I'm obsessed with the unseen today--scarcely able to concentrate on anything else but this research, this looking, this wanting to know what has caused these painful, irritating, worrisome bites, and what to do about them!
I've taken the hide-a-bed all apart, wiped and vacuumed and searched crevices with flashlight in hand. I've done the same with our bed mattress--washed the bedding, looked and looked again. Nothing. But the bites are with me. Hard uncomfortable evidence that something is lurking somewhere, something tiny yet able to handicap me physically, and worst of all, mentally. I woke tired, having been wakeful during the night alert for bug bites, mindful of exposed skin, hot with too many covers. And these red hot spots are sore, swollen, the skin all around them sensitive. Just a few mangy bites and I can think of nothing else. I've booked an appointment with the doctor this afternoon. Maybe he will know something more than I have gleaned from the rest of the world via the internet.
But this parallel occurs to me...
"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth," Paul says, "for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Col.3:3) Here is a legitimate preoccupation with the unseen. The Kingdom of God is likened to a leavening agent that though unseen works its way through the whole batch of dough and grows and grows. The Spirit at work in us is likened to the wind, that though we cannot see drives with great and visible force wherever God wills. Things above are unseen but we don't necessarily feel them in the way I feel these irritating bites. My body is wired to pay attention to what pains me and to look for comfort. The Spirit meanwhile invites me to act on truth whether I feel like it or not, whether I see it or not. He bids me to react based on truth, not just my impressions. Only truth feeds the rhythms of what is truly life.
Unlike passing bug bites, the Word is here today and tomorrow and forever, alive and well, unchanging in the midst of life's catastrophes. While fires engulf communities to our north, and bed bugs are on the rise, inflicting sores that seem to last forever, the truth is that neither bodies nor possessions are going to stick around, but God's Word stands forever. It remains unchanged while instigating great changes. It is living and active, outlasting the most living and active itch a bed bug can create.
The fires will die down. My sores will heal and be forgotten...political crisis will rise and fall, culture will ebb ever toward iniquity, but the Word will remain the same, absolute, enduring, true though all hell rise up against it. This is the Word I'm trying to give my attention to this morning...
[Fast forward to later in the day:]
Well, I've just returned from the doctor where I had the biggest surprise of my week. She looked very briefly at my bumps and declared: "You have shingles." Not bedbug bites or fleas? Me? Shingles?! This was a reality I hadn't even conceived of. Though I was incredulous at first I drew her out to make her case and she being the experienced professional did so directly. I had to bow to reality. Here I've been so busy researching biting creatures and what to do about them that I have missed the truth of my situation! I am sick. There is an invisible gremlin at work in my body; it is not external. It is the chickenpox virus...
I walked out of the doctor's office in relieved wonderment--at least we don't have bedbugs and I'm not carrying the Bubonic Plague! Here is something with a label, identifiable, survivable, and true. I have shingles. No more scouring dark places for mysterious creatures. No more fearing to sit on my own couch or lying awake in my bed for fear of a bite.
But on the heels of my relief is a sobering realization: I was entirely misled by my impressions and the 'facts' that I so neatly pieced together into a logical string... I have worried in vain about bugs that bite in the night. I have conjured up notions of flea-borne Bubonic Plague. And I have carried on at an exhausting pace hiking and biking (and scouring my home for bedbugs!) while all the while being overtaken by the truly unseen--the chickenpox virus at work on my nerve-endings! This is a startling reality which forces me to wonder what else I have overlooked in jumping to wrong conclusions. What other false beliefs and crazy notions do I hold dear while the actual issues elude my notice?
[Fast forward to the following day]:
Settling into the reality of shingles today has been less pleasant than the initial relief of just knowing. There are more pox today. The accompanying pain is distracting and the itch that was merely annoying yesterday is maddening today. I'm back to where I began--having to take my mind off the unseen things that are so acutely felt and to turn it to less tangible but more significant unseen realities. For instance, this object lesson staring me in the face: What other crazy false presumptions am I carrying around and allowing to drive my thoughts and actions day by day? If I can mistake shingles for bed bugs and all their accompanying paranoia, what other wrong beliefs am I allowing to commandeer my life energies? In what other areas am I convinced of a lie that needs to be uprooted by truth?
So, today I'm no longer desperately asking God to help me find marauding bugs, I'm asking for wisdom and for eyes to see the lies I believe and the truth that will set me free. What are my real problems and what is their antidote? And more importantly, what do I need to see more clearly about my God and His sovereign ways? What wrong assumptions do I hold about the way life works best, that run contrary to God's design manual for my life?
Let me not waste my life chasing phantom bedbugs and miss recognizing the idols of my heart that undermine my enjoyment of Christ. Let me be free of all that obscures His image in me.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. Ps.25:5
Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name (not a host of other fears that rob me of the life You've intended for me). Ps.86:11
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Jn.8:31-32
I am grateful today for His indwelling Spirit to guide and teach me all I need to know in His perfect timing. This has been a good wake-up call.
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."—Jesus Jn.14:16-17
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God...” (I Cor.2:12)
But for now, I think I need a nap...without fear of bedbugs!
Thanks for joining me here today.
May God, the Father of glory, give you [and me!] a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe!... Eph.1:16-19
God chose... so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." I Cor.1:28-30
"...that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (I Cor.2:5)
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just...Rev.19:1