It’s not what I imagined, on the others side of winter’s cold, not how I envisioned that growing in God would look. He smiles lovingly, as though to say: It never is. But I am always good.
It seems the nearer I get to that heaving, blazing heart of God, the less I know, the weaker I am, the less I have it together. And I thought maturity was getting stronger. “No,” He responds. “Just closer.”
I thought growing in God meant knowing more and more. “More and more of ME,” He qualifies. And then I see again how humility is tied in and wrapped up in every direction of this exchange. Knowledge apart from Him puffs up but knowledge of Him – directly – it humbles and brings low (1 Cor. 8:1; Phil. 2:1-11). And thus, to know Him more is to walk lower, always.
[framed_box]When in the throws of life’s hard seasons, we tell ourselves even without realizing it that if and when we ever get through this, we’ll be stronger for it. We cope this way. But then the opposite happens. When we finally show up on the other side of winter’s cold or testing’s fire, it’s not with a new stride but with a fresh limp.Wrestling with God doesn’t leave us brazen but bruised (Gen. 32:24-31).[/framed_box]And part of me wishes I could go back. For I remember what “invincible” felt like. I remember the burn within of untested zeal or how the future felt as though it were a staircase of ascent and endless possibilities. Can I go back to that boldness? That certainty? Can I return to that confidence?
“No,” He whispers. “I’m your certainty and your confidence now.”
Instead of that upward climb we’d imagined, He takes us downward. He loves us too much to take us where He doesn’t Himself go. “It’s narrow!” He calls back in kindness as He leads us into the darkened descent. “But it’s the way forward” (Matt. 7:14).
And sometimes I’ve swallowed hard in those moments of finding footing and following Him low, subconsciously comforting myself with some promise of what would be gained by this hard road. Bargaining myself to move forward for the benefits to be acquired. Yet he knows even my subconscious. My coping mechanisms. “I am the gain,” He turns and reminds, with a kindness older than the stars. “Will you come for only Me?” (Phil. 3:7).
And down we go upon the path, leaving strength in the shadows behind, yet closeness to this Kindest One, the gain.
[framed_box]A picture of an elderly couple comes to mind. Matured love, weathered years, broken strides, they walk arm in arm and leaning, stronger in love than they’ve ever been, yet weaker in independence than ever before. Maturing in love surely doesn’t always look as we’d imagined.[/framed_box] What happens after winter? After the testings? There in those fires, where we lost our certainties and the confidences of our earlier stride, we reached out and grasped for help. And we laid hold of a Man who Himself was rich and for our sakes became poor (2 Cor. 8:9). We found there in the dark and cold, that the One we’re clinging to was first the mighty One before He took on flesh and was laid in a manger, so breathtakingly weak. Did we expect Him to lead us somewhere else?
Growing in God, then, often surprises us with the parallel path of growing weaker in what man esteems and deeper in humility. Men’s eyes might perceive a broken stride and perhaps a “lesser” person than before. But the eyes of that Man – that Man that leads us down steep paths with kindness older than the stars – He sees the glimmering of iron worked into our soul by testing (Ps. 105:18-19). He sees the nearness and the leaning won in the wrestlings.
And He whispers,
The strength of God is found in places you’d never look for it. Watch the broken frames, the shoulders that stoop low, the voices last to bring their offerings to the table. Here I dwell and show Myself strong. Here in the midst of those that limp beside Me and cleave to Me desperate and contrite. Watch those that come out of winter and into spring not striding, but limping as they arise. If you’ve My eyes, you’ll see the glimmer of God shining from the inside, the glittering of iron worked strong.
And I look back to that older couple making their way down life’s path – a picture of something in God. Yes, that binding of ourselves to Him, that greater leaning upon Him, that deeper knowing of His heart of humility so rare – as we walk these paths in the age of faith, this is what growing in God, and victory, look like.