"I'll sit right here."
Those were the words I sensed God speaking to me as I stared at the empty chair beside my keyboard. About to begin the last session of a retreat, those words came as a breath of fresh air to this one suffocating under a cloak of shame.
The previous evening, I discovered that I had obliviously been stepping on theological landmines throughout the event and it had offended a number of attendees. The weighty cloak was secured around my neck by leadership who then expressed their resistance to having me come in the first place.
I was devastated. Causing people to disengage in worship was the last thing I would ever want to do. And here, I had spent the entire weekend doing just that!
Emotionally staggering back to the room, I tossed the medley I had planned for the final worship experience and spent the rest of the evening trying to find songs that would better allow us to be united in song.
That next morning, still reeling, guilt-ridden, and broken, I entered the room and began to set up in silence. Dreading the arrival of the participants, let alone trying to lead them, I knelt down to power up the amp and to take advantage of the opportunity to whisper another prayer of confession.
When I stood back up, I noticed the empty chair right beside the keyboard. Picking it up to move it out of the way, I sensed the Lord gently approach saying, "Son, why don't you just leave it there." And in winsome, unapologetic kindness, He straddled the chair and said, "I'll sit right here and You can just sing to Me."
As we sang in corporate worship later that morning, tears overflowed as chains of monitoring participant approval fell off and I embraced the freedom of singing directly to the One in whose Name we had gathered in the first place.
I had kind of forgotten about that experience... until this past week.
Embarking on a new journey of employment, I anticipated coming face to face with a steep learning curve. But, hours of training in intricate software revealed something I had not expected: Residue of anxiety, intimidation, and fear of failure - all things I thought I had already established practices to prevent from occupying territory in my life.
My lowest point came during an 8-hour online Zoom class with 34 participants, I got lost. It was like the train had left the station and I was helplessly watching from the platform. Emotionally scrambling to catch up, I got flustered. Anxiety physically shook my being as tears of frustration flowed. (Yes, I was muted and the video was off). Army-crawling my way through the rest of the class, I shut the lid of my laptop with a deep sigh. I was spent... emotionally and physically.
Seeking to displace lies of inadequacy and stupidity with Truth, I immersed myself in narrated Scripture as I went to sleep.
I awoke the next morning with the Word still playing. Continuing to listen as I got ready, a verse stood out to me. It was the Scripture that the Lord used to confirm that I was to accept this new position. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go" [Joshua 1:9 ESV Bold emphasis mine].
As I sat down at our dining room table to set up my laptop for yet another online class, the Lord reminded me of that "empty chair" retreat experience. Inspired, I pulled a chair from around the table and placed it right beside me. In fact, I set it so close to me that with a slight move of my knee, I could feel it.
Quietly resting my leg against the empty chair, I sensed a familiar voice. Savoring the sacredness of the moment, I exhaled and invited Jesus to do what He did at that retreat so many years ago. "Would you please just sit right here and take this class with me?"
Taking advantage of a few extra minutes before class, I opened up that morning's entry in Sarah Young's devotional, Jesus Calling. Peace enveloped me as I read His answer to my request. "I AM EVER SO NEAR YOU, hovering over your shoulder, reading every thought. People think that thoughts are fleeting and worthless, but yours are precious to Me. I smile when you think lovingly of Me. My Spirit, who lives within you, helps you to think My thoughts. As your thinking goes, so goes your entire being."
I can testify that the One who said, "the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go," was with me... and sat right there with me... as I took the class.
Perhaps you have found yourself unusually anxious as you step into a new place of fresh obedience. May I reassure you as God has so graciously comforted me? God is with you wherever you go.
Whether He has led you to stay... or led you to go... God is with you. Whether you have been led to unpack your bags and settle in or led to pack up and move on... God is with you. Whether His Word to you is "Build houses and make yourselves at home" [Jeremiah 29:5 MSG] or He says, "Go in confidence and grace - no rushing, no frantic escape" [Isaiah 52:12 VOICE]... "the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go."
Precious one, "There's no need to be anxious - the Eternal One goes before and behind you. The God of Israel paves the way with assurance and strength. He watches your back" [Isaiah 52:12 VOICE]. "Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out" [Deuteronomy 28:6 AMPC]. Selah.
Hear God's exhortation to you today, Beloved. "Give yourself fully to the adventure of today. Walk boldly along the path of Life, relying on your ever-present Companion. You have every reason to be confident because My Presence accompanies you all the days of your life - and onward into eternity" [Sarah Young, Jesus Calling]. For indeed, God is Here.
And now, much like Moses spoke with God as a man speaks with his friend, "The Lord bless you, and keep you [protect you, sustain you, and guard you]; The Lord make His face shine upon you [with favor], and be gracious to you [surrounding you with lovingkindness]; The Lord lift up His countenance (face) upon you [with divine approval], and give you peace [a tranquil heart and life]" [Numbers 6:24-26 AMP]. Amen... and pull up a chair.
One of the things I have often shared with friends is, "the only way to get rid of a lie is to replace it with the Truth." Recently, this YouTube video has been my go-to resource when I rest and as I get ready for the day. Identity in Christ | I AM Affirmations from the Bible. While it may be a bit "ethereal" for the thinkers among us, I have deeply appreciated that is it grounded and saturated in Scripture.
If this blog has been meaningful to you, I invite you to do two things. Subscribe to the blog. You will be one of the first to receive a heads-up via email when a new entry is posted! Then, I invite you to share this blog with your sphere of friends. You never know how God might sustain the weary through a simple word of encouragement!