"Lord, please give me something that I can hold on to in this sermon."
I briefly said this prayer under my breath as I sat in the pews of an unknown church my third week in Cape Town, South Africa. In the midst of loneliness, confusion, and a whole lot of new there was something comforting about finding myself within the realms of the church. I think God has a way of gently and boldly answering our prayers when we need them most, and on this Sunday morning He answered mine with a sermon on Gideon. The story of Gideon is so much more than a Biblical account of victory and defeat, but a bold reminder of God's faithfulness and presence despite the unknown. And for a girl that likes to have all the answers, sometimes I simply need to be reminded of that.
I've always been an over thinker at heart. I'm the girl that can't sit still in the midst of the moment without trying to find some meaning within it. I'd like to think that there is both a beauty and a madness to it all, but most often the madness feels a little more apparent. What happens when God's will is different than my own? This is the question I ask myself as I reflect upon the current nature of my study abroad experience. When the path is unclear and the process appears to be different than what I originally planned, do I trust Him? Maybe I don't stand alone in the category of questioning individuals, perhaps there is a whole sect of people who anxiously live simply wanting to to know what comes next. I've found myself living into the weight of that predicament lately. What I thought and planned to be a time of self-discovery, cultural immersion, and Elizabeth Gilbert type of adventures has unexpectedly turned out to be an exercise of trust and dependency of God. It is both beautiful and scary. As I write these words the social and political context of South Africa's educational system seems to continuously erupt in a cry for justice. The streets are filled with protests and hearts desperate for change, but then again this sounds like many parts of the world. In the midst of the unknown regarding my own educational experience and the future of so many other students I find God asking me once again, "Do you trust me?"
The older I get the more I begin to realize that God does not always dispose the details of His plans exactly as we want them. But perhaps the root of faith is learning to live into the tension of the unknown, while trusting the One that does. This is what I learned within the life of Gideon.
The story of Gideon is full of uncertainty, questions, and dynamic displays of faith. On one end of things there were drastic wars and oppression taking place and in the midst of it all sat Gideon a small Israelite from a clan in Manasseh. I think everyday life can often resemble the context found within Judges Chapter 6 both literately and symbolically. The world seems to carry this unrelenting tension of pain and injustice juxtaposed with the beauty of God's grace and presence. Maybe Gideon was in the midst of feeling the weight of such pressure the day he was visited by an angel of the Lord
Judges chapter 6 holds the beauty, tension, and radical truth of what happens when God's way of doing things is different than our own. In a few short verses Gideon is instructed to lead the Israelites to victory; a task that seemed nearly impossible for an army, much less a man of his status. As I read that unfolding story I am most struck by the conversation between Gideon and God found within verses 17 and 18,
"'If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that this it is you who speak with me. Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.' And he said, 'I will stay until you return.'"
In such a brief moment of dialogue I think we are given a clearer image of the character of God. In light of Gideon's doubt and confusion God waits, providing a gentle reminder of His patience. A patience that does not always fully disclose His plan and purposes, but a patience that sits with us in the midst of our questioning hearts none the less. God meets us in the middle of our suspense. IN light of Gideon's own personal uncertainty. God later uses him to lead His people to victory in the most unsuspecting way. As I read of God's patient faithfulness even in the midst of apparent human doubts I am reminded that I don't always need to have the full story, sometimes I am simply called to trust.
There's a lot of unknown sitting within the world right now. I look to the left and wonder what will happen within the current educational context of South Africa. I look to my right and wonder what will happen after the presidential elections take place, but in the midst of my thoughts I am reminded to look up. As I enter this day I am given a sense of peace in light of my own unknown situations. A sense of peace and security in the sovereignty and will of God, and because of the confidence I have in Him I choose to be content in the suspense.
"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11