"Go and look toward the sea."
|~Claude Monet: Water Lilies 1916|
We purchased this oil reproduction from a consignment store over a decade ago. It came from room 1122 in the Waldorf. The hotel had sold a stack of these during a major remodel. It has hung over our fireplace in three separate homes. It has always been one of my most prized possessions.
I have spent a significant amount of time gazing into this waterscape, allowing my mind to feel its depth as I would work away at a thought. This week I was challenged to "pray like Elijah, and then act like Elijah" by my pastor, Joe Mayerick. Do you know the story of Elijah when he faced off against 850 of his enemies?
What strikes me about this story (1 Kings 18) is that Elijah was convinced that God would follow through with His promise. At the smallest sign that God was sending rain... Elijah immediately took action. He prayed with expectation. So many times we pray while we are consumed with doubt. We pray with this overwhelming sense of desperation and hopelessness... and we fail to look towards the sea.
When our prayers are aligned with the promises of God, we must pray with expectation and we must pray with steps of faith. So many times we simply stop praying when we don't get the answer we want... and yet, we may be a single prayer away from a miracle. Joshua walked around Jericho a dozen times without anything happening. Elijah sent his servant to look towards the sea 6 times with no result. Noah spent days sending birds from the ark that could find no land. What if they would have given up?
Sometimes we must first receive an answer that we do not expect in order to be ready to see the answer that is provided. Closed doors force us to face a new perspective.
Tomorrow is our final garage sale day and I was rooting through the shed to see what else I could sell. I came across an old mirror that I had covered with newspaper and painted over a decade ago. The last time the glass had held my reflection, our son was a year old, and neither of our daughter's had been born. We had not yet taken a single step on our path of adoption and finding our life's ministry. I took a corner of the newsprint in my hand and I tore open a section of the mirror.
I felt as if I were opening a time capsule or portal. As my eyes studied my reflected image from within the glass... I saw myself as I was ten years ago. It was like I was face to face with my past self. We regarded each other and we discovered that we were not the same.
I remembered how uncertain I was of the future, and how I was desperate for a sense of direction... a feeling of purpose. I can remember praying desperately that I would find a calling. My mind reflected on years of silence from God. My memory replayed the many wrong steps and paths that I pursued. There were so many times that I quit trying. I am so thankful for my wife who never gave up. And I can see how each step of the way brought us here.
And here... I regard my older self at this point in life. God has answered our prayers. He has drawn our gaze to the sea. We can hear the sound of a mighty rain. It is no longer a question of will God answer our prayers. We know He is.
We gaze to the sky, and we see a small cloud has moved up from the sea. And we gather our belongings, we tuck our coat tightly into our belt...
...and we run toward His promise.
We run to Your Throne
Where we belong
Every heart will sing
That Jesus is Lord
Casting all else aside
For the joy of our Christ
Let Your Glory fall
Our hearts are filled with Your Fire
(Hillsong: Where We Belong, 2008)
Look for and listen to the promises of God. Hold on. Pray through. The only way we fail is if we stop praying.