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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Leaning Forward

I recently had the opportunity to go snowboarding with some friends a couple of weekends ago in Michigan.  I had been several times before, but never quite grasped how to go down the hill fast.  Every time I started to pick up speed, I would start to lean back on my back foot.  This would cause the edge of my board to catch the snow and I would take a nasty spill.  Eventually, one of my friends who went that day and who was quite good at snowboarding, gave me some advice that really changed my approach to carving down the slopes.  He told me the key for going fast down the hill and not allowing my snowboard edge to catch the snow was to lean forward onto my front foot.  This new advice was very intimidating to implement at first because of how much speed I generated in such a short amount of time.  To my amazement, leaning forward and trusting the board to guide me down the hill worked.  As I took pressure off my back foot and leaned forward, the back edges of my board were loose enough on top of the snow to keep the board from digging into the snow.  In turn, the board went straight down the hill.  The key was for me to trust the board to do its job as I leaned forward into an uncomfortable position. 

Our relationship with God is a lot like this snowboarding experience.  God so many times wants us to lean forward and trust Him and lean on Him for direction, guidance and council and when things don’t make sense to us, we need to trust that He sees the bigger picture.  Our carnal minds want answers and we want them “NOW”.  When we don’t get the answer we are looking for, we sometimes take things into our own hands.  

Romans 8:6 (Amplified Bible)
Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever].

This verse is simply stating that without the illumination from the Holy Spirit we will miss what God is trying to teach us or where He wants to lead us.  We need to trust God and let His peace guard our hearts and minds.  Sometimes God leads us into very uncomfortable situations because He is trying to train us so that we can be fully mature believers.  

Take Job for example.  Behind the scenes, God had a conversation with Satan about Job and God allowed Satan to bring difficulty into his life.  Job lost everything he owned and all his sons and daughters were killed in one day!!!  Then, if that wasn’t enough, Job was stricken with sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet for an extended amount of time.  Eventually some of Job’s friends heard about all the trials Job had faced and came to comfort him.  They told Job that he must be in sin, because a righteous person wouldn’t go through such trials. 

It’s amazing to me how many critics we have when we are down in the lowest points of our lives.  When we need someone to encourage us, we get blasted with judgmental stares and opinions.  Many of them even claim to be speaking on behalf of God.  I had such an experience.  At the start of the economic downturn a little over 2 years ago, I was working in Atlanta, GA for a very successful landscape architecture firm.  Everyone at the office was given a pay cut and eventually several people were laid off, one of which was me.  It was very difficult to find a job during this time and especially one in my field.  About 75% of the landscape architecture/ architecture industry was wiped out and was not returning any time soon.  Every job I took ended in me being laid off or forced to leave due to bad economic times and employers couldn’t afford to keep me on staff.  It was very confusing.  At the same time, I owned a house and rented rooms to some of my friends and they started struggling financially.  It was hard for them to pay me rent on time and some could only make partial payments.  For the first time ever, I started being late on bills and had to live off credit to survive.  None of it made sense to me.  I loved God and was trying to obey Him to the best of my ability and I tried to listen to financial experts about what to do.  Every good sound decision I made ended up spiraling me further into debt and despair.  Several of my friends began to question every aspect of my financial condition.  One of them even asked “Are you in sin?”  I was thinking in my head, “no, but I will be in five seconds if you don’t get away from me.”  I don’t think people have much compassion for others and where they have been, unless they have personally walked a mile in their shoes.  My own financial collapse has taught me to not be so quick to point the finger and judge anymore.  I am sad to admit that I used to be one of those critics!!  I can honestly say that God has completely changed my perspective and I am so grateful for the hard times.  They teach me to have God’s heart.  During this time, I was really discouraged about the whole ordeal and one night I cried out to God and asked Him, “Please show me if I am doing something wrong.  Help me trust you when I don’t see what you are doing.”  The next morning I was reading a book and it talked about how God had taken Job through a very difficult season that he didn’t understand why.  Then I read this verse in Job:

            Job 23:8-10 (Amplified Bible)
Behold, I go forward [and to the east], but He is not there; I go backward [and to the west], but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand [and to the north] where He works [I seek Him], but I cannot behold Him; He turns Himself to the right hand [and to the south], but I cannot see Him.  But He knows the way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous].

Through this verse, God was asking me to trust Him when life didn’t make sense and to leave the critics in His hands.  I don’t have to try and convince people why I am going through these trials, but I need to lean forward on God and let Him teach me the lessons He wants me to learn, even when it is uncomfortable.  Then, I will come forth as pure gold with no defects. 

My financial condition worsened.  I ended up losing everything: my car, my house, all my household belongings and I eventually had to declare bankruptcy.  On top of that, I had to move back in with my parents and be dependent on them for the first time in almost 11 years…very humbling.  I made up my mind, I was not going to try and figure it out.   The bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6 (Amplified Bible) Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. 

It’s interesting that in the depths of my financial despair, God placed on my heart to write about all the difficult experiences He allowed me to walk through over the last 11 years.  It had always been a dream of mine to help encourage others in the midst of life’s challenges and I saw myself one day communicating these truths through writing.  God used what seemed to be a tragic season in my life to steer me in a totally new direction…a God direction.  Just this past week, someone in South Florida read my blog and asked me to become a writer for a Christian newspaper.  Had I not gone through all these challenges, I would not have been in a place where I had the time or energy to write.  God’s ways are truly not our ways. 
God knows what He is doing in your life!  Will you lean forward and trust God in the midst of uncertain times?  He is the only one who can see beyond your troubles and guide you to a safe place.  Don’t be afraid to place your complete trust and confidence in God and allow Him to direct your steps.  

Lean Forward…Lean on God. 

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