Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Idols (A piece of my journey)

I met a lovely German woman while playing pool at a party one night.  Visiting her dear friend, my voice teacher, she was enjoying an extended stay in the states before returning to her home in Pullach, a Munich suburb.  At 70 years' young, she stayed up with me half the night speaking in broken English and playing games.  Sometime before dawn, she tells me that if I ever want to come to Germany I am welcome to stay with her.

At the time, I thought that would be so fun!  I coveted the freedom to travel and explore the world.  But alas, my commitments held me in Nashville for the time being.  However, not even 2 years later, everything, seemingly, in my life had ended--I didn't have a job and felt like I didn't have a friend in the world.  I was a caged animal ready to escape and find a new home.  So I wrote to her and asked if her offer still stood.  She told me she didn't need any house help, as she had just hired a maid from Portugal, but I could come and pay her rent.  So I booked a one-way ticket to Munich, packed up my life and boarded the plane.

That first month was a montage of jet lag, excitement, homesickness, freedom, exploration, and loneliness.  No stranger to loneliness, I enjoyed beginning a life free of attachments and the exhilaration of the unknown.  However, the fear of needing a job to provide for basic needs pushed me into despair.  The realization of being so far from home and not having planned financially weighed heavily upon me.  

One Sunday morning, not knowing where to find an English-speaking Protestant church, I walked into a Roman Catholic cathedral that had advertised a Hassler mass performance.  The strains floated down from the choir loft and swirled round my soul.  The only element of the service I understood was the music.  I didn't understand the language nor was I familiar with catholic ritual.  But the aesthetic beauty of the service ripped open my heart.

I sat in the cathedral after all the parishioners vacated and wept to the core of my being.  I began wringing out all the years that were chasing after me with their pain and despair.  I realized I was the same person as I was just weeks prior, boarding the plane in L.A.  I could run away but not from myself.  And now I was penniless and had no way of medicating the pain that I somehow had been able to mildly suppress in the states.  I despaired of life itself.

"You planned this little escapade," I heard a voice say, almost audibly (after all I was in a house of God), "but now I'll tell you why you're really here."  Playing Bible roulette, I randomly opened the Bible to Isaiah 30.  The chapter opens with, 

"Woe to the obstinate children,”
   declares the LORD,
“to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
   forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
   heaping sin upon sin;
2 who go down to Egypt
   without consulting me;
who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection,
   to Egypt’s shade for refuge.
3 But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame,
   Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace. 

My eyes were opened to see how obstinate my heart was, how I had strayed from God my Husband, my Maker; to see how I was living in only the shadows of His path to avoid true intimacy with Him, trying like Jonah to take a boat to Tarshish; to see how I was seeking relief in anything but Him.  

The passage goes on to talk about Israel (me, in this case) rejecting God's message and how, "this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant.There I was in a Catholic church in Munich under a pile of the rubble of my own sin of defying my Father's warnings, confused and crying out for rescue.   I continued reading, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’  Therefore you will flee!"    I fled...until I was stopped, just as the chapter goes on to say.

So far Isaiah 30 was playing the reel of my life, until, "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.  For the LORD is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him!"  I relished those three little letters, "y-e-t."  Just because all my sin abandoned me under a mound of chards, the Lord didn't abandon me.  The gleam of His grace had just begun to pierce the darkness.

Forgive me for including this entire next paragraph of Isaiah 30, but it is too exciting to omit:

  "People of Zion, (me) who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. 
How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.  
20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction
your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.  
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  
22 Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, 
“Away with you!” 

Not only will I weep no more, but I will get SICK of my idols.  I LOVE MY IDOLS!  It baffled me that I would come to a point when I would actually WANT to desecrate them.  I was in awe of this God who could change a heart so drastically.  

Isaiah 30 ends in triumph!  Isaiah prophesies to the people that they will prosper--the sun will shine, the rain will grow their grain and wine to abundance and the Lord will show His power and awesomeness and the people will CELEBRATE and SING.  (Ok, now, right now, today, I am crying reading this, hearing that I will SING.  For those of you who know my struggles with my voice, this is cause for rejoicing.)

With my soul illumined by the Light of Life, I bounded out of the cathedral with joy and peace.  I was out of the shadows, the hiding places, and back walking with my Husband, my Maker.  He said, "You will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it!'" Not knowing how to remedy the predicament called, "my life," I was assured I would be led through this process.  And a long process it was.  

During this season I read many books, practiced many disciplines, such as prayer, meditation, fasting once a week, etc.  I was never in want--God provided for my many needs and I even studied voice and sang in ensembles and solo for gatherings and organizations.   I found a church, made friends, and grew much in my faith.  Being in a foreign country, it felt like an extended vacation.

My lowest point, however, came three months into my trip.  I was very sick with a fever for six days.  I was so scared and alone that I cried out to God--wondering if the Lord did indeed exist.  But when asked if I would give up on believing on Christ, I responded, "Lord, where else have I to go?  Whom else have I but You?"  I felt something within me break.  Chains fell off of me and I was finally free of my idols.  I said, "AWAY WITH YOU!"  And interestingly, my fever also broke, and the next day, though weakened, I was recovering.

God brought me through the Isaiah 30 journey, practically verse by verse.  I knew when He sat me down and told me why I was really there in Germany, that I would know the exact moment when it was time to come home.  And seven months later that moment came.  He provided a way home a mere two weeks later, and I came home to my new ventures of learning about classical education and eventually meeting my husband.  A new chapter, a new journey.  An amazing path.

I have had other times of living in the shadows, but He always leads me through Isaiah 30 and opens my bags and shows me my idols that I've been lugging along the path that have been slowing down the journey or taking my eyes off the road altogether.  He is so faithful to us.

In the day of idol-desecrating, "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds HE inflicted,"  Isaiah 30:26.  S.D.G.

 

2 comments:

  1. Christi, you are truly a gifted writer! Thanks so much for sharing your blogs. They are beautiful and transparent and encouraging to me! We just started a study on Jonah in the Tuesday night Bible study I'm leading at Northpark Church, and I'd love to share this with my ladies.
    Keep these blogs coming -- they are a blessing!

    Linda

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