Anyone who knows me know that I am obsessed with Wales. This month marks the fifth anniversary of my first trip there, meaning that it has been five years since I first expressed a desire to move to Wales and work with the Church there. God said, “No.”
Or rather, God said, “Not yet.”
A year and a half ago, I revisited that request. It seemed as if a door might open for me, but the proceedings stalled. This last October, it once again seemed like a door might be creaking open, but I found myself sitting in the silence. The Lord spoke to me on New Years Day and said:
“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” (Leviticus 20:26)
The silence from my contacts in Wales had been distressing to me, but God made it clear: this was a season in which I was to have time alone with him. Any of my other concerns could wait, there would be time for them. The peace with which I initially received this word quickly gave way to frustration and discontentment. At the same time, all of the stories which had been on my mind over the past year told me to take those feelings to God, stories like John the Baptist in prison, Elijah in the cave, and Job before the whirlwind.
So it was in light of these stories that I read 2 Kings 22 a few weeks ago. There we find that King Josiah repents of the abominations which his father and grandfather committed against the LORD and sets about having the temple repaired. He sends his secretary to the temple, saying:
“Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money that has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people. And let it be given into the hand of the workmen who are at the house of the LORD, repairing the house (that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons), and let them use it for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”
This passage hit me hard. Josiah instructed his officials and the priests not to take an account from the builders concerning how they spent the money they received, money that was taken from the temple treasury. This just seemed like horrible business sense. How did he know they could be trusted with those funds? He believed they would deal honestly, but what if they didn’t?
And so I discovered something that our culture has sown into our expectations. We are taught that it is always appropriate and good to call someone into account for their behavior, because no matter how much we think we trust them, we suspect that at some point they will fail or screw us over. But Josiah seems to have none of these concerns. Why? Because he knows the workmen deal honestly. His knowledge and belief of their good reputation means it would be insulting for him to call them into account.
This was significant to me because of the unifying themes in those stories of John the Baptist, Elijah, and Job. In the moments when their expectations of what God would do clash with the reality of what God is doing, each of them call God into account. In each case, God responds not with an explanation of why he is behaving the way he is, but rather with an account of his own character and reputation.
So when we all come to the same place, when our expectations of God don’t meet up with his reality, we have a choice to make: will we call him into account like one who deals faithlessly, or will we tell ourselves an account of his character and good deeds because we know he deals honestly?
A few days before I discovered this passage in 2 Kings 22, I was sitting in on a short presentation my boss was giving on Christ Community Health Coalition to a group of college students. During the Q&A time, my friend turned to me and said, “Anna, I would like you to talk a bit about wanting to be in Wales and being here instead.” I was really glad that he had invited me to do that, because I knew all of those students would probably find themselves in a similar situation in the next few years. It also did me good to give an account about God’s faithfulness to me in this time of waiting. Even though Wales was where I wanted be, God had so much good work for me to participate in while I’ve been here. Later that evening, I went to the Bible study that I help facilitate, and a different friend of mine turned to me and asked, “So how have you been doing with waiting for Wales?”
When we feel tempted to call God into account for why he’s doing what he’s doing, it is so much better to give an account of what he’s done. His promises have never failed us.
In the midst of Lamentations, we are taught this practice. Even when it feels like God has turned against us, we are to take up this account:
“He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
so i say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.’
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
Five years to the week after my first trip to Wales, I was sitting in a cabin in the mountains of Colorado watching it snow and getting real honest with God about where my feelings were. I knew somewhere down the line he would be faithful, but right then (and really, for the past few months) it was hard to have much hope for the future I desired. I prayed through Psalm 63:
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
I felt like God was inviting me to give an account of him, so I began to write out the story of my previous trip to Wales. It’s a difficult story for me to tell. There were so many times where I felt like God had been close and leading me, and other times where I felt abandoned and discouraged. While I was reminded of God’s faithfulness in so many details as I wrote, I still felt foolish. Just because I felt like God had been leading me in a certain direction wasn’t a promise that what I felt was true.
So I said to God, “I need you to let me put my hand in your side.”
Anyone who read my last post knows how much the narrative of Thomas means to me. That short prayer was going to have to suffice, as my roommate walked in and we talked until it was time for bed. I slept alright. I didn’t have any weird dreams. I woke up and reached for my phone to turn my alarm off. And there on my lock screen was the Facebook message telling me that the first step to get me to Wales had been completed; I could now start moving forward.
There were many times before then that I had pleaded with God about Wales. I’m not saying this specific prayer was just right and finally unlocked God’s plan for me. God was always faithful, his plan was never in question. I just couldn’t see things the way he could.
So when we can’t see, when no one is saying anything, as hard as it might be, as foolish as we might feel, we must give an account of God’s faithfulness. He is not going to fail or screw us over; he deals honestly. Let us pray to have hearts that know and believe this.