says that God directs our paths, that we might make our own plans, but that it is his plans that ultimately come to pass (Proverbs 16:9). God is in control of every single little detail in every single little persons life. He has set out the times for us, Acts 17:26 says, the exact places where we will live. He’s not piecing the puzzle of our choices together in order to clean up a mess in our wake, he’s directing our every step and thought in order to bring us to a specific place. A place where we acknowledge him with everything we do, a place where we realize that without him we can do nothing, a place where we give him all the glory…a place where we have relationship with him.

We need to be careful about how we think about freewill. The world teaches us that we are entitled to freewill, that it is our right. But (a) we aren’t actually entitled to anything and (b) true freewill is following the path that God is setting out for us and knowing that the best choice is to follow his direction.

When I was running from God people would often ask me about my hometown and at the end of my reply I would always, without exception, add “But I’ll never move back”. And every single time these words would come out of my mouth, a little voice in the back of my mind would whisper “God’s going to make you move back”. God was working in my life, directing my path, allowing me to make certain decisions that would lead me to know that he was the only satisfaction I would find…he was gently directing my steps back towards his throne. It didn’t matter what plans I made for myself, he was putting desires in my heart and setting my feet in a certain path in order to bring me back home.

I lay in bed one night and God called my name. He asked me, once again, to pick up his word and start reading again. And so I did, but I told him, point blank, I would only read one verse a day. That’s all I had time for. But God knew, he knew that once I picked up that bible he would flood into me and I wouldn’t be able to stop reading after just one verse. He knew that he would put a hunger in me, such a strong desire for him, that it wouldn’t be quenched with just one verse.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

You can make your plans, tell God how it’s going to go, but God already knows. He has lead you to that spot, he’s allowed and placed everything in your life to lead you to every decision you’ll ever make. And once you stop fighting him, once you allow him to take your hand and lead you in his way, you will see that it’s so much better than trying to forge your way through the mess of life.

There’s two ways to get what you want. Either push your way towards your goals and fight your way to the top or allow God to take control, lead you and have the peace of mind that whatever happens is in his hands. Either way, in the end, you’re going to end up just where God wants you. You might as well just surrender your life to him, it’s so much more simple.

A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?

Proverbs 20:24

 

Aside

When I was running from God I specifically remember hearing his voice telling me to pick up my bible, read his word, and I would return to my husband. I also, very clearly, remember telling him “No”. I stubbornly didn’t want to return to my marriage, my husband, my home town, my Christian ‘good girl’ ways…So I closed my heart to God and turned my back to him in order to pursue a life that I was sure would make me happy.

Did you know that turning from God, hardening your heart against him, is a sin? I mean, yeah, it’s obviously not a good idea…but a SIN? Exodus 9 verse 27 and 34 both explain that hardening your heart against God, like Pharaoh did, is a sin.

Sinning against God like this was a continual choice I made while I was running. Even though, like Pharaoh, I saw obvious signs that God was calling me to obedience, I denied them and angrily chased after a worldly lifestyle. There was a voice in my head that kept reminding me that I would eventually follow God again. A voice that, annoyingly enough, told me I would move back to my home town. And my heart of hearts knew that I wouldn’t be happy until I returned to my husband, marriage and my God. But I kept doing what ‘made sense’ to me at the time.

Pharaoh was only doing what made sense to him at the time. Not that this excuses his disobedience, but let’s put ourselves in his shoes for a second. He was a powerful king over not only his people, but the Israelites, and this invisible God was asking him to release them. This made no sense to him. Why would he release an entire nation of people?

It didn’t make sense for me to deny what the world was saying about happiness. Happiness is up to you! You make your destiny, you have to take care of Number One, your success is dependent on you, you. are. it., it’s your life, chase after your dreams, become who you want to be, don’t let anyone stop you. It didn’t make any sense for me to remain in a marriage that was uncomfortable, where I was depressed, where I was trapped. Running after a good job, a fun social life, a cute condo, and having guys in my life that appreciated me was what would make me happy! There was no way that being happy equaled giving all of this up for a God that I couldn’t see and a God that was asking me to be somewhere where I was uncomfortable.

So I did that. I achieved those things, I got the best paying job I’d ever had, I had a great social life partying and rubbing shoulders with CEO’s and Oil and Gas big-wigs. I had a super cute condo, I went to yoga often, worked out and was fit, had guys left right and center. But at the end of the night, I was alone in bed, crying because a piece of my heart was still missing…and I was confused.

All of these things were supposed to make me happy, but why did I feel so empty?? Why was something just…missing??

So instead of sinning the next time God spoke to me, I listened. He told me to pick up my bible, so I picked it up. With conditions, of course, but I picked it up. And what happened next amazed me, blew me away…I touched that bible, that’s literally all it took, and suddenly I was a dry, parched sponge and God was the water that quenched my thirst. Everything that I had been running from, I realized very quickly, was exactly what I was aching to find. The happiness that I was searching for wasn’t in anything I expected, it really was in this invisible God. It wasn’t in the things that I could see or touch or in things that made sense like men or money, the happiness I wanted, the piece of my heart that was missing, was God.

I wonder what would have happened if Pharaoh would have listened to God the first time, if he would have taking that leap of faith instead of hardening his heart? His decision affected everyone around him, just like mine did. If he had just said “Yes” to God, I wonder what blessing the nation of Egypt would have received instead of the plagues…