I surprised myself by not only signing up for but then actually giving a talk (vomit-free) at a women's event at beach mission this year. I've copied it below, but feel I must first credit Ben for the questions in case he reads this post and is tempted to report me to the BPP (Blogosphere Plagiarism Police) in a fit of rage and disappointment. I started with an introduction that sounds a little silly here, telling the women who came to enjoy the food and make themselves feel at home, etc. And then I read out the questions in three batches for everyone to chat about with those around them before I started the talk.
|When else will I get to use this photo?|
2. Favourite TV show?
3. Favourite book?
4. What’s something you’re proud of achieving last year?
5. What’s something you’d change about the year if you were able to?
6. How are you different now to the person you were last January?
7. How would you like to be different this December?
8. A hope for this year?
9. Any resolutions?
2011 was a big and difficult year for me. We moved churches, then we decided to leave our beloved apartment and find somewhere closer to my husband’s job, and then I had a miscarriage. And throughout all of this, my husband and I dealt with our stresses separately and marriage felt like really hard work. I’m a little scared to think what 2012 will hold, but I’m hoping that Psalm 139 will help me – and hopefully you too – as I think about the year ahead, so I wanted to share some thoughts on it tonight. The Psalm says:
1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
I love the glimpse we get here of how intimately God knows the Psalmist, and how present God is in the Psalmist’s life. The Psalm says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” God is behind and before him, up in the heavens and down in the depths. We don’t usually think about God so poetically, but He’s that present in our lives too! And in this Psalm we see that God is present in all of life - not only for the big things like our wedding days or the birth of our children, or our illnesses or the death of a family member, but in the little things as well.
At the beginning of the Psalm, the Psalmist talks about God knowing when he sits and when he gets up, when he goes out and when he lies down. There’s nothing extraordinary about any of these things! God is just as present in our mundane moments as He is in the dramatic or exciting ones. He knows our favourite movie from last year, and why we enjoyed it! He knows how tired we are in the morning, He knows what we’re proud of, He knows how much we love our families, He knows how hard we work. He knows the things that make us laugh, and He knows our disappointments. He is there in every moment of our every day.
But did you notice that for the Psalmist God’s presence isn’t a sinister, spying presence, nor is it a strict, distrustful “I’m keeping my eye on you young lady” presence; on the contrary, it’s such a beautiful - and almost maternal - picture of God, lovingly knitting us together in the womb of our mothers, weaving us into the women we are, knowing all of the days of our lives way back then, before we’d even taken our first breath. Before our parents knew anything about us, God knew us. God designed us. God created us. And He’s been ever-present in our lives ever since, whether we’ve acknowledged that or not, like a loving parent watching over his wandering toddlers.
It was a long time before I saw God’s continual presence in my life as a good thing. For many years I didn’t want God around; I didn’t want to feel guilty or judged for the decisions I was making, so I ignored Him as best I could. Throughout those years, I knew that on the day I finally came face to face with God, I’d have to give my excuses for shutting Him out of my life, and I knew they would all sound ridiculous. I was terrified of dying and having to go through that horrible meeting.
About 8 years ago now I heard a Christian song that changed everything for me. The song talked about Jesus setting me free by giving His life for me, and in that moment, it clicked: Jesus had faced that horrible meeting with God – the meeting I dreaded – so that I didn’t have to face God with my silly excuses. I didn’t have a good reason for ignoring Him – none of us do! – and Jesus had stood up to face the punishment I deserved, so that I could be free to experience God’s presence with gratitude and peace instead of guilt and shame.
This year, I want us to be aware of God’s continual presence in our lives. But more than that, I want us to experience that presence with peace rather than condemnation. I want us to rejoice and find comfort in God watching over us as the children He designed and created, rather than fear one day meeting Him. Jesus came, died, and rose again so that meeting can be something we look forward to rather than dread.
I wanted to finish up by praying for the year ahead – because we have absolutely no idea what this year will hold, but God knows. And He will be walking through it with us, always present, always caring, every single moment of every single day.
You have searched us and You know us. You know when we sit and when we rise; you know what we’re thinking, you know how we feel. You watch as we go out and as we sleep at night; you are familiar with all our ways. Before a word is on our tongues you, LORD, know it completely. You surround us, and you lay your hand upon us. Such knowledge is too wonderful for us, too lofty for us to attain.
Where can we go from your Spirit? Where can we flee from your presence? It doesn’t matter where we go, you are there with us. If we rise on the wings of the dawn, if we settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide us, your right hand will hold us fast.
For you created our inmost beings; you knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. We praise you because we are fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, we know that full well. You wove us together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw our unformed bodies; all the days ordained for us were written in your book before one of them came to be.
God, we thank You that You know us, that You are with us, and that because of Jesus Your presence brings deep peace rather than guilt.
In His name we pray.