Friday, March 4, 2022

Where Are You?

Recently I pre-ordered Ann Voskamp's latest book, Waymaker: Finding The Way To The Life You've Always Dreamed Of. I first met Ann probably close to twenty years ago, and by "met", I mean online, when she wrote a little geography book for homeschooling families. Several years later she wrote another book,  One Thousand Gifts, which came at a time when I needed it most and made a profound impact upon my life. There have been others in between, and I've purchased and read each one. So when I learned that she was releasing a new book this spring, naturally I ordered it.

Because I pre-ordered it, (it will be released on March 15), I was given access to several resources, including an early release of the first three chapters, vlogs, and the opportunity to be part of a community of readers on Facebook. This week also began a series of on podcasts focusing on Lent.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, something about this season of Lent feels different, which if I'm honest is exhilirating and frightening all at the same time, though let me be the first to acknowledge that being frightened is definitely not from God. Still, and please entertain my pessimism here, the thought has crossed my mind several times lately, questioning if God is preparing me in this season for something hard in my near future. I don't know why I have that feeling, but it settled in a couple of weeks ago now and I haven't been able to shake it. Knowing me, an over-thinker who struggles with anxiety, this is just me allowing my mind to race and wander. One of my great sins is worry, and the need to always have a "Plan B" in my back pocket because "Plan A" has fallen apart in my life so many times. God asked me to surrender that to Him awhile ago now, and until recently I was doing well with it. I'm disappointed that I find myself here once again, but there's nothing like keeping you close to the foot of the cross in surrender like habitual sin.

With that thought in mind, and only two days into this season and each day I've found myself wandering into thin places. Moments in time when the veil between this world and the next is so close. When the hand of God reaches through and lifts your chin and whispers, "I have a surprise for you." I shared yesterday of being convicted of how shallow my prayers have been. And then today listening to Ann's podcast, I was reminded and assured, that in my propensity for worry, in the midst of anxiety, pessimism and fear, He sees me. When I tell you that the enemy has been having a heydey playing with my emotions, that would be an understatement. To the point that I briefly considered not observing Lent this year at all. It was the moment that thought crossed my mind when I recognized the enemy's goal and plan. I will not be deterred!

And once again, true of me, as soon as I finished listening to the podcast, I began writing, and this is what the Lord spoke over me today;

"Where are you? It's God's first recorded question in all of history. The shortest question recorded in the Hebrew bible. Three words that echo across time to meet us, here, today. God always comes looking for you, "Where are you?", because His desire was always to be with you.

When the all-knowing God asks, "Where are you", isn't He really asking so that you'll find the answer? Because what He's really asking is, "Where have you gone?"

In Genesis 16, Hagar, an Egyptian slave, alone, homeless, frightened, and pregnant, encounters God.

"The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur."

God knew PRECISELY where Hagar was.

"Where have you come from and where are you going?", the angel asked?

Hagar was running from her mistress, Sarai, who was mistreating her.

She was in a hard place.

But the angel's instructions were not to run, but to go back and submit to Sarai, and in that she would be blessed.

So often in my life when I encounter hard places, like Hagar my first reaction is to run. It is often in these times that the enemy would have me believe that God has abandoned me. But the truth is. . . He is near, He sees me.

Hagar named God that day, the only person in scripture, male or female, Jew or Gentile, to name God personally.

"El Roi" - The God who sees.

"She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

We wander into hard places, with our choices, in our rebellion, in our brokenness. God's plan was always Eden, but we wanted more.

So if we find ourselves far from God, it is never because He moved. God is constant, fixed, faithful.  And regardless of how far or how long we wander, He knows precisely where we are.

"He sees you near ______________, on the road that leads to ______________."

Just as He knew with accuracy, where to find Hagar.

And like Hagar, He will lead us back to the hard places. He will ask us to return.  Because in this journey of life, the only way out is through. And in our faithfulness, we will be blessed.

He is El Roi. The God who sees, and He always, always, comes looking for you!

No matter how lost you feel, He knows where to find you."

When I filled in the blanks, this is what I wrote;

"He see you near fear and worry, on the road that leads to doubt and mistrust."

If you had to fill in those two blanks right now, what would yours read? I'm not asking you to share, just encouaraging you to ask. It's a good heart check, and one I think I'm going to employ on a more regular basis. I think it calls for being typed up in a pretty green font, naturally, and pasted somewhere where I will see it and be reminded.

It also was not lost on me that God's instruction to Hagar was to go back. After-all-this-time you would think I would have learned, the only way out is through. Even if this Lent feels different, since I can't put my finger on exactly why that is, why does my mind immediately settle on the worst case scenario? This beckons back to the old Kim who believed that God was a distant Father who could never be pleased and cared little about her sufferings. I believed for years that I didn't exist to Him, until I messed up, sometimes not even then.

God found Hagar "near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur." God's Positioning System pre-dates our modern GPS by thousands of years. He didn't just "find" Hagar, He knew precisely where she was, as He does right now in this moment for me, and for you. 

Fill in the blanks. Do a heart check. But no worries, wherever you find yourself, God is already there.

Until then. . .

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Jennifer said...

El Roi. This has always been one of my favorite - or should I say one of the most meaningful to me - names of God. It truly is precious! Thanks for the challenge - to fill in those blanks!

Kimberly Lottman said...

It is one of my favorites, as well! :)