"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." - Corrie Ten Boom

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Truth of the Matter

Lately, I've been wondering about the things that matter.
And I mean, really matter.
Let's face it. We are busy people with constant choices to make. I want to learn, know, and invest in what really matters.

matter  (ˈmætə) 
— n  (sometimes foll by of or  for )
1.that which makes up something, esp a physical object;material

Although I was certainly never very good at it, I have always found science very interesting. As I thought about what matters, I remembered that Matter is defined in science as "any substance which has mass and occupies space." And as I debated through hands full of choices I began to wonder which of them were of substance... and which were more of the... "space" variety.

I sometimes make so much of what I believe to be the "big picture"... but what if it's not the big picture at all? I sometimes make so much of myself...of my own happiness. And I believe that so many of these things that feel so big, that take so much of my time and attention simply fall to the ground... once beautiful but now wasted.

How could I understand the "big picture" on my own, from where I stand, anyway?

I love to stand and look outside my window. My mind marvels at stepping and crunching over such intricately designed, beautifully created things that I could never begin to make, or even understand why they matter. I stand in my carefully decorated box gazing out a window to admire God's handiwork (when I need to be refreshed... or am too tired to go about my own busy). My busy feet step over them, unnoticed and unappreciated, yet it is clear that there is purpose in every little detail. And I realize that I simply am not an expert on what matters. 

Isaiah 55:8-9

New International Version (NIV)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,” 
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The absolutely beautiful truth... is that there is nothing, nothing I can create with my own mind, intentions, or shaking hands that does not pale in comparison to the beauty of just a tiny weed outside my door.

And the most beautiful things, the most beautiful people in my life, all of those things that matter most to me ... they are only gifts from God Himself. Created by HIS hands. Because to Him, I matter. 
If I matter enough to the Creator of the Universe to receive such beautiful gifts, to receive life, should I not work toward understanding what He would like to accomplish with me? My little bit of matter is so small among this great big universe of puzzle pieces intricately formed for an obvious purpose. And yet for some reason, he chose to give us substance among it all. Should I continue to make so much of myself when He has already surrounded me with the works of His own hands... or should I not find my place and join Him with my hands, in His purposes? Is all that matters around me not for my glory, but for His anyway? ... And oh, to see the glory of the Maker of all of these things... and to be invited to be a part...

And what if my purpose is only very small? Unnoticed? Not significant to hurried feet marching on? What then?
Then we are allowed to be identified as His (therefore, as so much bigger than what we really are)... as part of His Handiwork... as His beloved child who trust Him. It is significant to Him. Our worship... our obedience... our love is significant to Him.

"...you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ... You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
1 Peter 2:5,9-10
My mind will never be big enough to know and understand the purpose of every detail that is around me.
That realization was frustrating, until I realized what freedom it brought.
I am not the Master, the Creator, the One who fits all things together and works them for good.
[I am only one small detail.]
What blessed freedom, what love that He would care for us so. What a relief to know our Maker.

I love long road trips. I love the feeling of driving fast, down long winding roads and wondering about all of the towns I pass. For some reason it has always been mind-blowing to me that every city holds so many people, so many families, so many businesses, so many heart aches and so many joys that I know nothing about. We all live on the same soil, working for the same purpose, oblivious to each others problems and joys... and yet our purposes serve one another. We may never meet each other... but we will see the benefits of laboring to raise strong adults, to work hard in the workplace and factory.
The world is so much bigger than me. Life... is so much bigger than all of us.
It makes me excited to view my little box from here... rather than from the inside looking out.
One of my favorite memories is that of standing in the ocean next to my father as a little girl, only as tall as his waist. I knew he was big... and I wanted to be big like him. I couldn't, but I wanted too.
I had marched bravely out into the waves and stood very close to him. I thought others would think me brave, and I suppose I felt pretty brave myself standing there next to him. People might identify me as his child because I was standing nearby, and that made me proud. I wasn't afraid then.  Because I knew he was big. I knew I could trust him.
Sometimes I could stand close to him, laughing bravely at the crashing waves around us and enjoying the sun.
Other times at the sight of the waves rising higher I would quickly grab His hand, because his strength made me feel big, too.
Sometimes, through squinting eyes I could catch a glimpse of an angry wave building far above my head.
And I did not know what to do except wrap my arms and legs tight around his leg, close my eyes, and hold on tight. I didn't know how to withstand the waves, I only knew that my daddy would not move.

