Spiritual Growth, The House

Lift Up Your Eyes

front of house

I asked God for a house showing.

I didn’t pray for a contract. I didn’t need an offer. Just one showing would do. It seemed to me like a simple fleece.

 

Let me back up a minute.

You might remember that in February we started to homeschool our son, Daryl (7).

(Hence, my three-month silence here at This Odd House. We’ve been describing this season of our lives as “triage”—one of those periods where you’re just trying to keep everyone alive.)

In March we also decided for certain to sell our beloved McHenry Craftsman home and move into Chicago. We believed that this was the essential next step.

See, for the past eleven years, Peter and I have been commuting 55 miles to our teaching jobs in the city. As much as possible, we arrange opposite schedules, so—as much as possible—one of us can be at home with the kids. Peter’s mum lives with us for most of the school year to fill in the gaps. And this is how we have made life work—but barely. Adding homeschooling to the mix felt as if it just might push us over the edge. Something had to go—namely, the commute and our big old house.

So in mid-March we spent our spring break putting these plans into place. Peter focused each day on homeschooling Daryl, while I cleaned and painted and purged. Amelia (4) flitted back and forth between me and the boys, exclaiming repeatedly, “This is the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!” Her exuberant joy—at us, just being together—certainly spurred me on.

At the end of spring break, eight days before Easter, we signed the realtor’s paperwork and the listing on our home went live. I felt excited, yet anxious. I believed we were following God’s lead. I believed He was asking me to let go of my control and my comforts, to let go of the home that I love. I believed He was calling us to step out in faith, but this was a lot of change. And I longed for some sort of confirmation. Confirmation that homeschooling was, in fact, the best option for Daryl—and confirmation that moving our family to the city was the best option for all of us.

Over and over as we entered that Holy Week, I put out my fleece. “God, give us a house showing by Sunday. Just one house showing. Please.”

 

Well, Monday went by. And nothing.

Tuesday too.

Wednesday came and went…with no showing requests.

But finally, come Thursday, things started to move—not with the house actually, but with my heart. My prayer started to change. Oh, I still begged for a house showing several times that day. Let’s be honest. But I added to that request another simple prayer—for God’s presence, for a glimpse of His hand.

“What I really want is to see You. I want to know that we’re following Your lead.” I prayed it silently and aloud. Over and over and over again. “And I want to know that You see us. Reveal Yourself. Please!”

 

On Good Friday I cleaned through the house—yet again. Dusting wooden blinds, wiping fingerprints from French doors, scooping up toys. I already felt the pressure of keeping our space “showable”—and it hadn’t even been a week.

In the late afternoon, some friends arrived to spend the evening with us. They had barely set foot in the house when we hurried everyone out to the car and headed to the Good Friday service at our church.

With my thoughts so consumed by the house, it hadn’t even occurred to me that Daryl was now old enough to attend the Good Friday service with the grownups. For the Good Friday service alone, the children’s program at our church stops at the first grade.

After I dropped off Amelia in the preschool room then, I joined my family and friends, seated in a row near the back of the auditorium. Daryl was settled in between our guests. Peter was sitting next to them. So, by default, I took the chair on the end of the row, three seats away from my little boy.

As the music began, it dawned on me that we should have prepared Daryl for this experience. I’ve written about our Good Friday service before. I find it to be one of our church’s most meaningful corporate expressions of faith, and I was kicking myself for not realizing that Daryl would actually attend this year. Regret and shame bubbled up and mixed with the stress and fear I was already feeling. Knowing my propensity for obsessing on such thoughts and emotions, I was in danger of spending the entire service sucked up in my own head.

But, just then, God broke in.

Our pastor took the stage to welcome us. Then he said, “I’ve been praying about what God wants to say to us today, and He gave me this very simple message. ‘I see you.’” He paused and looked around the room. “He sees you,” he repeated. “Some of you need to hear that tonight.”

Oh, I’m sure that message was also for dozens of other people sitting in those seats. But it was for me. “I see you.” With those three simple words, God pulled me out of my mental spiral and captured my attention. He answered my prayer. I had my confirmation. He could have stopped there, but He wasn’t done yet.

A few minutes later our pastor invited us to participate in a powerful worship experience—a tradition at our church’s Good Friday service. He instructed us to take the piece of paper and the pencil we had received from the ushers and write down some of the sins from which we needed to be freed. We would then make our way to the front of the auditorium and nail those slips of sins to a large wooden cross.

It only took me a second to scribble on my paper—“fear” and “control.” I was well aware of my current weaknesses. Then I glanced over to see how Daryl was doing. He, too, was writing in earnest—something I don’t often see him do since he finds the printing difficult. He looked over at me and smiled.

“Do you want to go up to the cross with me?” I whispered. And he nodded eagerly.

As I slipped my arm around his shoulder and we joined the line of congregants in the aisle, Daryl looked up at me and said, “I wrote ‘disobeying’ and ‘not sharing.’” And as he showed me his precious page, my eyes—of course—filled with tears.

When it was our turn, we approached the rugged beam together and took turns with the hammer. Then we returned to our seats, hand-in-hand, singing along to the worship song.

 

After the sermon, the Good Friday service ended with communion. As the ushers began to distribute the elements, Peter leaned over to me. “Do you think I should say something to Daryl?” he whispered. I nodded and shrugged and again scolded myself—since a prior conversation in preparation would have been much better.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure where Daryl stood spiritually. Do we ever know for certain another person’s heart? He knew the gospel message. On that point I was confident. It’s been a regular part of our conversation for his entire life.

A few times he has asked to pray with us in response. But a few times he has also said to me, as we’ve been cuddling before bed, “Momma? I want to give my life to Jesus, but I’m not sure I have.” It can be a complicated and abstract concept for a seven-year-old soul to grasp.

So, while we teach our children the things of God and we invite them into a saving relationship with Jesus and we rejoice every time we see Him tug at their hearts, we don’t want to manufacture a response or coerce a conversion. We want to let God do His good work in His perfect time.

As the bread and juice were being passed down the row, Peter leaned over to Daryl and explained, “Communion is for people who have given their lives to Jesus.”

To which Daryl exclaimed with a big smile, loud enough for many around us to hear, “I’ve done that! Mom, can you tell them where it was? It was in the big bed!”

 

Over the past few years John 4 has become one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. I’ve studied it and written about it and preached on it as well. And I never tire of eavesdropping on Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well. There are so many lessons to learn. So many ways to be changed.

I believe one truth that we can pull from those pages is this: When the Samaritan women is stuck in the concrete and temporal cares of this life, Jesus gently lifts her eyes to the spiritual and the eternal work He really wants to do. When she can’t see beyond Jesus’ lack of a jar, or that deep, deep well, Jesus offers her living water—a spirit-filled life in the here and now, and salvation forevermore. He calls it “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” When the woman at the well is seeking to satiate her physical thirst, Jesus seeks to satisfy a much deeper longing—a longing to be seen and known and loved by Him—a longing she didn’t even know she had.

 

I asked God for a house showing.

In my feeble mind, that would be my confirmation. In my mind, a house showing would prove that we were following God’s lead—with the homeschooling and the house selling and the big, big move.

Well, He didn’t give me a house showing—not that week, at least.

He gave me something else instead.

He lifted up my eyes.

When I was focused on the concrete and temporal matters of dust bunnies and dirty fingerprints and buying and selling and moving, He gave me a glimpse of Himself—and the spiritual/eternal work He wants to do.

We get to be a part of that. And I can think of no greater reason to step out in faith.

 

 

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