Thursday, February 13, 2014

6 years {Highways to Zion}

I miss her today but that isn't a new feeling. Kiley is my sister and has a part of my heart that she whisked away to heaven with her 2191 days ago.  I ache for that place because a part of me is there already.

I have been thinking about the idea of questing or going on a journey or pilgrimage.  I am reading a book where Jesus has called a young girl to be a part of something special, but it involves adventure and possible heartache.  She almost chooses the safe route of being a nobody/slave but once she has seen the Savior's face, she knows she must follow him no matter the cost.  She doesn't think she likes adventure but Jesus tells her she will soon find out otherwise.

My heart resonates so deeply with that idea.  I want to play it safe in my walk, especially if that means I can avoid heartache and disappointment.  But, God, has called each of His children to a journey.  He wants us moving towards Him at all times.  He knows that in this thing called pilgrimage, we are coming to know His heart more purely. 

I was reminded of Psalm 84:5-7 this morning.  "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.  As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.  They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion."

Let me unpack that a little:  Our strength must be in Christ alone.  There is a "Christian cliché" going around right now that is a bold-faced lie.  It says that "God won't give you any more than you can handle."  It simply isn't true.  When my sister took her life, it was more than I could handle.  When we lost our baby, it was more than I could handle.  There are countless examples in my life where the circumstances were more than I could handle.  The cliché is in reference to 1 Corinthians which is specifically talking about resisting temptation. The verse is about God providing a way of escape when we are tempted.

So, back to strength.  When the rug is yanked out from under us and we have no strength left, that is a precious place to be.  Our strength was never meant to be in ourselves, but in our only Hope, Jesus.  I have wrestled with doubt, depression, fear, and simply feeling paralyzed.  I need to know in those moments that it is God who holds our relationship in tact.  I need to know that it is His strength that is literally gracing me through each moment.  I need to know that if I am acting either as the Prodigal or the Older son, that I always have a place at the Father's knees, with His hand resting upon my weary head.

The next part says that their hearts are on the highways to Zion. The Jews were required to make a pilgrimage to the temple at certain feasts during the year. While it was obligatory, the psalmist is clear that his heart is in the right place.  It isn't burdensome to follow after the Master, it is a joy.

Like Believers today, the Jews often had to pass through the Valley of Baca ("weeping") in order to get to their destination of Zion (Zion can symbolize Heaven for us).  The psalmist has accepted that he is on a journey because he has seen the goodness of God and wants a taste of that no matter how difficult the pilgrimage. He fights through the sorrow and decides to make it a place of springs simply because it is Jesus He is following. The joy of knowing the Redeemer makes all the ache of life worth it. In the deepest recesses of his heart, he knows that one day, beauty will indeed arise from the ashes.

Lastly, they go from strength to strength until they see God in Zion. The ESV commentary states that they "keep on finding new levels of strength for the journey."  I'd like to think that from one trial to the next, they know the Father's affection for them a bit more, which provides new strength for the next trial.

Six years.  God has sustained me and allowed me to go from strength to strength.  In the beginning, this meant He simply allowed me to take one breath after another when I couldn't breathe at all.

He is faithful.  He is good.  I will see her again.

I'd like to think that after cheering her through learning to walk, showing cattle, prom, graduations, mission trips, walking with Christ, and settling into a career that the roles have now been reversed.  I'd like to think that she is sitting in His presence and cheering me on now.  Keep the faith!  The reward is more than you ever dreamed!  You can do this! One foot in front of the other! I promise it is all worth it!

I am envious of where you are, Kiley Elisabeth.  A single breath in God's courts is better than a lifetime down here. We will have ourselves a nice little never-ending celebration one day.

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." Romans 10:9-10

Believe in Jesus.  He is worth the ache and the journey.  He is everything.