Today we’re diving in to deeper self-reflection on a topic I introduced last week. If you haven’t read it yet, the context is extremely helpful and you can read it here.
There is a rule in aviation that for every one degree deviated from a course, they will be off from their destination 1 mile for every 60 miles they fly. On our trip to Israel in the Fall of 2019, a one degree deviation from course would have landed our plane in Saudi Arabia—and what an entirely different trip we would have had! If we equate our life to a flight, our deviations off course can have dramatic and even disastrous results.
This was where the Pharisees found themselves as Jesus shared His parables. They had elevated their practices above people. They deviated from the course God set for them. And just like them, when we find ourselves off course, God in His mercy doesn’t leave us there.
We saw last week from Jesus’ parables what God’s nature is truly like. He is the God who runs toward us in our varying states of destruction, not away. As God reveals His character to us, He also asks us to do something with that knowledge. The author of Deuteronomy puts it this way:
”Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” -Deuteronomy 4:9
It’s challenging to see in the English translation, but the first two statements—“take care” and “keep”—are the same word in the original Hebrew. This is that literary technique of repetition again that signifies importance. The Hebrew word is shamar and it means to keep or have charge of, to guard or keep watch over, to retain or treasure up, and to preserve. So, God wants us to guard, preserve and treasure our souls with great effort, but why? He connected it to memory. If we do not “keep our soul diligently,” we may look an awful lot like the Pharisees! They had forgotten God’s mission, His heart for them, and that personal holiness was obtained by walking with Him.
Last week, I mentioned three distinct seasons in which God “met me on the road.” My natural inclination is toward pharisaical behavior—believing my outward actions mean more to God than the heart behind them. Each time I believe that lie, I fail to shamar. During the summer of 2018, God helped me to see several areas in which I was curating appearances of health, but diligently protecting my soul. Those areas were motherhood, nursing and mission. Each of those areas were called into question that summer. I questioned my ability to be a good mom. I questioned my skills as a nurse after a med error. I questioned my heart for mission after a series of disappointments. I felt so undone.
In each of those areas, I was like that plane going off course by one degree. Each area I lifted higher than God’s rightful place in my life and heart was one degree further off a healthy trajectory. Admitting that I was a broken human in need of help felt impossible at the time. But God, in His mercy, came out to meet me.
Six months before, I started a slow walk through the Psalms. He showed me Himself through that slow, steady stroll, and it was the gift my heart needed while I felt so broken. It wasn’t easy to show up while I was struggling, but God continued to meet me there. The Psalms are filled with each author’s honest prayers during joy and suffering, fear and elation. They spoke of God’s unfailing love. They pointed toward my need for Jesus. And ultimately, they helped me to see that I can walk through brokenness so that God could make me whole. That summer, God used those areas in which I felt broken to cast me headlong into Him. He was stripping away priorities that I allowed to come before Him. It came down to a love problem. Reeves discusses this in his book, Delighting in the Trinity:
“Moreover, our problem is not so much that we have behaved wrongly, but that we have been drawn to love wrongly. Made in the image of the God of love, Augustine argued that we are always motivated by love—and that is why Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They sinned because they loved something else more than Him.“
Reeves ends his discussion by saying that ultimately, we have a love problem for which the remedy is turning back and “rending our hearts, not our garments.” During the summer of 2018, my greatest need wasn’t modifying my behavior. It wasn’t a healthier transition plan from breastfeeding to formula. It wasn’t 10 steps to better self-care so I didn’t make a med error at work. It wasn’t adopting a new method of ministry to avoid disappoints in the future. Ultimately, what my heart needed then—and still needs today—is to love God more than the worship of motherhood, nursing and mission. I need to behold my Savior.
I’ve walked with God for nearly my whole life. I’ve gotten to know Him through Scripture, and I’ve seen His faithfulness in my own life time and time again. Each time He shows up, it establishes my trust in Him for future struggles. Each time I believe “I’ve made it,” I walk through a season in which I realize I absolutely have not. In fact, I realize the opposite; I recognize how much more I need Him! Even though I know I’m a more whole person today than I was 10 years ago, I see deeper and more incriminating evidence in my own heart that I need Him desperately today. That is a gift. A gift from a God who meets me on the road.
This is where shamar is helpful. It calls us to remember. Another New Testament author puts it this way:
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” -Hebrews 2:1
Are you drifting? Imagine what years of failing to shamar might do to your life? Where might you end up? What are you elevating today that God might be asking you to surrender to Him?
These are questions I should ask myself more regularly—if I did, maybe I wouldn’t have a crisis of decision every 10 years!! Perhaps, if we ask ourselves these questions on a more regular basis, we won’t find ourselves ending up in Saudi Arabia when we intended to land in Tel Aviv!
But there’s one more integral part to Deuteronomy 4:9
“Make them known to your children and your children’s children.”
Make what known? “...the things that your eyes have seen.”
On our trip to Israel, our incredible guide said this again and again; the Scriptures are clear: “remember” and “tell your children.” This is so important, not only in the Jewish faith, but ours as well, and it begs the question:
What story are we telling our children or the next generation?
Are we telling them that our devices are far better than shepherding their hearts?
Are we communicating that the best life is lived through filters and photos?
Are we showing them with our actions that angry rhetoric and sarcasm are the best way to tackle disagreements?
Are we passing along our tendency to tamp our feelings down or avoid them entirely?
Are we proving to them with our lives that comfort, control, power and approval are our functional gods?
I know the story I want to tell my children is that of God’s extravagant love. He is the Father that meets us in our mess. He is the Father that meets us on the road.
Allow God to get us back on course. Spend time in His Word and allow His voice to speak more loudly than all the others vying for your heart and mind. Set your phone down. Listen to someone who is hurting without feeling the need to respond. Give them the gift of your presence. Give God back the place in your heart that has dethroned Him for far too long. He runs to meet you.
On the Road
Though we demand our portion
Declare you're not enough
And choose to break your trust
You run to meet us
Arms opened wide
Racing with joy
Throwing all aside
You run to meet us
When our heart's grown cold
And feel your blessing's owed--
We hardly even know
You run to meet us
With gentlest of rebukes
“You are always with Me,
All of Mine is yours.”
You run to meet us
Because it’s fitting to rejoice
When one once dead now lives
And one once lost is found
You run to meet us
Until at last my eyes shall see
The one I’ve judged is really me—
Come raise the dead, seek the lost,
And meet me on the road