Wow. I start a lot of blogs that way in large part because I blog so infrequently I have too much to ponder.
In the past month we've had three different sets of house guests, 3 kids with fevers, and it stopped raining. I've driven way, way too much on scary mountain roads plagued by homicidal bus drivers, had a wonderful time teaching at 6 different places and climbed into the grave of a 4 month old to lower down a casket for our friends. Contrast? That's life. I recommend you read Jenny's account of her experience after the death of our friend's little baby girl here on her blog. It is needed reading for a glimpse into this culture and to simply share life with us.
Psalm 18 is one of my favorites.
"I love You, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge."
Hard to go wrong after that intro. I've always spent a lot of time on the first 3 verses and as happens in my Bible, not much is underlined in the other parts. But the Psalms are like, well, I don't think there's a good simile. They are the Word of God. Living. Active. Through them God cuts into my soul and cleans things out. He changes me. Teaches me.
Check out verse 35:
"You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your right hand upholds me;
And your gentleness makes me great."
Your gentleness makes me great.
How backwards is that? We get made great through education, money, power, fame. Right? Oh the world has things so backward. God's gentleness makes me great. The NIV renders it, "You stoop down to make me great", the NET, "Your willingness to help enables me to prevail."
How is it that God, who is awesome in the only true use of the word, who is holy, set apart, entirely other than me, how is it that He stoops? That he is gentle with me? That He is willing to help? It doesn't make any sense. I'm not all that special. I'm just not. I'm not uber-smart or super strong or dashingly handsome. I don't bring anything to God's table. I don't make God better by His helping me. But the reality is that it's not about me, but Him. He is so gentle, so condescending - not patronizing, but He voluntarily comes down to the level of an inferior. He descends down with me, condescends from His high and lofty wholly otherness to meet with me, with you, with anyone who wants.
Psalm 18 is about God's interaction with His children. It's about crying out to Him and His responding with earthquake voice and lightening hands that lay bare the very earth. And those same hands which produce fireballs and hailstones to smite the wicked come down to hold us in gentleness and lift us up in salvation.
I need a God like this. A father who can do anything. Who protects and fights for me when I am weak and afraid and surrounded and drowning. Who stoops down into the pit that sometimes, honestly, I dug for myself; and He lifts me up to see His face. To be with Him so that He can change me and renew me. Because He loves me. Because He loves me, I love Him. And I want to be like Him. I want my gentleness to make my children great. I want to go out to all the people who I, in my deceitful heart see as beneath me and I want to be gentle with them, to condescend to their place. I want to serve them. Wash their feet. Feed their bellies. Mend their wounds. I want to do that so that when I tell them about a God who emptied himself and took on the form of a bond-servant, that they will believe me. That when I tell them about a God who loves them so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for them, Jesus, who was slain before creation - who died for them and rose again so that they can have life forever and abundant by believing on His name - that they will believe me. I want to do that so that they will believe me when I say I know this God of grace because I showed grace to them.
How will the world know I am a disciple of Jesus? By my doctrine? By my T-shirt? By my big worn out study Bible? They will know I am Jesus' when they see me loving them like He did. When they see me loving my brothers and sisters as He did. When they see me consider them as more important than myself. Then they will know because God has shown them and He did it through a normal, average white guy. Not because I did anything. But because God showed us mercy and demonstrated His grace by coming down to our level and loving us there.
And He's still here. My rock, my fortress, my deliverer. Down here with me. With you. With all of us. Doing His thing through His people for His glory. Awesome.