Invisible: Part 1

Invisible.
 
Invisible boys. Invisible girls. Invisible women. Invisible men. Invisible people.

        They’re all around you whether you know it or not. You may even be one yourself. These are people that don’t want to be seen and go to great lengths to hide themselves away, to go undetected, to blend in and be grey. These are people who do whatever they can do to be noticed for one aspect of their life to distract from another. These are people who no matter how many times they reach out for help, they fall through the cracks until they learn not to reach out anymore.

       No matter if you want to be invisible or if invisibility is thrust upon you, I promise you this. There is one who sees you. He is the one who knows you at your core and who longs to comfort you. He is the one who will follow you wherever you go and will sit and stay with you wherever you hide. He sees you. He will come and find you and offer you healing and help beyond your wildest dreams.

         But there are others who walk alongside the invisible people. They are the unseeing. This is for both those who cannot be seen and those who do not notice. Read and find healing. Or read and find vision.

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   It was Hagar who introduced me to El Roi. I have for many years marveled in her story, her experiences and her bravery. She is a bit of a mystery woman who isn’t given as much text as some other people in the Bible, but what is there is so rich and full, I have gone back over and over to the content and gained from it for years.

    We first meet Hagar in Genesis 16 where the writer introduces her as Sarai’s Egyptian slave, who is the solution in Sarai’s eyes to the no children problem that has been in front of Abram and Sarai for years. If you have a copy of the Bible handy, feel free to open it up and read this powerful chapter in the life of Abraham’s family history and then click “Read With Me” and let’s read together!

Read With Me – CLICK ME!

    The first thing I want you to see about Hagar is that she is unseen by Abraham and Sarai. Certainly she is favorable enough that Sarai figures she can utilize her to get the ball rolling on producing an heir, but when we look at how Sarai and Abram speak about her it is always, my slave, your slave, her or she. She is valuable as an object, but not as an individual.

    What Sarai suggests is socially acceptable and perfectly legal at that time, when a woman could not bear children to her husband, she could give her slave to her husband and then the child would be hers. But this very act depends on one useful item, a producing womb housed in someone who can’t say no. As we meet Hagar, we are introduced to a woman who is without power over her life, her circumstance, and most basically, no power over her own body.

    Sarai most likely obtained Hagar while they were in Egypt and Sarai was given to Pharaoh by Abram who was afraid the Egyptians would kill him in order to have her because of her beauty. This is a woman who had limited control in her own life. And certainly having decades of struggles with infertility, when culturally that was as a woman your greatest area of contribution, Sarai must have struggled with her own sense of lack power over her body.

     Sarai exercises the small amount of power she has over Hagar and brings her to Abram who sleeps with her. When Hagar conceives what a blow that must have been for Sarai as it served as confirmation that the blame lay with her and not Abram. Abram could produce children, it was her who couldn’t.

      We read, when Hagar conceived she despised her mistress. I have to wonder what the future looked like in Hagar’s eyes, now connected to this old man who couldn’t be bothered to speak her name. I have to wonder just exactly how sullen or prideful or fowl tempered Hagar would have had to have been to break Sarai and send her to Abram for permission to respond.

      Sarai approaching Abram speaks in itself to another shift in the balance of power as Sarai had been able to bring Hagar to Abram, had been able to cook up this scheme and set it into play of her own accord, but she has to seek out permission to deal with the slave girl now. Granted permission to deal with Hagar as she deems fit, she “mistreats her.” What that means, physical abuse, withholding supplies and care, we don’t know.

      It is enough to drive Hagar to the desert, to send her away from food, shelter, water, a mat to lay on, the few comforts afforded to her in her station to set out into the wilderness, risking death every step of the journey and return to her homeland a pregnant single woman of uncertain past and uncertain future.

    One might think that invisibility existed since the garden, hiding from God in shame, and in some respects it does, but never before has one person been so utterly alone, without a partner, without a past or a future, without any power or value. Eve had Adam. Noah had his family and all of his pets. From father to son, husband and wife the Bible accounts humanity to the arrival of the slave girl.

 This is Hagar, the first invisible girl in the Bible.

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Reflect

 1. Can you identify with Hagar? Are there areas of your life that you feel utterly powerless to control? Perhaps a boss with unreasonable expectations or a power struggle within your family?

2. Can you identify with Sarai? Are there areas of your life that you feel you exercise power in not the healthiest ways? Perhaps with work teammates or over your children?

3. In 5 words, describe Hagar at this point in her story.

4. In 5 words, describe Sarai at this point in her story.

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                                  Want to read more?  Click to read Invisible: Part 2

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The Next Task…

    Driving from Grottoes to Richmond and back again with God riding shotgun, I revisited the accounts of the week. I was given the opportunity to share with some people about the idea of waiting on the Lord in regards to their call on their life. I’d asked directly for someone to speak into what they saw for me, but they didn’t have an answer. When the conversation between me and God lulled, I selected a sermon from my church in Ohio and listened to Pastor Bruce speak in his old familiar tone, but the message was anything but habitual. He spoke about revival and about the new church in Acts. He spoke about his hope for that church to be a church that raises up leaders and sends them to the ends of the Earth to make disciples. I felt pleased to hear it. Surely that is just what my family has been, raised up in that church and sent out.  

