I had an interesting experience today. I’ll be honest. It started out as annoying and became interesting later. To bring you up to speed, I have a very nasty, chest cold. I also had a migraine at 4:30 AM this morning. So, taking my daughter to her orthodontist appointment at the university which is nowhere near conveniently located was, I think, rather appropriate for a Monday morning. We also had more snow yesterday which meant that I had to dig out the car which put us 10 minutes behind schedule. Why did I choose to wear sneakers instead of shoes designed for walking in 3 feet of snow? Oh, I guess it’s because I like having cold, wet feet. I blame the migraine medicine for that colossally stupid choice. I also failed to dress in layers choosing to wear only a T-shirt under my autumn coat (Honestly, I can’t speak for myself at this point. It’s the snowiest month in this state, and I’m wearing my autumn coat?!) After stepping in two puddles (soaked sneakers now), digging the car out of the snow (the jeans are wet, too), we were on our way to the orthodontists’ offices at our state’s beloved mega-versity. The traffic was fierce, my cough matched it, my daughter was happily playing her new Nintendo game, and I swear someone flipped me off. Nonetheless, she was going to have her little behind in that chair on time! I dropped her off in front of the building, she dashed for the doors, and I turned towards the parking ramp–the only parking ramp in sight, the one we always park in–and it was FULL. WHAT?! It’s never been full before. Ever. Suddenly, I panicked. Why would I panic over such a minor thing as parking? This particular university is one of the largest campuses in these United States. It’s monstrous, and finding parking is…well…a bitch. There I was, driving around on the verge of tears, not in my right mind because of my migraine medication, sneezing and coughing, swearing and praying at the same time with very cold feet. I did manage to find an open ramp, but I paid dearly for my poor choices in under and outwear. I looked like a crazed harpy stomping through the streets of the university, shivering, coughing, and muttering, making my way to the huge tower wherein my daughter’s teeth were being aligned.
You’ve covered annoying, you’re saying. Where’s the interesting part? I recently went to a conference. There was only one speaker, and the only thing this guy spoke about was the favor of God. Some people would never, ever want to attend that conference. Some people might. One thing this guy said was that favor was about a lot more than finding a good parking spot. That particular thought was going through my head this morning as I was trudging through the byways of the university campus. I’ve gone without great parking before. It’s not a big deal. I’m not a whiner, but this morning was different. I’m sick. I don’t get chest colds very often, but when I do I get very ill. I almost died 8 years ago from influenza or something like it. I was one of those people, one of the 1%, who end up in the ICU hooked up to all sorts of ghastly machinery. So, now I have what one might call “reactive airways”. When I get a respiratory illness, I get very, very ill. On top of that, I had a migraine. And, due to my own stupid lack of foresight, I didn’t dress for the weather! I assumed I wouldn’t have to spend any time outdoors. I would say that I didn’t feel very “favored” this morning. I felt cold, sick, wet, and grumpy, and, dammit, I couldn’t find parking.
Let me digress to make my point (I promise, I’ll make it). In Judges 6 in the Old Testament, there is a guy named Gideon living his life like the rest of his fellow Jews. The Israelites are having trouble with another tribe, the Midianites. They are essentially in bondage to them. One day God shows up and speaks to Gideon. He says, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of fearless courage.” Gideon’s response is humorous to me because it is so human. He says, “Really? If God is with us, then why are we doing so badly?! Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the stories about what happened with Moses, but God has left us because we are in bondage to the Midianites.” (It is interesting to note that Gideon is pretty certain that God isn’t present because things are going badly. How often do I draw the same conclusion?) God’s response is equally humorous–“Nonsense! Go in your mightiness! Go and save Israel! I’ll be with you. I’m sending you to do this.” Gideon now begins to argue–“No. My family is the poorest, and I’m the shortest and weakest in my entire household.” Basically, he’s a loser. God humors him by telling him once again that he can’t lose if God himself is going with him. Once again, Gideon shows his humanity. “Can I have a sign? I think I really need to know that it’s God I’m talking to. I’m not so sure about this favor thing, and I need some concrete evidence that this is really God.” Gideon gets his sign (actually, he asks for more than one, and God gives him those, too), and he does go on to defeat the Midianites.
