This morning the very first verse I read seemed to jump up and grab my attention. Actually the first half of the verse: Then David the king went in and sat before the Lord...
I wondered how I could do that -how could I, here in an eclectic, down-on-its-luck, older neighborhood in a small Jim Walter home built in the sixties -how could I emulate the king of Israel and go and sit before the Lord? No palace. No privacy fence surrounding our rock garden and flowering shrubs. (No rock garden or flowering shrubs either). Not even, as my grandmother would say, enough room to swing a cat here in my little home. Plus, how do I know when I'm actually sitting before the Lord? I mean, I can't exactly see Him...
It was a puzzlement. So, still pondering that, I decided to finish the verse and this is what I saw:
the king of Israel, David who had slain his ten thousands in battle and who was God's anointed, said, "Who am I, O Lord God ... that Thou hast brought me this far?" II Samuel 7:18
And that was as far as I got in my devotional reading today.
Just one verse which made me question, "Who am I that God has brought me this far in my life?"
Then I thought about the phrase that has repeatedly "jumped out" at me over the last few days, also from chapter 7: "...and the Lord God had given him rest on every side from his enemies." (7:1 Similar thought in verse 9 and verse 11).
As these verses filtered through my mind, I thought about the "enemies" God has given me rest from, protected me from.
One was my own father, who seemed to cherish me as a child but not as a pre-teen and teen.
Another was the person and sometimes persons who ran a meth lab off and on next door over a 9 year period.
Another was an aggressive alcoholic who also, at one time, lived down our street, and who vandalized our property because we had reported his vicious behavior to the police. The damage he did was minimal and within three months he was gone and we didn't lift a finger to make that happen - all we did was pray that God's will would be done in this neighborhood as it is done in Heaven.
Another was a hunter, also an alcoholic, who lived next door and who was angry with us for a few weeks because we had taken his son in to live with us temporarily. (We didn't know why he was so angry until he apologized later and admitted he had been abusing his son's Ritalin and was afraid we'd report him to the police).
In each of these instances, the people who posed a threat to us never harmed us personally and their property has either been torn down and/or has been purchased by neighbors who wanted peace and quiet on our street.
We also had a personal enemy, someone who was slightly paranoid and who plotted and schemed against people when there was no reason for it. But that also, over time, became a non-issue.
Then there was my 31 years of teaching high school. During that time I had probably 7 to 10 parent-teacher conferences that I really dreaded. Irate parents who made an appointment presumably for the purpose of chewing me up and spitting me out, some threatening law suits and/or insisting on going higher up the administrative ladder to lodge complaints against me.
Two involved cases where I caught their child cheating. Their response was to come after me instead of the child. One of those parents was highly emotional to the point of being ballistic, so much so that an administrator called up to my room and asked me not to come downstairs until the parent had left the premises. No weapon but plenty of vitriol which they spewed liberally over administrators and counselors.
Two were parents who had major emotional issues and were on the verge of suing the school because their outrageous demands weren't being met. One brought two legal advocates and a tape recorder to our conference.
One was a mom and her new boyfriend, who was clearly a bully. He wanted to take me to the mat for giving his girlfriend's son classroom DH for repeatedly coming to class without pencil or paper. They charged me with stifling the students' natural urge to be generous and helpful to each other by not allowing the kids to share materials and insisted that the son be transferred out of my class. Which didn't happen because it was late May and we only had three more days left in the school year...
Another was a socially prominent parent whom, I had been warned, had the personality of a steam roller and who tried to bully me into changing their child's grade. Although the conference went on for an hour amid tears and accusations, the grade remained intact and the only lasting result from it was the knowledge of how many teachers popped by my room before and after the conference to tell me they were praying for me or to ask me how it went. I was blessed.
Who am I, O Lord, that You brought me so far, through 31 years of teaching - and yet my worst fears never - never - materialized? Truly You gave me rest from all my enemies, domestic and career-wise.
I thought some more about the part, who am I?
Who am I... really?
When I was little I was a spoiled brat, being partially raised by my grandparents.
As a preteen and teen I was a skinny, introverted kid with a sarcastic mouth, glasses, and over-sized feet who came from a broken home, split asunder by incest.
I was never beautiful, graceful, or particularly talented, popular or one who belonged.
And then I hit college where, in retrospect, for the first time ever, I felt I did fit in and it went to my head. I was the "smart one" who could figure everyone else out. I must have been pretty obnoxious and I can clearly recall times when I opened my mouth and inserted not one foot but both feet and never really knew it until much later.
As I meditated on the question, "Who am I?" it hit me for the first time that to some I probably fell under the category of " trailer trash". I was only one of two kids in my high school French class who had divorced parents and lived in a mobile home. Thankfully no one knew we were on food stamps at that time... Or that we couldn't afford to pay for garbage pick up and so we carried our sacks of trash off to public parks and put them in trash containers.
As I recalled those days, I was first stunned by the idea that, after all these years, I could have been considered trailer trash and then immediately overwhelmed by the sure knowledge that I was never considered to be that in the eyes of God. That instantaneous, almost tangible assurance from God Almighty brought tears to my eyes and gave me a new perspective on some of the people who live near us who exist on or below the poverty line (because of poor choices, as I remind myself frequently... My former poverty was different from theirs.... Seriously???)
And then I thought about other ways God protected me. I thought of guys I had dated and hoped to marry, who would have turned out to be really unsuitable husbands.
I thought of the long periods in my twenties when I had no one to date and often dealt with loneliness and a sense that the world was passing me by, never knowing that God was preparing someone for me and that I would be married when I was 32 and he was 33.
And I just had to ask, "Who am I, O Lord, that You have brought me so far and that You have given me rest from not only enemies/specters that I feared but also from my own wrong choices? That You have taken me from a spectacularly broken home with tons of drama and planted me in a quiet, twenty-eight year marriage with a steady Christian man who would lay his life on the line for me? That You have taken a candidate for the term "trailer trash" and given me, not a mansion but a real home, one planted on terra firma, one that I entered in as a bride, one where we raised our child to adulthood, and one where I am now entering my twilight years. All this for someone who lived in seven different places between birth and the age of 15.
Who am I, Lord, to have always had a good career, more than enough money, and to have never had to repeat the shame of going on food stamps?
As I thought back over all the way He has brought me and protected me, tears of gratitude began to roll down my face and then I realized: you don't need a palace or a rock garden in order to sit before the Lord. You just need Scripture - even a single verse will do; a little quiet; and a humbled heart. He can do the rest.
This morning I sat before the Lord and He showed me who I am, Who He is, how great His love is, and how far He has brought me.
I am thankful.