Tag Archives: Gabriel

That Moment of Destiny

Esther 2

   THAT MOMENT OF DESTINY.  At least once in our lives, there comes a moment when we have to say something that, once said, will change everything, forever. Moreover, we know that once we say that thing, we can’t unsay it or take it back or get a do-over. We may fight with ourselves over saying it—but we lose. We may try to talk ourselves out of it—but we fail. We may try to delay the inevitable—but we can’t. We may wish that things could stay the same—except we know that they’ll never be the same again.

But we also know one other thing—the only thing worse than things changing forever will be if they don’t.

   I’ll never be able to prove it but I believe Queen Esther felt that way. Do you ever wonder why, after inviting King Xerxes to the very special banquet she’d prepared to set the stage to petition him to save her people and herself, she didn’t say a word that night—except “’Will you come to another banquet tomorrow?’”

   Backstory: King Xerxes, world ruler of Persia, is persuaded to make a rash decree that, on an appointed day eight months from then, anyone who cared to could go on a killing spree to slaughter and obliterate all Jews anywhere in the Persian empire (all 127 different countries of it). The man behind that suggestion to the king was the wicked Haman who hated all Jews everywhere. Little does he know, though, that Queen Esther is Jewish. The problem is that the king doesn’t know it either. And the bigger problem is that, were he to find out, he still wouldn’t be able to cancel the decree because, according to Persian law, once a king made a decree, even he could not revoke it afterward. So—Esther sets out to educate the king as to what this means for her and her people: unequivocal annihilation of the Jewish race. However, in order to plead her case, Esther must approach the king in the throne room uninvited, which is simply not done. Queen or no queen, she could be executed for such presumption should the king not extend to her the scepter of mercy. But she knows that.

   Nevertheless, Esther approaches the king and he extends the scepter and promises to grant her petition, even up to half his kingdom. But does she tell him of the plot against herself and her people? Not quite yet…

   Many believe that Esther held her tongue because Haman was such a powerful political figure, even more powerful than she—which meant that she wasn’t out of danger quite yet. So instead of accusing Haman in the courtroom, she moves the battle to her own turf, to her own private apartments. Fair enough. But having done so, then she still doesn’t tell the king that she, his beloved queen, is about to die. (And don’t think Haman wouldn’t have had her killed.)

   Why doesn’t she?

   I don’t believe Esther was silent because she was afraid of dying; she’d already come to terms with the possibility that her destiny might require her to sacrifice her life when she resolved that “’If I perish, I perish.’” I suspect rather that Esther postponed the conversation simply because she knew that no matter what happened after she told the king her story—whether he believed her or not—things in the kingdom would never be the same again. And Esther wanted just one more night of intimacy, of peace, of normalcy with her husband.

   Have we ever done that? Have we ever avoided that moment of destiny because, no matter how we respond, nothing will ever be the same again?

   That “moment of destiny” is often our greatest test. When faced with the most challenging moment of our lives, what will we say?

   A chaste, unmarried, Jewish virgin is told by the angel Gabriel that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah. Wouldn’t that be every young Jewish maiden’s dream? Maybe. But Mary knows what happens to unmarried pregnant women: outcast, abandoned, even stoned to death—so what will she say? It’s her moment of destiny, and Mary responds, “’Let it be done unto me as you have said.’” Regardless of her answer though, Mary knew nothing could ever be the same again. She would either be the most honored woman of all time—or the most disgraced.

   Abraham was commanded by God to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him on the altar. As he takes his son and goes, Isaac asks him why they weren’t bringing an animal for the sacrifice. That moment—knowing his beloved son was the sacrifice—was the most heart-shattering moment of Abraham’s life and his greatest test; what would he say? “’God will provide the sacrifice.’” Even so, Abraham knew that, regardless of his answer, nothing would ever be the same again. I suspect he might have feared that he would go home either without his son or without his God.

   And Jesus. When faced with his moment of destiny in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asks God to take the cup of crucifixion from him but then says, “’Not my will but your will be done.’” He knew full well what would happen if he submitted to his Father’s plan of salvation—he would die an excruciatingly painful death. And he knew full well what would happen to us if he did not. One way or the other, he knew that nothing would ever be the same again.

   You will have your moment of destiny. What will you say?

 

 

 

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Everything Depends On What We Can’t See.

Coin Flip

“We walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7).

   At any given point in the decision-making process, we can only access one-quarter of the information needed to make a good decision. And it’s not merely a question of gathering more intel—the fact is that the necessary info is simply not available.

   And that, my friends, drives me crazy.

   As are many of you, I’m a data-driven kind of girl. In decision-making, I just want the facts: Tell me what the problem/choice/opportunity is; give me a realistic assessment of available resources; give me a list of pros and cons for each option; and give me both the best and worst case scenarios for each possible outcome. Once all of that analysis is on the table, a great decision is guaranteed.

