My eyes slowly adjust to the dim light that is starting to glow through the curtains, I can feel the muscles in my body beginning to protest. “Just a little more sleep” the tell me, as they push me back into my bed. A few minutes later I get the tangled laces to cooperate between my uncoordinated morning-fingers and tighten the shoes onto my feet.
Out on the trail outside our house I am greeted by the sun as it’s first brilliant pink rays flitter through the smog and onto my face. Off in the distance around the neighborhood three different orthodox churches are wailing ancient songs of praise to God into their loudspeakers. In a way I admire them, their devotion, their consistency, but at the same time I spend a part of every morning thinking of what it would be like if I were to get up the guts to go cut the wires to the speakers and block out the obnoxious crackling-singing that fills the air. I toss this thought aside and instead take in the beautiful lush green grass, the brown grass huts, the Ethiopian mountains that tower in the distance. The sun still slowly rising beyond all of it.
I am forever fascinated by the rising sun, a new chance to start.
A gift from heaven.
Once every day.
I stop my jog and watch as the glowing orb bursts it’s glory into the sky. “Thank you God” I whisper. “Thank you for all of the blessings that you have given me, for my beautiful children, my incredible wife, for the project that you have birthed here in Ethiopia, for money that has come in this week to pay the bills, for a roof over our heads, for another new day.”
A few laps up and down the path later and I am back on the couch, Jessie and the kids are still sleeping, the morning has not yet begun and I am relishing in the few moments of peace that I have before the avalanche comes down the stairs.
Ready to start school.
The phone that will be ringing in my pocket from people who need me for one thing or another.
The project that still needs our every breath.
I open my bible and begin to read in Matthew 5.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”
I read the words and consider the blessings that I counted out to Him in my prayer not ten minutes ago. Yes, I have been at the end of my rope lately, but that is not what I was thanking God for…
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
Really? I wonder to myself out loud. Blessed when we have lost what is most dear to us? Whoa! Wasn’t I just adding up all of the things most dear to me and thanking God for them?
I think back to the times when I have lost what is most dear. My business with millions of investor’s savings. My brother to suicide. My best friend to liver disease.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
The light is beginning to come on inside my heart, like the sun rising in the East and flooding my soul with the truth of what Jesus was saying with these words. He was trying to tell us that in moments like these, when the darkness seems to have overwhelmed, and the light is nowhere to be seen, that is when we so easily fall to our knees broken before Him, and let Him come in and brighten every place.
I fell to my knees this week, I feel to my knees each time that tragedy struck my family, and I nearly broke them in the process. And… Yes, that was where God met me every time, down there in the dirt, with my face buried in my tear soaked hands.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
I put the Bible down and start to think of these words, their life changing depth, and absolute reversal of the way that I have been trained to think. God wants so fiercely for me to love Him, for me to fall head over heels for Him, that He will even ask that I rejoice when I am persecuted in His name. It is almost scandalous to think like this when sitting in a modern church today in America. Persecution feels so far..
But we are called to praise Him because of it, in the middle of it.
The truth here is that God wants our hearts, and that he wants us to come to the place in our relationship with Him that we look back and relish in the low points because that was when we were the closest to Him. He wants us to value Him, more than all that was lost.
We were not made to be made much of ourselves, but to glorify the one who sent us, and to make much of Him and His love for us and those around us. Our blessings do not lie ultimately in the possessions or even the relationships with people, but in God who created us to love Him, and to be loved by Him.
Lets learn in this today. Learn to love Him most, and to see the blessing in the pain that drives us to Him.