A few weeks ago, I took some time to reflect on everything God’s done over the past year, and to ask Him for direction for the next one: specifically, for a word or phrase that He has for the next year of my life.
It’s often a struggle for me to sit down and hear from God during a specific period of time. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to hear something, and overanalyze whether or not that thing was actually from God.
During this time alone with God, a few words popped into my head, but I wasn’t sure which ones were from me, and which ones were from God…
And honestly, for the next few days, I was frustrated and bitter: bitter that so many people had gotten clear answers from God, and mine always tend to be so muddled. And I definitely made my irritation clear to God, asking Him why He couldn’t just speak plainly to me, like He obviously does with other people.
Finally, one morning, as I sat in the silence with God and watched the sun gently rise over the misty purple mountains, I brought one word that had been stuck in my head to Him. That word was “Near.”
And I simply said, “I’m sorry, God. I’m sorry for getting so bitter about everything. I’m sorry for how often I wrestle with you. I don't know if this word is from you, but I pray that you’ll reveal it to me, if it is. Thank you for your faithfulness: your willingness to put up with my junk, my complaining, my arguing, my wrestling…”
And then I half jokingly said, “Man, maybe my name should be ‘Israel…’”
Israel. Lately, I’ve been moved by the fact that, out of everything God could have named His people, He chose to name them for the way that they would wrestle with Him.
And that resonates with me, because I’m very good at wrestling with God.
Some people need to be given permission to be honest with God, to know that it’s ok for them to tell Him that they don’t like what He’s doing… I don’t think I ever needed someone to tell me that.
My prayers to God are often more like David’s prayers in the Psalms: full of honest pain and groanings too deep for words. When I’m hurt, when I'm confused, I let God know. I yell at Him. I tell Him that I don’t get it. I ask Him if He’s still there.
And I know that He can handle it. I know that He’ll still be there at the end of my tantrum, patiently waiting. And every time, I surrender it all up to God, reminding myself that He is in control, and that His ways are always better. Always.
But, even though I know that God can handle my wrestling, I kind of always assumed He just… patiently endured it?
But in the silence of that moment, as I apologized for my wrestling, God responded, “I welcome it, my child.”
“There’s an intimacy, a closeness to your wrestling. A comfortability. You wouldn’t wrestle with a total stranger, but with someone you trust. And it’s like a Father wrestling with His child; you’ll never actually win... but I cherish the way you struggle with Me.”
And then He said, “That’s the kind of nearness that I have with you. And the kind of nearness I want you to continue to have. All the days of your life.”
The fact that I’m comfortable wrestling with God means that I trust Him: that I know that He’s safe. I can wrestle with Him because I'm closer to Him than I am to any other being in the entire universe. He has seen the deepest, darkest parts of my heart, and He still chose me.
And I can wrestle with Him because I know He can take it. That He won’t reject me if I wrestle and argue and disagree with Him. He’s not going anywhere.
But man, I had no idea that wrestling was something that God actually cherished: that He loves the fact that I trust Him enough to wrestle with Him, yell at Him, and shake my fist at Him when things don’t make sense.
That He loves it because it means that I’m near to Him.
As I talked to God about this idea of nearness, He brought Psalm 27 to my mind, specifically verse 4:
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
And I feel like that’s another piece to the nearness that God wants to have with me this year: He wants me to not be able to get enough of Him. To be addicted to His presence, to His nearness.
Not addicted to a feeling, or a mountaintop experience, but to be addicted to doing life with Him.
It’s an everyday kind of love. That’s what true nearness is: walking through the mundane, everyday stuff of life with Jesus. Driving to work with Jesus. Going on a run with Jesus. Drinking tea in the morning with Jesus.
The kind of nearness a child has when she sits on her father’s lap. Just to be close to Him.
That’s the kind of nearness that I want in my life.
And I think it’s the kind that God wants too.