I was reminded yesterday, while visiting with my sisters-in-law, of an incident that happened when Derek and Craig were very young. Derek was playing with a yo-yo and when our cat, Emmie, happened by, he tried to lasso her with the yo-yo string. Unfortunately, Derek was a good shot. As soon as the string settled around her neck, Emmie moved. This made the string tighten and then, she panicked. Off she ran, the string getting tighter and tighter around her neck and the yo-yo bouncing off everything she passed. Derek ran behind, trying to free the terrified Emmie from her attacker. I tried to calm Derek so that I could catch the cat before anyone was injured.
That’s when Craig entered the picture. As Emmie passed by him, the yo-yo string wrapped around his leg. All at once, Emmie, Craig and the yo-yo, were all airborne. Okay, so it was mere inches off the floor, but the hang time seemed to last forever. Then, they were all on the floor: Emmie, on her side, gasping for breath, Craig, screaming in fear and pain, and Derek, whose tears were flowing freely as he reached his brother and cat. It was chaos. Until they all crashed, I could do nothing but watch. But once they stopped moving, it was then that I could step in and help.
Back in September, one of the Deacon candidates and a dear friend, Dave, sent Jim and me this verse from Exodus 14:14; “The Lord will fight for you…you only need to be still.” He added this message, “I have a feeling this will be of great value as we move forward on our journey.”
Another thought just popped into my mind. Have you ever watched scenes of a rescue in a natural disaster, like and earthquake or like the devastation we are seeing from Tennessee in the wake of that massive tornado? I remember watching footage of the California earthquake, that took place in 1989. The earthquake, which took place during the World Series game between Bay Area teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, was responsible for sixty-three deaths and three thousand, seven hundred, fifty-seven injuries. While watching the live coverage, every now and then a rescue worker would hold up his hand and everyone would stop what they were doing and listen. Numerous people were saved because in those moments of quiet, those trapped beneath the rubble could be heard, either crying out or tapping on objects around them.
It’s not a new concept. Be still…and God will fight for you. Be still…and listen for His voice. Be still…and know that I am God. But being still isn’t in our nature…especially when the yo-yo’s of the world are tightening their grip around our neck. Our minds race for the solution and our feet are in motion, sometimes before we even have enough facts to act. I often find myself in knots because I try to solve problems on my own, without going to God in prayer first.
One of my favorite verses is from Psalm 95. “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me thought they had seen what I did.” This is referring to the book of Deuteronomy, after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt into the dessert. Even though God delivered them from captivity…even though He gave them food and drink…even though He led them every step of the way, they grumbled against him and said it would have been better for them to stay in Egypt. How easy it is, when in a group of people, to let the feelings of the crowd influence us. Emotions are contagious and sometimes keep us from seeing the truth of a situation. The Israelites let negativity overshadow all that God had done and was doing for them. I’m sure it didn’t happen that one morning, every single person woke up and began to complain. But the air of discontent is a dangerous one to breath. It’s infectious and can wreak great havoc in our lives. But, so can the air of contentment. There are times, we can be so content with the way things are, that we stop listening for God’s will. “I’m happy so everything must be okay.”
voluntas Dei…the will of God.
It’s not a one-time thing. Jesus didn’t go to the “quiet place” just one time. In his human nature, he went often, for prayer and fasting, to know the will of his Father. From the people of Ninevah to Esther, Nehemiah to Jesus, the power of prayer and fasting is seen throughout the Bible. Fasting is not abstinence; fasting is a means of going beyond ordinary food to find, through God’s will, that which will truly satisfy our deepest desires and longings. It is prayer’s partner in that is an expression in bodily form of what we intend by our words…humble supplication. The natural fruit of that supplication is works of mercy.
Be still…and in the stillness, ask God to reveal to you what His will is and more importantly, whatever may be preventing you from following it. Don’t wait for the yo-yo to knock you off your feet…be still and listen, and God fight for you today.