“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” – C.S. Lewis

Advertisements

Life can be quite overwhelming. So much so that days blur into one another, memories become hazy, and everything barely makes a connection. I, for one, can fully attest to the fact that I often get caught up in the whirlwind. While studying for finals, I literally forgot what day of the week it was and missed an appointment I had to make. So lost was I in the task at hand that nothing else seemed to matter. If that’s how bad I got with the days of the week, you can then make the conjecture as to how I’d gotten with everything else including my spiritual welfare.

Things consume us and we get sidetracked from the path we must tread to reach Him. We all stray for one reason or another. I know I do. And because I do, I take great comfort in the following verse from Psalm 119: “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” It is a short admission–I have strayed like a lost sheep coupled with a prayer–Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. It seems like such a counter-intuitive thing to ask of God. “I have strayed so come find me” as opposed to “I have strayed and shall return.” But God makes it easy for us… as long as we do not forget His commands, when we stray He will seek us out and encircle us in His loving arms. All we have to do is ask and remember. We must remember His commands and inscribe them on our hearts so that way when the world begins to spin at a pace that knocks us off the path, when we cry out “Seek your servant” He will come speedily. We all get sidetracked sometimes, but God is ever-faithful and hears the cries of His children.

“Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 24:23)

Joshua was speaking to the Israelites in this short verse, telling them to cease the worship of the idols brought in among them by the foreign people they were coming into contact with and to cleave to the Lord. The instruction was simple, “put away… the strange gods which are among you…” Unfortunately, the Israelites did not do this and suffered as a result.

Now perhaps we live in a time where not many of us will be enticed into the worship of a golden calf, but we all hold onto our strange gods fervently. The term “strange god” has a mutable meaning, which allows it to take on the sign of the times. Worship of the golden calf turns into worship of the dollar bill, the human body and its desires (or lack thereof), our friends, our families, our significant others… the list can go interminably. Anything  placed ahead of Christ in the heart or the mind is a strange god.

What makes our strange gods far worse than those of the Israelites and their golden calf is the fact that our strange gods can be kept hidden deep within us so that no one has to know. If only it were as simple as bowing down to a golden calf. How many of us would be brave enough to parade our strange god so publicly? But we don’t. We keep our strange god locked deep within our hearts and souls and actively running through our minds and as the love of it increases, the love of Christ decreases. And as Christ diminishes in our lives, everything begins to deteriorate. The Israelites turned from God and were overcome by their enemies and so the same thing happens to us.

“…incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.” He does not ask for much, only for your heart. The question that we all must answer becomes: will I give it? If there is any hesitation within you, look to the cross and there you will find your answer. He who created you was born and died in the most painful way for you. How can you not give Him your heart? It seems as if it is too little to ask of us.

 The LORD is my shepherd;
         I shall not want.
 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
         He leads me beside the still waters.
 He restores my soul;
         He leads me in the paths of righteousness
         For His name’s sake.
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
         I will fear no evil;
         For You are with me;
         Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
         You anoint my head with oil;
         My cup runs over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
         All the days of my life;
         And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
         Forever.

- Psalm 23

*******

We are mistaken when we think that the actions or words of men will bring us peace of mind and spirit. The “if he would only…” and the “if she would just answer…” then “I’ll be at peace” are tempting paths to take. Our stormy insides can then be pegged on the actions of another person. That’s the easy way out and a complete dead-end. The harder path, the path to true inner peace, lies in an absolute trust in God… pure faith, nothing less and nothing more. Absolute faith that He will do and does what is best for us. No one else has the very hairs on our heads numbered and not a single one of those hairs falls without His permission. He who cares about the very hairs on on our heads will guard and protect our hearts and provide all good things for us. We must not fear; He is right here standing beside us.

How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

– Psalm 13

My baby cousin Peter is someone we can all take a few lessons from. At a little over two years old, he’s got his priorities and values straight. Let me explain by giving you an example of a typical Peter-action.

This past Sunday he was at church with his parents and sister. After the liturgy was over, people mill around and greet each other outside the church. His father is carrying him, when a family friend approaches them. My uncle greets his friend and tells Peter to say hi to “amo”–one of the Arabic words for “uncle.” In Egyptian culture, every male adult that you know is referred to as “uncle” and every adult female is referred to as “aunt.” It’s a part of the respectful and familial nature of the culture.

Peter, being the ever quick little child, looks at the man and very promptly shouts, “Not Amo!!” and smacks the man across the cheek.

It was simple really, the truth as Peter understands it is that his actual uncle, my father, is the person that is referred to as “amo,” not the stranger his father presented to him. Too young to understand cultural connotations, he repelled what to his innocent and simple understanding was a complete lie and guarded the truth he knew with fervor.

I had to stop and wonder how things would be if we all defended the truth that we know within our hearts and spirits with such passion and conviction–if any challenge to our faith and beliefs was met with a metaphorical smack across the cheek. Then perhaps we could sing out with David the prophet and the king when he says: “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.”

In this path the eye must cease to see,
And the ear to hear.
Save unto Him, and about Him.
Be as dust on His path.
Even the kings of this earth
Make the dust of His feet
The balm of their eyes. 

- Ansari