   Or not.

   Even with all of those facts, statistics, possibilities and considerations taken into the mix, that’s still only a fraction of the information needed to make a wise decision. Here’s the other three-quarters of info needed.

   Thing I: What’s happening behind the scenes that you can’t see? Your son or daughter is acting out and you need to drop the hammer. After all, they know better. Right? But what if they’re being bullied or had a break up or are being pressured to do something they know is wrong? They may not be voluntarily forthcoming with that info so is a good, long time-out or chew-out going to help solve their crisis or their behavior? Maybe more information is needed…

   Job hunting? Which to take? The one with better money would certainly seem the obvious choice but what’s going on behind the scenes that you can’t research? For instance, you might not want to work for that boss or deal with those office politics or participate in the undercover climate of, shall we say, compromise that you’d be expected to comply with. Those are behind-the-scenes circumstances that—let’s face it—aren’t going to come out during the interview.

   Or what about that home or car you’re looking to buy? What if it has flaws that inspectors or mechanics simply miss? (Not that the seller is trying to unload on you…just sayin’.)

   That person you’re considering marrying? Is it possible that he or she might be on his/her best behavior until you’ve vowed never to part? We all have faults and flaws, no doubt, and granted, it might sound cynical even to ask that question. But can we really say that no husband or wife has ever been blindsided by their spouse’s hidden propensities toward (way) overspending or inability to keep employment or even more serious tendencies toward violence, addiction or cheating? Do we really think that any of those fault-lines were visible to multiple thousands of people before they walked down the aisle and they simply chose to ignore them? (Okay, some did.)

   Hidden things, by definition, are impossible to see. Walking by sight only lights up a fraction of them.

   Thing II: What’s on the horizon that you can’t see? Vacation in Orlando? Uh, oh—hurricane hits. What about Washington; that’s always fun. Unless there’s an accident on the Beltway and traffic is backed up to Maine—no fun. Or which college to choose? My son once picked one and two months in, they cancelled his major. Didn’t see that coming. 

   Thinking of buying a home, starting a biz or investing? Certainly you can and should do the research: What’s the housing market look like right now? Is it a buyers’ or sellers’ market? How’s the business economy—friendly or no? Business tax rates? And what’s happening with interest rates for 401K’s, CD’s, the stock market? Is Social Security secure for the future? Some research may give some answers but here’s what we can’t know: What will happen in the future? Sure, “experts” make predictions all the time, but if you’ve ever watched any financial analysis debates (which I try to avoid), their crystal balls never quite align. And unless you’re a psychic, you’re simply not going to know. Evidence? How many people were completely wiped out financially in the stock market crash of 1929? Or 1989? Or the housing crisis/market crash in 2007/2008? Millions. And we had the ensuing recessions and depressions to prove it.

   Again—thinking of getting married? What if one of you grows and matures and you’re simply “not compatible” anymore? Anyone see that coming?

   Walking by sight is blind to future circumstances. Why? Because those circumstances haven’t happened yet.

   Thing III: What’s happening in the spiritual realm that you can’t see? At any given moment, there’s more happening in the spiritual realm that affects your decisions than is occurring in the physical realm. The problem is, that activity is invisible; you can’t see it happening. And if you can see it, I guarantee that it’s because you are walking by faith, not by sight. But whether you have the gift of discernment, you’re a seer into the spiritual realm or the angel Gabriel regularly shows up with intel, somehow you’re being allowed that insight by God; it’s not info you can Google.

   One time my parents bought a house that we didn’t know was haunted. But we found out. And regardless of whether you believe spiritual entities (aka “demons”) can inhabit physical spaces or not, something was knocking pictures off walls, causing audible footsteps, and shattering glasses sitting untouched on the table—and it wasn’t us. Not to mention two or three memorable visitations in the dead of night. My mother even contracted brain cancer and died, and while I can’t prove that that was related, it does seem an odd coincidence that her home health aid was also diagnosed with brain cancer after three months of working in that house. What we found out much later is that the prior residents used to have séances in the house—always an open invitation to demonic activity. (But that’s another post entirely.)

   Bottom line: We saw the house, it looked good, and we bought it. We walked entirely by sight—and saw nothing.

   Many people who make decisions solely based on what they can see rather than faith in God either don’t understand the importance of waiting on God or simply hate to wait. However, the real truth is that living only by what we can see, hear, feel or research is a very miniscule part of the picture; there’s simply too much happening or about to happen that we simply cannot see. Basing decisions on only one-quarter of information is not just a huge risk, it can be downright deadly.

   Ask my mom.