Why is this important? When God came to Gideon, he interacted with him as a “mighty man of fearless courage”. Did Gideon see himself as that? No, he most certainly did not, but that does not change how God sees and interacts with him. Often we approach God from a place of insecurity and inadequacy, but God does not speak to our insecurities and inadequacies. He speaks to our true identities. Since we are completely reconciled, we are, in God’s eyes, whole and complete. This means that every interaction that you have on a daily basis with God is about moving you from your own perception of yourself to God’s view of who you already are in his sight. Taking it one step further, who you are in the heavenly places. God is beyond time so he can see who you are becoming; therefore, he interacts with you today as if you are already the whole and complete person that he sees in the future. This is why he called Gideon “mighty man of fearless courage” because that is the man that Gideon would be. That is the man that God already saw. That is what it means to be favored by God. It isn’t earned. It just is.
What does Gideon have to do with us? Well, I write a lot about coming into wholeness after abuse. Sexual abuse ravages our self-image leaving behind self-loathing, disempowerment, and a splintered identity. What would change in us if we knew that we were, in fact, beautiful, valuable, whole people at this very moment? As Graham Cooke said at the conference, “You are a whole person struggling with______” not a “Struggling person trying to get whole.” That is how we are seen by God–whole, priceless, lovely, beautiful, clean. And, every interaction that he has with us is intended to move us closer to who we really are be that in healing a wound, restoring our self-image, restoring our proper view of God, helping us to forgive, helping us to receive forgiveness, lifting our burdens, reconciling us to our families if that’s possible, you name it.
We often misunderstand God, however, because he is speaking to our true identities, and we are speaking to him from a place of lack, insecurity, and inadequacy. This is what happened to me today. I marched into the orthodontists’ offices. I was so cold. My cough was bad. My head hurt, and I was exhausted. It was a 2 hour appointment. When I spoke to the receptionist behind the counter about the full parking ramp, she replied, “Well, that was unnecessary. Didn’t you notice the sign that said “Reserved”? If you have an appointment here, then you always have a parking spot in the reserved parking spaces. I’m sorry you went through that.” I couldn’t believe it. I had a RESERVED parking space? I didn’t need to drive around crying and swearing? I didn’t need to trudge through the cold and snow in wet sneakers? My daughter and I walked back to the other parking ramp. In retrospect, it didn’t seem so far, but I wouldn’t get a discounted parking rate at this ramp. It was going to cost a lot more for sure. As we drove towards the ramp exit, we noticed that the gate was lifted, and the parking attendant was absent. They were on a break, and we didn’t have to pay a cent. Huh. Free parking.
I am still learning what it means to stay in my true identity rather than how I feel about myself. I am always amazed at how quickly I can work myself into a lather over something. Somedays I feel pretty good about myself. Hey, I washed, folded, and put all the laundry away while cleaning the house, cooking dinner, and developing that story concept with my co-writer. I am freakin’ awesome! Somedays I feel like a complete failure in every sense of the word. I yelled at the kids, forgot to pay a bill, glared at my husband, and I’m still nursing that one bad habit. You know, that bad one that makes you feel really ashamed. The one that would get you kicked out of every organization representative of all that is good, decent, and virtuous in our society. I am freakin’ awful! But, that isn’t who we really are at all. Our identities are not based in how we or anyone else feels about us; they are based in what God says about us. To me, that is freakin’ fantastic!!! The favor of God may not have much to do with finding a great parking space, but, hey, I’ve got to start somewhere.
“You will be called by a new name, A name given by the Lord himself. You will be like a beautiful crown for the Lord.” Isaiah 62