     In January, when I first began this time of reflecting on what God is calling me to and ultimately how He will use me to His glory, I ask God to task me. And He did, very specifically, over and over. That season lasted about 8 months of steady intensity where each task was clearly laid out and had defined edges. Stuff Easter eggs. Sit at the front desk. Schedule volunteers. Paint a set.

    As the season came to a close, my heart ached for the approaching change. My mother used to sing “In The Garden” and the final verse reads

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Tho’ the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.”

     It was a very recognizable sensation, like I had spent months in sweet fellowship and now I was being bid farewell and called out of the garden, but as both the song and scripture assures me, He will walk with me.

       I stepped into this new position and have been sweetly blessed by going just where I knew He was taking me, but it has left me wondering what happened to my tasks.  While I do this new work He’s brought me to, how do I continue to walk towards where He is leading me? Of course, by remaining in conversation, and by staying in the Word, doing all I can to fall not into step with Him, but to tuck myself into His shadow, placing my foot inside his steps. To strive to take hold of Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” The closer I can wrap myself in that safety, the more certainly I can trust each move.

      Pastor Bruce continued to preach and the message he felt he’d been given to deliver that day was, “There’s more.” My mind drifted to a passage, Isaiah 55:9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” What He has planned for me, for my calling, is so much higher, so much more than I can imagine. Not so much more for me. So much more for Him.

      Then I remembered a task I’d been given a number of months before, one which led me set up my blog. I was standing at the front of our church here in Harrisonburg and Pastor Kerry, then barely knowing me, outside of a handful of awkward conversations where I stumbled through basic social norms, as well as some writings which I’d permitted to be passed to him through someone I trust very much. He walked about 20 feet to the right of me, made eye contact and said “Sarah Kinzer. The writer.” He took a few more steps and then added, “Keep writing.”

     There was my task, which I walked in for a number of months, at the time of that drive to Richmond left untouched for nearly a month. I’d sat down and started a number of posts, but none that have made it to that final button click to share with the world. This was my old task, brought around again, with fresh life to it. This is where the course is and where I will step as He directs, trusting His ways and His thoughts to continue to task me, post to post, letter to letter.

      I hope that you will step with me as I create this bible study, for if a writer places an X on a page and no one reads it, does it make a sound? I would love for people to follow along while I journey through this study, however if this only ever exists between Him and me, then I trust that it is for my edification and His glory, and delight in the opportunity to have spent this time in His word studying and documenting what He has to teach me hidden in His Word.

Why We Hate Holiness

       Holiness. Surely it’s antiquated and weird, something for out of touch snake stomping weirdos who can’t function in today’s society.

A few years ago, back in Ohio, Pastor Bruce shared a sermon series while the book of the month was The Hole In Our Holiness. He began presenting the premise that even among Christians in a holiness church, many take the attitude that holiness is akin to polka music; fine for those people, but not for me.

In those days I listened, quizzically, understanding holiness at the shrug level. Sure,   Pastor Bruce, that’s interesting, and sure I believe God wants us to live a holy life, but this passion you have about it, this excitement and this notion that it is somehow better than what I’ve got now, that’s fine for you, but it’s not for me. At best I was apathetic about the whole holiness thing.

This past Monday I sat in a room enjoying the privilege of hearing more preached about holiness at my church at Sack Supper Saturation. It is an amazing experience each month to go and wonder if Pastor Kerry will ever get to the other end of the binder he brings in with his notes about holiness. Or if he will ever get to Hebrews 12, because that to me is the height and depth and width, the beauty and the breath of holiness, and dagnabit I want to hear a message on it!

This time, Pastor Kerry shared out of Genesis 22, and then put out the pondering statement of (loosely quoted) “You have a Holy God, the Holy Bible, the Holy Spirit, but people don’t want holiness? I don’t understand it!” And I know he grasps the sad concept as to why people shy from it, but there in Genesis 22, I really believe the hard answer stares us in the face.
                                                            We hate holiness. 

Our fallen sinful nature can not stand to be next to it and fights against it tooth and nail.

There are those who turn completely away from anything to do with holiness, but so many of us stand and sing songs about the Holy Spirit, listen to sermons about a Holy God, and then walk out into the world and miss so much. Why?

                                                          Holy God demands holiness.

                                                         It is not God’s way to be ONE OF.
                                                      It is God’s way to be ONE AND ONLY.

The story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, to put him on the altar and offer him as a human sacrifice, and then at the last moment the angel of the Lord stays Abraham’s hand and  God provides a ram in place of Isaac. Abraham names the place “The Lord Will Provide” and the angel of the Lord says “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” When he is at the foot of the mountain Isaac asks where is the lamb and Abraham tells him that God will provide. It’s true, but how surely does Abraham know it?

