Today we are taking a break from our normal DWITW 365 posts to share a bit of what God has been teaching our sister Laura Swain through her time spent in the Word.
“Rollercoaster” is the cliché I would use to describe my life right now, high-highs and low-lows. And a fair number of nauseating corkscrews that make your knuckles go white and your voice go hoarse.
Things have become much harder now that my twins need a more predictable rhythm day to day. My kids and I are virtually housebound as we decode the secret nap schedule that only the twins know and are reluctant to divulge completely. My older girls and I are feeling stir crazy and a bit isolated.
I have never felt closer to the Lord than I do right now, though. I have never wanted to know Him more. I have never been hungrier for Scripture. And at the same time, I still face daily struggles with idols who have names like “Alone Time” or “Feeling Appreciated.”
I’ve been praying through this and feeling so mystified about it. God, why is there such ugliness in my heart when I was just relishing every morsel of Your Word a few hours earlier? How could I feel so close to You and still lose my cool like that? The juxtaposition of my attitudes has been surprising to me. But it doesn’t surprise God.
I’ve just finished reading the Pentateuch as part of #DWITW365. I am only about 150 days behind (haha!) but I am chugging along. At the end of Deuteronomy, we see how tenderly the LORD shares some ugly truths with his beloved servant Moses. In Deuteronomy 31:16 God says to Moses: “You are about to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves with the foreign gods of the land they are entering.” Gulp. He goes on to say that because they break the covenant He will no longer dwell with them. This is starting to sound a lot like Genesis 3. And then: “For I know what they are prone to do, even before I bring them into the land I swore to give them” (v. 21).
He blesses. We rebel. He corrects. He reminds us who He is. Then He takes us where He has promised us we will go, in full knowledge that the cycle will repeat again and again and again.
Well, you don’t have to be God to know that these people are prone to do this. The entire story so far has been about God performing literal miracles to save this people group (who, by the way, he calls HIS). The people He longs to be with, the people He wants to save the world through, the people He calls, delivers, raises up, and meets in the desert. And that glorious goodness is met by their complaining that they wish God had left them in slavery in Egypt.
So these people will leave God and the Law and call their prosperity their own? Shocker. Sarcasm aside, what does shock me is that God still takes them there! He knows what they will do in the promised land and He still makes them victorious to possess it and call it their own!
Today I texted some friends asking for prayer because I was feeling frustrated with my flares of anger. Beautiful that they are, they responded to my ugly sin problem by blessing me. “Hey, why don’t you drop off the girls so they can join us for a pizza and game night?” And, “Hey, I am dropping off a brownie in your mailbox.”
On the way back from dropping the girls off, I ran through the Burger King drive-thru. Little did I know, this seemingly quick stop would take nearly an hour out of my day. I was chill for the first 20 minutes: listening to vintage Steven Curtis Chapman and praising God as the twins were miraculously quiet in the backseat. But when I began to realize I had been forgotten – abandoned in the “please pull up and we’ll bring your food out to you” zone – I began to crumble. I’ll save the entire story for another day, but that anger I had just been praying about came spilling out of me so fast. Want to know the song that was playing right before it happened? “Only Natural” by SCC. You really should give the whole thing a listen. Part of it goes like this:
So mirror, mirror look again,
You’ve seen the fool that I have been.
But did you see the grace that covers me
Not to do anything I please;
In fact, grace is the only thing
That makes me what I am not naturally.
Its supernatural power brings life out of the grave.
It gives sight to the blind man,
And it will not let me stay…
Only natural, only natural.
I’ve got the spirit of the living God alive in me,
Giving me power so I don’t have to be
I was face to face with grace. And grace looked a lot like brownies and pizza and games and prayers from friends that have seen my most broken parts. Yet I am like an Israelite who forgets. And like He did with the Israelites, God is good to say to me, “Hey you, look around at the piles of precious food, friends, and practical love I am making fall from the sky to feed your soul. Also, I saved your life. And, I love you.”
He blesses. We rebel. He corrects. He reminds us who He is. Then He takes us where He has promised us we will go, in full knowledge that the cycle will repeat again and again and again. This is what we are “prone to do” (Deut 31:21). And faithfully loving us is what He is prone to do.
The good news is that what comes naturally to us is not the way it has to be. Just a chapter earlier in Deuteronomy, Moses is summarizing his last speech to the Israelites. He has been imploring them for nearly the entire book to love the LORD only and follow His Law, not turning to the right or left. And then he says:
“This command that I give you today [to love the LORD and follow his Law] is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
Of course, we know that we could never do this perfectly. That’s why we need a Savior! And He’s also given us the Holy Spirit – the one that lives inside of us – who empowers us to follow God, even when it is not the natural thing to do. He calls us to this unnatural living and gives us what we need to do it! It is not “beyond our reach.” And as I yield to Him and allow Him to cut out the ugliness in my heart, He is not surprised by what spills out.
Lord, I have seen the sin cycle of Israel and lived it myself. I don’t want to do what comes naturally to me. I want to live freely, live as your child, redeemed and forgiven and empowered by your Spirit to obey you. Thank you for working in my heart, patiently and persistently. Thank you for equipping me to do what seems upside-down to the rest of the world. Teach me what “unnatural” living looks like. Make me hungry for your Word and help me understand it and apply it. Amen.
Laura Swain wants to live in a world where her kids sleep until 8am. When she's not outside in the garden, you can find her on the floor reading with her kids.
One of her favorite passages in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 (NIV), which ends with: "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."