“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 New International Version (NIV)
Have you ever found yourself saying no to God? I have. And let me tell you right now; it is the wrong side of the argument to be on.
I have led an amazing Bible Study for the last 17 years and I started out on that path, at the very beginning with those words of ‘no’ in all their variations choo-choo-ing in my brain like a little toy train going around and around. “No, no. no.”
God was pretty gentle with me, and patient, putting the bible story about the 10 spies who said no to him outside of the Promised Land into my head, (if you don’t know the story – look it up – it is pretty terrifying!). God took me through stories of Moses saying no, and David going up against Goliath until He sort of wore me and my ‘no’s’ down. But that is not what this story is about. This story is about when I said ‘no’ to inviting children to our little class.
It was about 6 years ago; I was in Colorado Springs at the big conference for all the leaders of Community Bible Study, and it was strongly suggested that we leave the room, right then, and pray about starting a children’s program for our class. Well, you can guess what my response was, right? I prayed – but I told God my answer first.
“No. It takes too much energy. I don’t have it in me. I don’t want to. It is a night class and too late for children to come anyway! And almost half of my class is made up of single career women. No.”
Oh, my. God answered me so quickly; abruptly jerking me up with His response that I could not believe it. My heart hurt and tears came to my eyes with little warning. “Perhaps you are not the right person to lead this class forward. You have a small vision. I am bigger than this.”
I was a little in shock as my heart beat faster. He was exactly right. I only could see what I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t have my eyes on His larger vision. I was small minded – and wanted His vision to conform to mine. He would not have it.
That night, I sat by a window and watched the snow fall and wrote these words below of becoming a Horizon Gazer. Words of God’s view. God changed my words from “Can’t do” to “What are your plans?” With this new humility, I shared this story with my class when I returned to Atlanta and I read them the words of this poem. They looked off into God’s distance, and asked the question, “Why just children? Why not men, too?”
This week I walked the halls and stole a glance into the two men’s groups gathered under our roof. The high school leader came to get me to look in on the joking conversation as teens snacked on chocolate and popcorn before starting their lesson. And by text I received a picture of one of our children’s classes circled up; joining their circle was the service dog of one of our leaders - sitting with them as if he were part of the discussion.
This is what God had in mind. This is why He would not allow me to say no to Him. He knew how far His horizon stretched beyond what I could see.
Lord, help me to be a horizon gazer…
off into the distance and up into the heavens,
beyond where my eyes can see -
where my sight is limited
and my understanding pale.
I am surrounded by my inward gaze,
only reaching for what is familiar and safe,
and held down by failures of
‘didn’t work’ and ‘can’t do’.
You are Ultimate and Mighty
Creator of deepest seas and the brightest stars shining brightly in galaxies unknown…
And I have thought it appropriate to limit
It makes me shudder
…that my perceived weakness should keep me from flinging open the doors and gazing into the starlit night.
What are your plans? What are your possibilities?
What brilliant light am I blocking,
standing in stubbornness with hands on hips?
Empty me. My heart, my thoughts,
until I am crystal clear transparent.
Shine your light through this vessel
broken and dusty and made of clay.
You are Awesome God,
Creator of wonders untold;
transform this piece of the world
my hands touch
and use me to reach out for Your horizon.