Run to the Well

I open my Bible to Psalm 145 after a whole-day Sunday worship service. There shouldn’t have been a need for it considering that I’ve just been to church, but all day, and all week for that matter, I had waited for a touch or inspiration from the Lord, but until this Sunday afternoon, I remain – untouched, uninspired. All day as I watched the live streaming of our church’s worship service alone in the bedroom, I felt like I was barely getting by. I couldn’t immerse my whole heart and mind into it. Maybe it’s because of my back and abdomen that were making me breathe through the mouth. Or maybe I’ve just become…dry.

Run to the Well

So, here I am with my journaling Bible opened to Psalm 145 with my glittery pens and colorful highlighters. I’m running to the well. I am going to glean bits of fallen barley stalks. I may not be like those harvesters that gather the barley in armloads, but I can be Ruth who picks up after them, what they have left behind. It feels like that for me. Gleaning is hard work and at the end of the day, we only have as much barley as a rectangle of cloth can accommodate. But Ruth went for it day after day, and she and Naomi never got hungry.

Sometimes we feel that God is distant (or maybe it’s the other way around?). I have been begging Him to enable me to travel. I have a renewed desire to pursue this petition relentlessly. I believe that traveling would definitely bring a fresh change into my life. But that isn’t happening.

I couldn’t feel Him through Sunday worship and I think that another prayer (with me not really into it) won’t make a difference. There is a need to run to the well.

If we are thirsty, we need only to draw near the well and drink.

I begin to read Psalm 145 and I marvel at David’s outpouring of praise and worship. It’s like a shimmering rain of gold dust from heaven itself. I am not feeling what David was feeling. But I forge on. I am journeying through God’s truth.

I know what Psalm 145 says.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.

I have often put these words beside what I experience everyday and there has been a gnawing, painful question in my heart of the difference between these words and my daily experience of sickness and suffering and not being able to walk, do things, and travel. 

I ponder on the Shepherd and what the Bible tells about Him: Going through all the villages and healing all manners of sickness and disease. And there is something I definitely do not understand.

And maybe this has put a distance between me and the Lord Jesus in my heart. Still, I do my best to follow Him closely and love Him fervently.

I read and reread Psalm 145. I write my gleanings beside it. I even make them elaborate by putting them in boxes and drawing flowers around.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.

You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him.

(Selections from Ps. 145).

Nothing amazing happens. But I close my Bible with a somewhat satisfied heart. I continue to sit in quiet like Mary at the feet of Jesus. So, I continue to wait. Two mornings later, He leads me to Ephesians 3.

that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19, emphasis added)

There is a need to grow my roots deeper. To drink more often from the Well.

But can I ever begin to comprehend the boundless love of Christ? I believe that it would take eternity to do so? I sure would like to know the love of Christ translated into comfort and peace and warmth and joy in my heart; translated into health and healing and rest in my body.

I sure would like to know this love that passes knowledge translated into dreams and prayers turning into reality and testimony.

So, I keep quiet and wait. I wait for Him at the well: here in His Word. Even when I reenter the flurry of daily life, I will be waiting for the Lord’s touch and movement in my life.

To wait with an expectant and restful heart is blessing enough.

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The In-between Place

I didn’t realize it until recently that that is exactly where I am, have been this past almost 14 years. The in-between place, the place where one is suspended between the past and the longed-for place somewhere in the future. The in-between place can be a hard place to be. It’s not really where you want to find yourself in, and yet, you are somehow powerless to leave, not until the time is ripe and good and it’s what God has planned. The in-between place is a place of waiting. Waiting for a breakthrough – in career, in finding the right life partner, in conceiving a child, in healing. It could be healing from a painful or traumatic past or healing from an illness.

This blog theme painting was rashly and haphazardly done... but I hope you get the message :) .

This blog theme painting was rushly and haphazardly done, but … you get the message :) .

The in-between place is the valley of life. It is low, often dark and lonely. It’s a place of longing. For most, a deep longing. And yet, the in-between place is a place of healing itself, a conveyance from the place of brokenness toward that bright hope where things will have shifted into one’s favor and everything will have been made whole. The mind has forgotten and the wounds in the heart and soul have healed. But that is only one particular case.

However much we want to reach that breakthrough, it doesn’t entirely depend on ourselves. But it mostly depends on Providence. In the meantime (yes, meantime is the in-between place), we can make ourselves flourish while we wait. The in-between place is not necessarily barren but more of preparatory. Of learning and growing. The in-between place is either a journey or a resting place or both. You journey in the dark, uncertain valley toward your dream and hoped-for destination and you also rest awhile. Either way, you learn the hardest and most important lessons. The in-between place is a classroom and the hardships and challenges if offers are the teachers.

