One of the Saturday morning cartoons I loved as a child was Mr. Magoo. Bumbling along from one self-created comical peril to the next, he always escaped, utterly oblivious to the disaster he narrowly avoided. Mr. Magoo's extreme near-sightedness and blissful ignorance generated countless hold-your-breath moments that left me wondering, "How could anyone be like that?"
While it is easy to chuckle at the folly, I am mindful of numerous, self-created Mr. Magooish moments in my faith journey. I am painfully aware of days and weeks when I've obliviously bumbled along, clueless of the lavish bounty of grace that has preserved and protected me. And while Mr. Magoo could shrug it all off with a hearty laugh that made his fox-collared overcoat bounce on his shoulders, I found myself straining to avoid a consuming cloak of condemnation.
Graham Cooke often says that "we repent towards God, not away from Him." What does that mean? Instead of focusing on the specific behavior and lamenting, "what is wrong with me?", we are invited to ask the question, "What is missing in my life, that I would run to _______ to fill the void?" I am learning that beating myself up with resolutions to try harder next time not to do that thing actually causes me to move away from God in shame. Rather, in surrender, I am invited to draw near to God, inviting Him to be the very thing that is missing. We, beloved, are made complete in Christ and what is missing in our lives is found in intimacy with the One who gives us everything we need for life and for godliness [Col 2:10 | 2 Peter 1:3-4]. That is how we can learn to partake of and participate in the divine nature. Indeed, God is our all in all!
So, I want to share what that looks like in my journey of faith. In a recent Mr. Magooish episode in my life, I found myself laying in bed, scrolling through my phone, ironically bemoaning the fact that I was feeling so dry, experiencing a deficit of wisdom, grace, and love to navigate a couple of situations in my life. In the silence of my unspoken "what is missing" prayers, the Lord gently said, "your phone is your Bathsheba, David." Selah. Ouch. Selah.
The amazing thing with God is that in the kind intention of His heart, He doesn't call us out, He calls us up. I felt drawn, not condemned. Putting down my phone, acknowledging my emptiness and my numbness, I responded to God's invitation and drew near to Him.
Over the next couple of days, spurred on by a song that the Lord brought back into my life, I began to journal what I felt like God was showing me. I wrote, "The recognition that I am thirsty is revelation that You are at work within me - drawing me to run after You. Recognizing that void, I can run to the Bathsheba of my phone, or I can allow You, the Living Water, to spring up within me. I can run after me or I can run after You. The reality is that my behaviors are symptoms of what is going on inside of me. Ugh. Here I am, I am doing the very thing that you said to Israel in Jeremiah 2. Truth: When I forsake You as the Spring of Living Water, I dig cisterns that are inherently flawed... cisterns that cannot hold water [Jeremiah 2:13]. Duh! No wonder I am thirsty!"
Continuing, I wrote out my prayer, "Jesus, you extended the invitation, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” [John 7:37-38]. "Everyone who drinks this water [out of self-manufactured cisterns] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life" [John 4:13-14]. You promised, “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams” [Isaiah 44:3-4]. Amen"
Journaling further, I wrote, "God, fulfillment - your thirst-quenching presence – is not based on location... it is dependent upon You being present within me no matter where I am. I am the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are within – and so wherever I go – you are there – Living Water is present wherever I go. THAT is why the Psalmist could say, ”Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, til each appears before God in Zion” [Psalm 84:6 NIV]. They MAKE it... meaning they change the condition of the atmosphere where they are by the Water of God’s presence. That is also why “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water” [Psalm 49:9-10]. I can find pasture on every barren hill because Your life-sustaining grace is not external... it is internal. The atmosphere does not change me - I change the atmosphere. Better put, You, moving in and through me, changes the atmosphere."
Still pondering all that happened, I still had a question. "God, how did Israel get to the place that they chose to forsake You in the first place?" Reading back through chapter 2 of Jeremiah, the answer popped out at me: "They did not ask, 'Where is the Lord?'" [v 6, 8]. Could it really be that simple - that uncomplicated - that obvious? Pathways to deeper intimacy with God are paved with the stepping stones of asking, "Where is the Lord?" When I obliviously move forward without engaging God, I create countless, Mr. Magoo moments. "The one who listens to me, who carefully seeks me in everyday things and delays action until my way is apparent, that one will find true happiness. For when he recognizes and follows me, he finds a peaceful and satisfying life and receives favor from the eternal" [Proverbs 8:34-35 VOICE].
May your first question in every situation be, "Where is the Lord?" and may David's heart cry become yours, "God, You, indeed, are the satisfier of my soul. “Your love is better than life... I will be satisfied as with the richest of foods... on my bed, I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night... I cling to you” [Psalm 63 NIV]. Indeed, may you live in Fellowship Uninterrupted. Amen.
As I am learning to live a life asking "Where is the Lord?", these two prayer songs have been particularly meaningful to me. If you are struggling with where to start, may Oh, Draw Me, Lord and Fellowship Uninterrupted equip you with fresh vocabulary to pray.
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