"Lay It Down"

It's such a wonderful thing when we are going through difficult times and God showers us with encouragement. By Wednesday of last week, I was really discouraged about several things, and God began to pour out encouragement in all kinds of ways.

But God doesn't always work in our lives today the same way He did yesterday. Again this Wednesday (seems to be becoming a pattern), I was really struggling. I didn't want to go to church, and when I got there I still didn't want to be there. I didn't feel like making small talk, and I fought tears more than once. Fortunately, at a couple of the worst spots, the antics of crazy friends made me laugh, getting me *over the hump* and keeping the threatening tears at bay.

I thought seriously of not staying for choir rehearsal. I wasn't in the mood, didn't feel good, and still had to take four tired children by the store on the way home. But I knew the kids would be disappointed if they didn't get to stay for choir kids (most of them, anyway :)), and I reminded myself of all the times before when I haven't felt like staying for choir, but I did, and God blessed and encouraged and uplifted me through it.

So, I stayed.

I kept waiting to feel better. I kept waiting for some song to really encourage and comfort. I kept waiting for that sense of the cares of the world fading into oblivion as I got caught up in the music, the words, the work of learning parts and rhythms, and just the plain old love of singing. I kept waiting for my usual Wednesday night *break*.

It didn't happen.

As we sang, I just kept feeling antsy and anxious. I missed notes and rests and rhythms one after another. And the more the expected encouragement and peace and joy *didn't* come, the worse I felt.

We're working on a 20-page piece right now...Ken Medema's "Moses", arranged for choir. I've heard it done as a solo before, but never done it as a choir piece. It is challenging (which I usually love :)), irritating (WHO in their right mind expects an *alto* to hit a *high F*, for goodness sakes???), but also fun in spots. :-D

We've been working it for weeks, a section at a time, and until last night hadn't seen the end of the song since our initial sight-read. (Which always, btw, drives me batty, despite the fact that I know the reasons behind it. :)) I knew we were nearing the end of rehearsal, and I kept waiting for that "I knew it would be worth it to stay for choir" jolt of encouragement.

It never came. No jolt. No warm fuzzy feeling. No mountaintop glimpse of glory.

What I got instead was a prick. A prod. A poke that felt more like a jab. Conviction.


The song is based on the story of Moses. God calls Moses. Moses questions God. God answers Moses's objections with promises and miraculous signs. Moses whines. "Send someone else, Lord, please?"

God turns Moses's rod into a snake, then tells Moses to pick it up by the tail. He does, and God turns it back into a rod. The song says,

"Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I'm trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!

With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;
With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharoah dead;
With the rod of God, you can set the people free.

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up...Give it up...
Let it go...Let it go...
Throw it down."

Those last few lines hit hard. God has brought me in recent weeks to a place of incredible surrender, in areas I've held tight to for a long time. That surrender, while painful, felt good in the end. I have to constantly work not to take it back off the altar, but I have felt a real peace about it. I felt like I was doing really well in the area of surrender right now.

While we were singing those words last night, I was hit with the realization that while the areas in which God has brought me to surrender in the past few weeks were the *big areas*, they weren't necessarily the most painful. Difficult, terribly. And yes, definitely painful. But there were...are...other areas still to come that are like splinters in the sole of your foot...not so big, but excruciatingly painful.

I am a relationship person. Ask me to prioritize a list of things and relationships will come out on top every time. Sometimes...too much so. I can get focused on relationship issues to the point that I don't keep up with the rest of life at times. It's easy for me to put people before God. I don't care about large groups of friends, but the small circle of *really important people* in my life is of utmost importance. And when something is out of whack there, it paralyzes me. Nothing can send me tumbling into the pit faster than an off-kilter relationship with a family member or friend.

I know that God made me that way. He made me a *people person*. Not in the sense of an outgoing, life of the party person...I am far from that! But a person to whom a small circle of people, their feelings, and our relationships are vital.

God has blessed me in giving me those deep, special relationships...in our family, with a handful of close friendships over the years, and in the churches we've been part of. I am so thankful, always, for those relationships. For my parents, my brother, my grandparents, and a few aunts, uncles, and assorted second cousins as I was growing up...for my husband and children now...for the friends He has provided in different seasons of life...and the mentors who have invested in me in so many ways over the years.

The down side of those wonderful relationships, and of their importance in my life, is that I don't deal with relationship changes well. Whether it is a relationship ending due to death, a move, or just life changes; or a relationship shifting in a new direction for whatever reason...I don't handle it well.

I started to say I've been working on these things in recent years...but actually, God has been working on them. It's been a slow process. Realizing, first of all, that I am in danger, often, of putting relationships ahead of God. Realizing that I tend to lean way too much on my friends at times. Realizing that I tend to push more than I should, that I want to fix everything and make it all better...for my family and my friends...to an extreme that isn't good for anyone.

Lately there have been some major shifts in some long term, deeply important, relationships in my life. Actually, some of those shifts have been in progress for a year or more, but God is now making me face those changes and begin to accept and deal with them.

I don't want to.

Even where those relationships are causing a great deal of pain at the moment, the the changes I see coming are even more painful. In some cases, I'm realizing the relationship may actually end. In some, I just see them changing in ways that I so do not desire. For some, there is a possibility of restoration; for others, it would take a miracle I have ceased to expect. I am painfully aware of the precise reasons behind the shifts in some situations; in others, there are unanswered questions, best guesses, and bits of confusion.

Last night as we sang, I realized that God was speaking these words to me about the relationships I am struggling with right now:

"What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up...Give it up...
Let it go...Let it go...
Throw it down."

My first reaction is, "I don't want to!" Like Moses, I find myself saying, "Are you sure, Lord?" There is a tiny ray of hope saying, "If you lay them down...if you surrender them...God will restore them." And yet...I know that for surrender to be complete, it has to be without strings or expectations. If...when...I lay them down, it must be with no expectations, truly being willing for God to work in them as He wills, realizing that the end result will be what is best for all involved.

I am so thankful for the relationships that God has given that *are* stable, that have, if anything, grown deeper during this time. I am so thankful for those who have been faithful to love me even when I am at my least lovable, to put up with me even when I am driving them crazy, to pick me up when I have fallen down. But the other changes on the horizon are still frightening and painful.

Yesterday, God reminded me that He is "Unchanging". I am so thankful that no matter how much life...and relationships...change, He is unchanging and sure.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
Hebrews 13:8

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
Deuteronomy 31:8

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