Friday, June 30, 2006

Touching skin

Our church, during a mid week meeting, has been working through an intercession study course aimed at making prayer more effective and powerful. On Wednesday we were learning how to listen to God. Patricia King in her teaching had been encouraging us that God talks to us – that He wants to talk to us and that we all have the ability to hear from Him.

After a short time of worship we settled down to listen. I usually go into panic mode simply because what comes straight into my mind is “What if God talks to everyone else in the room, but He doesn’t talk to me!” I can usually think of a million things that would disqualify me from taking part!

Well, thoughts were going through my head, mostly about what God and I had been talking about from my quiet times – whether they were God directed, I will leave that up to you to decide.

Last weekend I popped into the City Forum. It is a message board specifically for Christian ladies, sparked off by a Faithwriter’s lady. I used to keep up to date with the Bible Study there last year. They are reading through the early chapters of Numbers. The Levites were assigned to help the priests with the running of the tabernacle. When it came down to moving the campsite along the route to the Promised Land, they were assigned things to carry. They didn’t just line up outside the tabernacle, but there was a list of their names, and each person, by name, was given a specific item to take. Each person was hand picked and their specific strengths and weaknesses taken into consideration. Who knows best, but God, what we can carry and what we can’t? There is a verse that says that God does not give us the things that we cannot bear that comes to mind. What God gives us to carry is not so heavy that we are broken by it.

OK – so that was what I “heard” from God. We didn’t have time to explore the specifics so we were encouraged to take it back to God and ask for the details! This is kind of mind-blowing! This is where God really “touches skin”.

What came across when I talked it over with God was firstly the word “Protection”. A lot of the instructions God gives at the start of Numbers are down to God’s desire to protect his people. Living in the midst of them is dangerous for them – He is holy, and they are not. They are dealing with sensitive dynamite and things have to be correctly handled. God assigning certain items to specific people is a matter of protection. It is fair to say that some of us have an unrealistic view of our abilities. We are not as strong as we think we are. The temptation for us is to take on board more than we can handle and we get burnt out. For some of us, it may be the opposite – we are actually much stronger than we think, but we rule ourselves out and we never really get to exercise our spiritual muscles properly. By God assigning specific tasks He gets the best out of us.

So the anointing that God gives for a task is not haphazard and random, but carefully orchestrated. The things that I do must be the things that God has set me apart to do and not the stuff I think I am capable of doing. They are the things that no one else has been assigned to do and they are matched to my strengths and weaknesses.

This is when God got really personal! Suppose as a Levite you turn up at the tabernacle. Every time you have moved camp you have been given things to carry. Sometimes it’s the same item you are carrying. Sometimes it’s something a little different – but you always have something to do. Suppose that one time you turn up and the priest turns you away – there is nothing for you to carry! Suppose the next time you turn up, you get turned away – again there is nothing for you to carry. And perhaps a third time, and a fourth time. What questions go through your mind? What do you think about? Do you automatically think – “Oh wonderful, I get to help my wife pack and move our stuff.” Or “I was really needing a rest!” or more likely perhaps, “What is wrong with me? Why am I being passed over here? Have I done something to offend the priests, or God?” The man has got used to doing stuff, but suddenly, he feels like he is being made redundant!

See this protection thing – it is not just a physical thing of not being given too heavy a burden to carry. I think it is also a spiritual thing. We have a tendency to measure value according to what a person does. We perhaps measure our value on the basis of what we contribute or the part we play in the church setting. If we do nothing, we think we have no value. If we had a job, and then it gets taken off us and given to someone else, we jump to a conclusion perhaps that the other person must be better than we are. Maybe this is just me and everyone else is a lot less complex! The world moves on whether I carry something or not – I am not the centre of the universe. God can work without me and he chooses to do so at times. Learning just to “be” and not to “do” is so important.

Are you still with me? Let’s forget about the “suppose”! The phrase I am playing with now is “touching skin” – when something touches you up close and it is not just theory or head knowledge. Just recently our church meetings have moved into the town centre. I don’t know how many weeks we have been there. I am aware that since moving into the town centre I have not been invited to lead worship. There is a small trickle of thoughts along the line of “What is wrong with me? Why am I being passed over here? Have I done something to offend someone?” It is a very small trickle that I don’t give space to because I know that there is nothing wrong, that I am not being passed over and that had I offended anyone, I would have been told. But it is a challenge! I feel like the Levite who turns up expecting to carry something and gets sent home empty handed. I am used to doing something and not just being something.

The challenge for me is to enjoy the rest and the space I am being given. There is space particularly to explore what else God has got in mind for me – that I am not limited to leading worship or preaching in a Sunday meeting setting – but something Melanie-sized and shaped in the wider setting of church in the community. It is kind of exciting – it is scary too!

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