Thursday, September 22, 2016

He Bends Down...

   The gym was noisy and filled with people waiting in line to get their food. I stood off to the side, listening to the prayer requests of one of the food pantry guests. We were just about to bow our heads and pray when I saw him. He practically bounced over to us from the spot he had been standing in. The joy in his heart lit up his face until his smile looked like it needed more room...ear to ear wasn't enough! He hesitated a moment when he realized that he was interrupting us. Out of the corner of my eye I watched him try to wait...but fidgeting got the best of him. He discovered that I had spotted him and that was all the invitation he needed. He bounced a few steps closer, the joy in his heart making him glow, giving him a spring in his step as he blurted out "I'm sorry, but I wanted to tell you she's home!!!" The drug addicted daughter that we had prayed together for a few weeks prior, had come home. After weeks of not knowing where she was or what had happened to her, she had finally come home!

   I thanked him for sharing his answer to prayer and encouraged him to keep on praying. I sensed the battle was far from over yet. So often I don't get to hear the answers to prayer. What he didn't realize that night, was just how badly I needed to.  I hadn't wanted to come to food pantry. I felt depleted from a busy week and didn't think I had anything left to give. It didn't help that God had been picking at me all week...bugging me. I call it bugging, He probably would call it challenging me. He had been speaking to me about an area that I need to sure up in my prayer life...calling me to pray just as boldly in this area as I do in all the others. I told Him that the many times I had prayed this way, nothing happened. It didn't seem like He was answering.  I hesitate and lack boldness in this area, because even though I know God can do what I am asking I don't know if He will.

  I had spent some time praying about these things before I left for food pantry that evening and as I did,  I heard God say the words "He bends down to listen."  I knew where He was directing me because the words are from one of my favorite passages. Psalm 116: 1-2 " I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!"  God was throwing me a life line and all I had to do was grab a hold of it...and I did. He was reminding me that He does listen to my prayers. Not one prayer be it bold or cautious goes unheard. I grabbed a hold of this treasure, tucked it away in my heart for the night, and left for food pantry reminded that God's listening doesn't depend on how boldly I pray.  It was more than enough to carry me through but just in case, He gave me one more word to hold on to. Just as I was walking out the door He spoke a woman's name.  You guessed it, it was the name of the daughter that I would later discover had come home to her father!

      I confess that based on the information I was given at the time when I first prayed for her, I didn't expect her home so soon. Sure, I prayed  knowing God could do what I was asking of Him and send her home right away.  I didn't know if He would.  I knew nothing was impossible for God but I still had just the slightest hesitation. Thankfully, God had bent down to listen anyway...

   There is much to be said about bending down to listen. As a mom, I used to have to bend down to listen to my girls.When  they were little  there were times I needed to move closer to them in order to really listen to what they were saying. How precious it is that this is exactly what God does with us. He comes close to listen. When we are feeling disconnected, distant, and hesitant He comes close and bends down to listen. I can't help but see the irony in this. The times when I have wondered how He will answer, if He will answer, and whether or not I need to shout to get His attention...are the very times that He has bent down to listen! In the moments when I can't feel His presence and He seems the furthest away...He is actually the closest.

  We want Him to hear us. He wants to listen to us. There's a difference between hearing and listening. Anyone can hear but not everyone listens. Hearing is just a physical ability. Listening is so much more than that! Listening goes beyond the physical and pays attention to the heart of the person speaking. We want Him to hear us, to hear what we are saying, how we feel, and what we think we want or need. He wants to listen to us, to listen to the condition of our heart, to follow our feelings to their root issues, and to give us what we might not always want but deeply need. This is the God who bends down to listen.

   That night at food pantry, I wanted Him to hear my prayers and answer them. I wanted to feel confident, renewed, and prepared before I left my house. This is what I thought I needed. God bent down to listen and discovered what I truly needed. Just as He often does, He gave me so much more than I had asked for. God sent that father to food pantry to share his testimony, so that I would see that  He meets me in my hesitation...the place where my boldness begins to fade and uncertainty tries to take over. I had spent the week before being challenged to stretch further than ever in how I pray and in what I pray for others, and feeling like a failure because I didn't know how to get there. Because He bent down to listen, I discovered that I don't have to get anywhere. He is meeting me in my place of hesitation, and He will continue to stretch me further and further until I hesitate no more. I just need to be willing to be stretched.

   Where is your place of hesitation? What is it that you want to believe Him for but struggle to? Maybe you have pressed in, really tried, or even pleaded with God to hear you and still feel like you are coming up empty. He's there. He is bending down to listen, just be willing to go beyond hearing what He has to say and really listen to Him.  Maybe like me you've come to Him with your own ideas of what you need, but after listening God may have different ones. Receive what He wants to give you even if it isn't what you think you ought to have. When we do this, we allow Him to meet us in our place of hesitation and stretch us until we reach the place of faith He is calling us to.