May 14, 2010

If the Lord Had Not . . .

I stayed up way too late last night. 1:30 am, or thereabouts. My eyes were pretty bleary when I finally turned off the light and curled up under the blankets. Today, my brain's complaining at the insufficient amount of sleep, but as I keep telling it, I just had to finish the book.

*sheepish grin*

A couple of months ago, my friend Elisabeth over at Hope Scribbles recommended The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen. She and I share a love for all things Jane Austen, and while this book has nothing to do with Austen's works (i.e., it's not fan fiction), she assured me I would not be disappointed. I wasn't.

It's a charming, delightful novel and once I started reading it yesterday, I couldn't put it down. Hence the 1:30am bedtime. :)

But my mind works in weird ways. As the romantic in me waited with baited breath to see how Lilly Haswell's story would unfold, another part of my mind was taking in and relating to a question running underneath the 19th century English drama: what might life be like if we (or the people around us) had made different choices in our past?

You learn early on in the story that Lilly's mother has left. Left her husband, left her children, left all friends and family and disappeared without warning or explanation. While this is not a major plot line in the book, you do see Lilly at various moments in her life grappling with the "Why?", wondering where her mother is, and wishing things might somehow have turned out differently. At one point, Lilly's faced with a choice between two very distinct lives and as the reader, you wonder what might have happened if she'd chosen differently.

All this brought to mind one of the psalms we just finished studying in our Beth Moore class. Psalm 124 begins with the words "If the Lord had not . . . " and asks the same question I found in The Apothecary's Daughter.

What if things had been different?

I love how The Message translates the opening verses:

"If God hadn't been for us - all together now, Israel, sing out! -
If God hadn't been for us when everyone went
against us, we would
have been swallowed alive by
their violent anger."
Ps. 124:1-3
(as printed in our Beth Moore workbook)

If God had not been for us . . .

. . . now there's a sobering thought.

In our workbook, Beth wrote

"One distinguishing element of Psalm 124 is its invitation to the reader to consider some what-if scenarios. It is 'a narrative about what might have occurred without YHWH's aid.' 'Throughout the psalm the praise is for deliverance from an unrealized condition that might have been' (my emphasis)."
She invited us to remember the many times we've been rescued, Satan hot on our trail, throwing curve balls and temptation our way. She asked us to imagine what could have happened "if the Lord had not been for us." Then she asked us to write down one or two such situations from our own lives.

While I have certainly experienced God's rescuing hand in my life, I wonder how many other times I've been my own worst enemy and needed rescuing from myself. Or how many times I've reached a crossroads, and the Lord has graciously intervened to put my feet on the right path. Make no mistake, though: Satan works hard to twist all circumstances and situations to his advantage (and our ruin).

May I share with you what I wrote? What I personally praise God for when I look back over my life?
  • For the Lord humbling my stupid pride with two separate friends whom I had hurt. If He had not, I would have missed out on two precious and dear friendships. Thank you, Lord.
  • For the Lord directing my steps to the Nazarene church in Yucca Valley when I was seventeen. If He had not, I would never have met Helen Neuhauser, fallen in love with her family and ultimately, her big brother. :) Thank you, Lord.
  • For the Lord keeping my parents' marriage intact until I left for college. If He had not, if my parents had divorced when I was younger, I know I would not be the person I am today. And I shudder to think of the person I might have become. Thank you, Lord!

There are others. Some too private and personal to share here. But these three stand out the brightest in my memory. And you know what? I celebrate that in each of these situations, the Lord was on my side.

I will end this post with one more Beth Moore quote, one that effectively sums up the whole point of Psalm 124:

"A vicious battle is being fought over your life . . . You are not imagining that something's going on, and yes, it's more than meets the eye. From heaven's vantage point, your story if exceedingly more exciting than you can conceive - replete with dangers, near misses, and great escapes. As many bruises, scars, and successful hits as the enemy may have given us, as we study this psalm, I want you to celebrate that Satan didn't get all he wanted."

How about you? Feel like celebrating? What circumstances can you look back on and say thankfully (if not joyfully!) with the psalmist "If the Lord had not . . ." ?

Well, praise God, He did!


redeemed diva said...

What a great post and important thoughts. I really enjoyed reading that and what you are most thankful for.
I too stay up until 1:30 am readiing books. somethings just can't be put down. I understand this. Thanks for dropping by!

ladyfelicity said...

I love this post - partly because I'm glad I'm not the only one to be hooked by Lilly's story! :) Isn't it impossible to out down ... ? Look out, in my next email I'm going to be asking when you started cheering for A Certain Gentlemnan and what you thought of a bunch of other things! :) I'm so glad you enjoyed it ...

So. The quote by Beth Moore grabbed my attention. What book or study is it from ... ? I think I'd like to check it out!

Lovely post! :)

Nicole said...

Hello Miss Diva! Thanks (again) for stopping by. :) What sort of books keep you up till 1:30 am? Which are your favorites? I'm always happy to meet a fellow bibliophile!

Elisabeth - I eagerly await your email. :) Beth Moore has written quite a few studies, but this one was called Stepping Up: A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent. She's an amazing writer, and is so hilarious, you can't help laughing even as she challenges you to a deeper relationship with Christ. I shall send you a few linkys for her stuff. :)

ladyfelicity said...

Thank you for this - the reply to my comment and the email of links. Lovely! :)

I loved your email - I printed it out and read it at leisure and I'm looking forward to writing back! :)

Check out my blog soon (tomorrow?) for pictures of my book!!!