Many times in life I can't pretend to be doing anything more than that with the Lord. I know He is biggest, I know I can trust Him, and I have to close my eyes to everything else and wrap myself tight to Him. I wish I could pretend I could understand or do it by myself, but I'm not as big as He is. And I'm not big enough to be like Him, although I so desperately want to be near Him.

And in those times I remember feeling my dad's knees bending, and his strong hands lifting me up above the waves so that we could watch them together, and not be under them. 
We laughed at my littleness, and that was ok. It was the truth. I was proud to matter to Him... and knew He would take care of me because I was little. And we enjoyed watching the big things together... the One who could stand, and the one who could not, but who mattered to Him.

Many years later as I struggled through what, for me alone, were the impossible things in life I found the Psalm below and I read it over, and over, and over. It was written on small note papers all over the house and car. I could not get it out of my mind, and I did not want to. I was confident that the Lord wanted me to learn it, to know it, to live it... and I didn't know why. I thought maybe it meant all my troubles would work out to be ok or that easier days were ahead... but I was wrong. I was and am still however confident that the Lord wanted to engrain this truth in me... because it is bigger than my troubles were... it made up life... it made up me... it made up matter quite literally more than the circumstances in my life. It was the bigger picture. 

Psalm 16

miktam[a] of David.

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; 
    apart from you I have no good thing.” 
I say of the holy people who are in the land, 
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; 
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance. 
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; 
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure, 
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, 
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay. 
11 You make known to me the path of life; 
    you will fill me with joy in your presence, 
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
The Lord began to show me that really so often my circumstances... my "matter"... my view from this corner of the big picture... is often just the space around the matter. There is a difference between the space... and the matter.

You see at this time, what mattered the most in the world was my marriage. To be a good wife, to be a good mother... to know that I had a happy family. And after 10 years of battling for what mattered to me, and a solid year of reading this Psalm, these options for what mattered to me were taken from my hands. And I packed up the belongings of my children and I with a shattered heart I looked at my bridal portrait in the heaping trash can outside my home. The sum total of what I thought made my life and purpose matter was staring up at me from the garbage. And yet all I could hear was the Psalm... literally God's voice over and over... "The Lord is my portion and my cup. He has made my lot secure. Surely the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places." And I KNEW that for a year the Lord had my learn this Psalm... for this day. My worst fear had become reality... the best of me was staring at me from the trash can... and yet I mattered to God. I was of the same amount of substance to Him as the girl in the trash can that was when I looked my finest. HOW could God love me so? And how can I love Him in return? Am I willing to find the truth between space and matter?

I certainly know that I never want to be away from His side. I know that wrapping my entire being around Him and closing my eyes and saying ok God, whatever you say, you are biggest... that has been the gateway to all that matters.
I was filled with joy and excitement... at the same time as my sadness... that life was bigger than this. And that the Creators purposes were bigger than what mattered most to me. 
And we are living proof... two years from looking at what mattered most to me literally go in the trash... to say that what matters most to God is that which was biggest... of the greatest substance and worth. And He is our portion and our cup. HE is our promise! And He has blessed our space far more than we could ever ask or think. My space was given to Him... and He is filling it with what matters.

Life is a beautiful adventure. It is big. And we are not big enough to see it all.
God is so much bigger than we can see or understand...
and yet He reveals Himself to us in the smallest details. Through allowing us to see how very much our adventures matter to Him. How worth it, it is to hold on tight and to follow Him. He will lift you up and carry you... and the view is so, so much better from there.
Right now we are waiting. It has brought an awe-inspiring peace to wait in the oncology department of a hospital in Philadelphia with my 9 year old son... who matters so deeply to me... and to be so utterly and completely confident that He matters far more to God. I know that God has a purpose and a plan for Him... that is far greater and bigger than I can see.. regardless of the appearance of the space that holds the matter.

