Lost Keys, Pickle, & Pew

Spiritual confusion is not a bad thing, unless we handle it wrong. Learning to trust God when things go awry reminds me of a story about the man who had partied a little too much and discovered he lost the keys to his car. Under the bright glare of a street lamp, he crawled on his hands and knees to search for them. A man walking by, seeing the frustrated party-guy clawing through the grass, asked him what he was looking for.

“My keys! I can’t find my car keys!” was the anguished reply.

Not seeing any car parked near the streetlight where the man groveled on the ground, the passer-by offered to help. “So where is your car?” he asked.

“Somewhere on the next block, across from my buddy’s house, where I dropped them!” retorted the man pointing down the darkened alley.

“Why are you looking for them here, a block away?”

Disheveled, the unsteady man stood and looked incredulously at the stranger. “Because it’s too dark down there.  I can see better here under the light!”

Confusion can make us crazy when it seems everything is dark. Spiritual confusion is especially difficult if we try to reason our way out of our darkness, arguing with God about the unfairness of it all. When the faith of yesterday flounders with the changes of today, we may question God’s wits or whereabouts. How easily we forget His sovereignty and wander from His truths in search for our own solutions.

Season stepping these days, I have been trying to figure out just where God is leading me. Summer not quite done and autumn hanging around the corner, my surroundings still look the same. Yet, the shadows are lower, the mornings darker, and the birds’ songs louder, more urgent.  The pools are closed, the neighborhood is quiet with the children at school, and my family seems far away from me. A change has taken place and I feel like I’ve lost something. I question God – “Where do I go? What am I doing wrong?”

It seems like life is playing tricks everywhere I turn, and it’s not funny. I’m too old for this. For example, why don’t grocery stores just leave the food in the same place? Why do they keep moving it around so I can’t find it where it used to be? I take the time to write out my menus, find my recipes, and list the ingredients. I drive to the same grocery store as always, park the car, choose my basket, sanitize my hands, and shop. At least every other week, the canned goods are where paper products were, the plastic bags and aluminum wrap are on the pasta aisle with the coffee, which used to be with the cereal and made more sense, and the produce is moved to the cheese and eggs bins. The change drives me crazy, taking me twice as long to get through my list as when I knew exactly where the pimentos and pickles were.

Don’t grocery store managers know I want to find my things where they belong, buy them, and go home to cook? I don’t want to be forced to walk around a newly decorated store with upbeat tunes or elevator music pumping through the sound system to be coerced into buying organic coffees or locally farmed produce. Like the obstinate Israelites, I want my meat and bread, not some new fangled manna. Change confuses me; I don’t trust it.

Some things in my church have changed too. This is not a good season to revamp my worship program. I want the old routine, same seat in the pew, familiar worship songs mixed with a few hymns, an inspirational message, a congregational blessing, and a pleasant drive home. I need church to be reliable and restful where I can find God in the same place He had been the week before. And the week before, and the week before. Why can’t things stay the same?

Spiritual confusion happens when we don’t understand what’s going on and we forget to trust God. To be confused is not right or wrong, but losing our faith in God’s purpose is. Even if we feel disoriented and disconnected, we must remember God has a reason for allowing us to be right where we are. We may not feel Him with us, but He is present; we may feel lost, but He is protecting us, and we may not understand, but the plan is His. Sometimes He wants us to just stand firm. Our faith must not waver.

The changing seasons of nature were created to keep the earth in balance. The seasons of our lives evolve as we learn to trust God’s goodness and stay in the center of His will. Our favorite grocery stores move their products around to better serve their customers by giving them variety and a pleasant shopping experience. The church comes alive with the spirit of God when we seek His presence over our preferences.

God allows, even designs, change in our lives to confound and uproot us from complacency. Confusion in the midst of change shakes us out of self-reliance and brings us full center to the foot of the Cross. Here, when we submit our doubts and arguments to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we find truth and life. As we trust and obey Him, our darkness is filled with the redeeming light of His purpose and we come alive again. The Life of God in us is not about the good old days, but in the making of all things new!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts …” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)