 

 

 

 

Lessons From the Manger

mary-and-gabriel

     As we close out Christmas 2016, one more lesson from the manger: Even in the perfect will of God, things can go very wrong. At least – from our perspective. But just because it’s “going wrong” doesn’t mean it’s not God. Let’s break it down.

     The archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary with a message that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Son of God. Then he asked if she was willing. Many times I have written about Mary’s response: “’May it be done unto me as you have said.’” This essentially means that Mary was giving the okay to being a pregnant – and unmarried – woman in a society not at all warmhearted to such a situation.

     Mary’s response fascinates me – such faith in the midst of a very clear cost to her: we know what Mary must have foreseen before she agreed. No doubt she’d be branded a liar regarding the whole angel tale, plus she’d have a knock-down, drag-out fight with mom and dad. And that would be the best-case scenario. At worst, she’d be disowned by her parents and she’d no doubt lose Joseph after being branded an adulteress. (She was engaged to Joseph which, in the Jewish society, was as good as married.) Following that, her prospects for a husband would be less than zero, and she might also find herself ex-communicated from the village or even stoned to death after the birth of the baby.

     Her words humble me. Would I be able to trust God if He asked such a momentous thing of me? Of course, I would like to think so, but . . .

     With all of the potential for tragedy in this situation, I imagine no one believed Mary when she said her pregnancy was the will of God. Surely (we tend to think), God’s will would never be fraught with so much shame, disgrace and controversy! Right? Moreover (we also tend to think), God would never ask so much of one of His children. “Therefore,” (we conclude) “this can’t be God!” Hammer down.

     And yet . . .

     Fast forward several months: Mary visits Elizabeth. Now we don’t really know whether Mary would’ve visited Elizabeth anyway or whether Mary was “encouraged” to get out of Dodge. But bottom line: growing up, I’m certain that while Mary imagined, as all young girls do, what her future marriage and motherhood would be like, I’m fairly certain she never, in her wildest nightmares, ever imagined this little scenario. Nevertheless, in the midst of the shame and trauma, Joseph and Mary do get married. And the sigh of relief is heard throughout the land: certainly the worst is over . . .

     Well, maybe . . . not. Suddenly, Joseph is faced with a rather unexpected census requiring that he and Mary travel to Bethlehem – and Mary nine months pregnant and riding on a donkey and in winter. I can hear her mother now:“Are you sure this is God?? This can’t be God!”

     It was though. And while Mary and Joseph were no doubt wondering at the timing of things, they were certain that God would get them both to Bethlehem safely and provide a nice place for them to stay . . .

     However, God had different plans. And they didn’t involve a warm, clean, private hotel room or a competent mid-wife or even a relative or two to drop by with a congratulatory bouquet. No. Rather, Jesus was born unattended in the midst of winter in a cold, dark stable, surrounded, not by loving family, but by smelly cows, sheep, and maybe a chicken or two.

     Do you ever wonder whether Joseph may have had a moment of doubt? Certainly God’s plan to bring the Messiah into the world would be less complicated and – scary? Mary would, of course, reassure Joseph, and they would conclude that now that the baby had come, things would surely be easier. Right?

     Except for King Herod.

     The next thing Joseph and Mary know, they’re headed across the desert – on a donkey – fleeing a king who’d vowed to kill their baby.

     God – ?

     Joseph, Mary and Jesus stayed in Egypt for several years before returning to Israel after the death of Herod. In all that time, they lived far away from family and friends and from everything familiar to them. The people were foreign, the food was foreign, the customs were foreign – even the language must’ve been a challenge. Plus, Mary and Joseph would’ve had to find a whole new place to live and Joseph would’ve had to find a job to support his young family. Moreover, they were far from their temple and the free worship of the one true God, living in the middle of a pagan nation full of idol worshippers.

     Was this God-forsaken country any place to raise the Son of God??

     Would God really do that?

     Hindsight being what it is, we now know that all of that was God, and we can see His plan and purpose in the midst of all the seeming nonsensical circumstances that surrounded the birth of Jesus Christ. Is it possible, then, that God’s plans for our destinies might possibly be laced, here and there, with bits and pieces of unrest, trauma, drama, fear, conflict, danger – even tragedy?

     Yes.

     The fact is, chasing our God-given destiny is not for the faint of heart.

     But from that long-ago manger, we can receive the assurance of knowing that just because a situation is not problem-free doesn’t mean it’s not God.

     Mary’s situation makes me wonder: What happens when God presents us with a choice to pursue a destiny that will, no doubt, change our lives forever – no matter our response? If we agree to God’s request, will we be able to handle what is sure to come: the unforeseen circumstances, the hard challenges – even the scorching tests of faith? On the other hand, if we refuse, will we be able to live with the regret? We know the answer.

     “May it be done unto me as you have said.”