This past week has been one in which I dusted off my whining skills, dragging out an old complaint before God. I admit it - I somehow found myself justified to whine before the creator of the universe, the God who had sustained me through much difficulty and who,had amply blessed my life. Yes I did.
My complaint, I actually like to refer to it as a "frank prayer", went something like this:
Lord, I know that your word says that you have a plan for my life, to give me hope in my final outcome. (Jeremiah 29:11). I thank you for that, but honestly I am having trouble with not seeing or knowing anything about this plan. It seems like every day I am drifting around, not seeing much purpose to it. I don't know how to keep doing this. I really need to know what the point of this is. I need to understand some part of the plan. It feels like you are playing "hide the ball" with my life plan". Etc. (feel free to read that portion with a whine.)
I followed my "frank prayer" up with another standby lament. "If only God would speak to me directly, like he did in the Old Testament. It would make things much easier to hear words and instruction directly from the voice of God."
It was shortly thereafter that I found myself in Genesis 15. Expecting to learn more about God's covenant with Abraham, I read:
1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
Perfect. See God, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Where is my vision? Where is my word? Where is the laying out of my life's plan so that I can keep looking forward with hope? Sure, there was a bit of bad news for Abram's descendants, but at least he knew what the score was. Right? It was then that I was taken back to verse 12.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.
This man had God himself speak over the plan and purpose for his life. He knew what God had intended for not only his life, but for his descendants as well. This information, however, did not cause the sky to fill with the sun, birds to sing and a choir of heavenly hosts to shout. To the contrary, as he was knowing the plan, Abram was surrounded by a "thick and dreadfully darkness."
A thick and dreadful darkness. I can feel it. Can you? It connects me with a sense of being lost with a feeling of omen. Knowing God's plan, his promise, didn't provide the clarity that I had always assumed. It brought the opposite in fact. The clarity of purpose that we seek isn't in the knowing the grand plan. The clarity is found in each direct experience with God. In verses 13 - 16 we find that God kept talking to Abram, even in the midst of the darkness and terror. The beautiful thing is not that Abram knew or didn't know the plan for his life. The beautiful thing is that God stayed with Abram in the midst of the darkness.
Our experiences can be as literal as a direct conversation or they can be finding sleep in the midst of darkness and terror. The plan isn't about finding the land of milk and honey, starting a ministry, taking this job, etc. The plan I've been looking for has always been having a relationship with God to the point that - whether from a burning bush, terror filled dream, a friend or a piece of scripture - I can hear.