I am only the one lucky enough to hold Him in the waiting room. Thank you Lord. 
And what matters... what is of substance to the Lord? Is it really how many days we live, anyway?
I can't seem to justify that as something that matters as much as I'd like it to.
Rather, it seems to be the details, the following, the hand holding, the way in which it is lived. What matters to the Lord in the space He has given us, is good stewardship of investing in things of substance.
Those are the things that matter.

Perhaps the most mind-blowing, fascinating, make you jump up and down exciting part of it all... is that when I let go of trying to pretend I'm big enough to understand, or be in charge of the "bigger picture"... the Lord releases His power in countless ways... He lifts me up above the waves. He gives me the most crazy peace and joy... that I know comes straight from Him! He moves the doctors, moves the finances, moves the circumstances around me... because I matter to Him. And He was waiting for me to remember just how much He matters to me... how much more substance He has... than all of these things.
And I find that despite any waves around us, big or small... we can hold on tight, and laugh harder than before in the absolute thrill of being loved enough to be held above the waves. Whether the waves come... or whether they go... He is biggest. I may never learn the science or the art of defeating or conquering waves that are so much bigger and stronger than I, but I can learn to rest in Him, and sit in awe to watch, listen, and experience a far more profound, substantial, and beautiful movement of the depths to which I can only catch a glimpse.
And the waves mixing together and coming in and out under the Maker's design.. now that, is a truly beautiful sight to behold.
So what matters? And what is space?
Does it matter more how things turn out... or how we grow, change, and live in the process?
Does it matter more that we may have to wait... or that someone else who is bigger is in control?
Does it matter that we grow tired and don't know what to do... or that we have been afforded new opportunities to learn what it is to rest in the Lord and to hear His voice in a clearer way than before?
Does it matter more that we are afraid... or that we are loved?
Does it matter more that we are lonely... or shall we not use our space to say "Ok Lord, I'll do lonely... please help me to grow and embrace the space you have given me... so I can give it back to you and watch you make it matter?"
Does it matter more when our friends behave to us as we think they should... or that they love us and we are all fighting hard battles... but walking together?
How much time and life is wasted in trying to turn space into matter?
"No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other." Matthew 6:24a
"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:10
God is always, always biggest. Period.
He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then He got up and rebuked the waves, and it was completely calm. Matthew 8:26-27

How then... do we define and separate space and matter?
"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:12-13
Soren Kierkegarrd said "The secret to life is one thing." I believe that the secret to life is knowing God's voice. Period. There is no other formula, equation, or hypothesis. We have His word in the Bible... and He promises (and always follows through) to lead us individually. The stories of those we read of in the Bible are simply other people... following our God.
This God is our God forever and ever and He will be our guide, even until the end." Psalm 48:18 This history is to encourage us to know His voice ourselves, and to follow Him on an incredible adventure.

I believe that the secret is being a good steward of what He has entrusted us with... that which fills up our space every day. And how do we do that?
By giving Him our space. All of it.
By asking Him to make it matter...
and by obeying His voice. Always. 
And by doing it all again tomorrow... because He will have something new for every day on this wonderful adventure. And the adventure is of so much more... matter... than the number of days that we journey.

"Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

Ecclesiastes 12:13


Caryn Dayhoff said...

Beautiful Mary! Absolutely breath taking!

Beth Simmons said...

Thank you so much for this amazing post. Thank you for sharing with us what God is teaching you. You are such a blessing to me, my sweet friend!

Red Chair Moments said...

Simply beautiful in scripture and word and photography. Thank you for being you, real and authentic, and for sharing your heart. The content of our hearts matters to God!

James & Aisling Solarek said...

I'm moved Mary. I'm moved at what you wrote about your daddy. I'm mad about the trash can. I'm humbled at the feet of Jesus knowing how much He loves you and me... Thank you for sharing your heart and pointing the way to Christ!!

Melodie McFadden said...

You are an amazing lady, Mary. I am so glad that our paths crossed for that small amount of time that I was in Virginia. You are an inspiration to all who know you and you shine with the love of Christ.

Renee said...

"How much time and life is wasted in trying to turn space into matter?"


I love you Mary...

Anonymous said...

Mary I love your heart and the way you share your love for our Lord. You always bless me beyond words!

Courtney said...

You were a blessing to me today through this post. I found you through Renee and I needed this. Thanking God for you!