It’s a powerful story and there is much to be used there about God teaching Abraham that he is not to engage in human sacrifice like other religions of the day and the comparison to the sacrifice of Jesus and God providing the lamb for the ultimate sacrifice. And even though we see that God does not ask Abraham to do something He is unwilling to do himself….this story still carries a bitter taste.       

     Because why did he ask such a cruel thing of Abraham and Isaac? Imagine how scarred Isaac had to walk out of that experience. Imagine the sickness and the terror that Abraham had to push through to put one foot in front of the other. What kind of God would ask that of a person? People do not like this story. How could God do that? It is vile and cruel. It is detestable. I find myself apologizing for God and promising that He is loving and pointing again and again to the fact that He provided the ram. Refocus. Look away from what God demanded of Abraham.

                              But the fact of the matter is that IS what God demands of us. 

         Holiness is living in the very center of one and only. But in order to arrive at the center of one and only, one must climb the mountain with Abraham, leading the child of promise, Isaac and carrying the sacrificing blade. We must arrive at the altar and lay down everything we’ve worked so hard to drag along behind us. We’ve grown attached to what is in the sack and in our hands, but you must unload everything, your marriage, your children, your possessions, your job, your passion, your hopes, your dreams, your plans and your future and prepare for them to be irrevocably cut out of your life. And after all the laying down is complete and the blade is in the air, a Holy God asks you to climb atop the pile, lay down and wait for the blade to fall.

    And there tangled up in the bush is the ram, the provision of God, His best offered to you in the place of your all, your everything.

         But to get there you have to stand at the foot of the mountain and drag all of your life up a mountain, and deep down, if we’re brave enough to admit it, we’re not quite sure that we like a God who asks us to do this. And we don’t know how to explain a world watching and disgusted at the demand and boggled by our agreement to walk into it. Can we convince Isaac to believe that God will provide the sacrifice? Can we convince ourselves?

Holiness is expensive and we have had a whisper in our ear our whole life that God and is enough. God and family. God and work. God and things. Even the best ands, God and our holy passion. God and our calling. God and our promised future. Surely God doesn’t want us to lay down the good things He’s blessed us with and the places He’s called us to. But He does, because if there is one thing He is clear about, He is and only. The only acceptable AND to God is this. God and only God.

The deeper I fall in love with holiness, the greater truth I see in the words I heard from Pastor Bruce years ago….

“Here’s my fear as a pastor… in a holiness church… watching the current Christians in our community… We all jump and shout when we talk about what Christ has saved us from… but we grow deaf and dumb when the conversation shifts to what He saved us to.”

And follow it with the concept presented last month by Pastor Kerry, that in answer to those who argue that we can not experience holiness until we get to heaven, Jesus offers us eternal life…starting today, not in the vague unknown time of when we reach eternity. Certainly this is a beautiful depiction of holiness, to live and enjoy fully grasping the eternal life that Jesus offers.

But how to speak louder than the scream of “It’s not fair?” How to offer the sweet taste of holiness to someone still choking back on the sour taste of the demand? I wish I knew more. In this moment the best I can do, I suppose is run back down the mountain and tell about the ram, and help bear the weight of the load of my brothers and sisters as they ascend. All I can do is tell them over and over, like Abraham, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Let’s go.

What’s For Breakfast?

At life group tonight we were talking about how things are easier if you spend time throughout the week with God, read the Bible, pray. This thought came out of that.

Of course it’s easier! It’s hard to maintain a marriage if you don’t talk to your spouse every day. But beyond that, it’d be nearly impossible to maintain a marriage if we treated those we love like many people treat God.

Imagine for a moment that you haven’t spoken to your husband or wife except to say “Good morning” and “Good night” for an entire week and then you get up Sunday morning and walk in to the kitchen, look your beloved in the eye and say “What’d you fix me to eat?” They hand over a beautiful omelet made with cage free hormone free local eggs and cheese that they aged themselves, juice fresh squeezed by hand and fruit grown in the garden. You sit down and stare at your phone while you eat and then walk away from the table and leave the dirty dish just sitting there. Someone has called you on the phone and without so much as a thanks for the meal, you’re off to talk to your friend.

Imagine even in the context of friendship, you see a friend on Facebook whom you haven’t spoken to since college. You look them up online and find their address, go and ring their doorbell. They are so excited to see you, to reconnect and they invite you in. You walk directly into their kitchen, open the fridge and say “So, whatcha got that’s good to eat?”

When a person shows up on Sunday, expecting to be fed spiritually, God will provide the meal. He will. But it is up to us to sit down and engage at the table with Him. You will only get out of the dining experience what you’re willing to put into the experience. If you don’t take a bite, you won’t get full. If you don’t take part in the conversation, you won’t feel He’s listening. If you don’t listen, you won’t hear.

If all you want is a Sunday experience, that’s your right to choose that, but there is so much more there to be had! You wouldn’t ignore your spouse who loves you so dearly, so why would you ignore the God of the universe who loves you more than we can fathom? There are meals to be had all over the place, not just in the pew on Sunday morning, and God is supplying the ingredients.

He is calling you to the table.

Sit, eat and enjoy.