Faith

Hope

Trust

Patience

Courage

Perseverance

Steadfastness

Faith and everything that comes with it are what will make us thrive in this place. And they are what will bring us to our breakthrough.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

And while we gain hard-fought learning and wisdom in this place, it also offers the greatest opportunity to know God more intimately. Which, by the way, is the finest form of wisdom. We don’t come to know Him as the God who sits on His throne and barks orders to His angel armies while they scurry about. A God who keeps Himself aloof with the affairs of His people. No, but we will come to know a God who is very personal, who wants Himself to be known intimately, who wants to build a divinely passionate relationship with us. One which the gates of hell cannot prevail against. One which no one and nothing can pluck us out of. Or separate us from.

That was the kind of relationship God wanted to establish with His people, the Israelites of old. But for them, the in-between place, that place between the bondage of Egypt and the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, is just a wilderness, a harrowing journey they didn’t care much about. In fact, they complained and murmured continually. Some of us (even I on occasions) have been like the Israelites one time or another while waiting to arrive at our Promised Lands. And then, there are those who never arrive, just like many of the Israelites had not, their carcasses scattered in the desert. Just because they did not have faith.

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Debut. 8:2-3)

Allowed you to hunger. I very well know that the Prophet Moses wasn’t only talking about hunger for food, but also for that longed-for something at the end of our in-between place. I believe even the ancient Israelites weren’t thinking only about food, but they were also hankering for a place they could call home, where they could at last settle down and take root.

But now we understand that God allows us this hunger. For only through knowing it that we turn to Him, realizing sooner or later that only Him could truly satisfy.

So, we surrender to this hunger and to the will of the Sustainer. And just like how He had provided for His people in the past, He will provide everything we need. For He has a plan for us. And His plan is perfect. He will bring us to our Promised Land.

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The Long In-between

On Wednesday, October 2nd, my long wait will have turned a decade. Weeks before my 36th birthday, I insisted on travelling to Japan for a very important technical training in one of our company’s major suppliers. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, even though I was already experiencing the scary symptoms of my undiagnosed illness. While in Japan, I could hardly make my legs take a stride. I was greatly puzzled since I was always a brisk walker.

(image source)

Our host’s executives and managers honored us with a special dinner at a restaurant and we sat around a big table on the floor with cushions. Exotic Japanese dishes were put on the table continuously as we chatted. When one of the executives asked me a question, instead of processing my answer, a kind of darkness descended upon my whole being so palpable I felt like I was sinking into a deep, dark pit where no one could help me. I had gone to that trip against my doctor’s orders, and at that night around the dinner table surrounded by foreign business associates in a foreign land, my monster of an illness reared its ugly head in a very horrific way. I managed a smile while I did my best to allay my fears. Don’t sink! Don’t sink! Breathe…breathe…

A day after my 36th birthday which was the day I chose to celebrate, I was already in bed too weak to move or walk normally. I had never felt so sick and weak and I was so scared I trembled to the bones. Did Joseph feel the same way when his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites and brought to Egypt to be sold as a slave? He was only a youth and he was separated from the father who loved him more than any of his siblings and from his only little brother. He knew that he might never see them again. Did sorrow and fear descend upon him throwing him into the pit of depression and hopelessness?

While the company travelled to Egypt, was Joseph gripped with panic as he thought of his future without his loved ones around him? But I believe his faith in God was what held him during that dark, uncertain time. And we know from Scripture that God was with him. I believe that Joseph felt His presence and he was strengthened.

Like Joseph, I felt afraid and uncertain of my future. How long until I can go back to work? Each day that passed during those first days and weeks that I was absent from my work was a torture. I was still coming to grips with the fact that my life had actually come to an screeching halt. If I had known then that the “halt” would last a decade (and still counting), would I have spiralled into deep depression and hopelessness? But I didn’t have a clue to what the future held. I lived each day as it came. The future and the knowledge of it belong to God. And aren’t we thankful that we are spared from knowing the future and what it holds? It is wisdom to leave the future to God where it should be, and rest in the knowledge that He knows, sees, and holds it.

My decade of waiting was, and still is, my schoolroom in matters of faith and life. It was a decade strewn with hard but valuable lessons one only learns through suffering. It was a time that I realized that in my extreme physical weakness, I was really, really strong. The words of Apostle Paul became alive in me, in my own experience.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor. 12:10)

I mean, I don’t really “take pleasure” in them, but I have come to know my real strength in my weakness. That tribulations are not necessarily bad, though excruciatingly painful. People often think that the waiting period, the in-between, is a time of idleness, of barrenness, of unproductivity and unprofitability. But this thinking is not always true, and in fact, quite the opposite. It is during the waiting period that the “student” learns a lot in the schoolroom of faith and what is seemingly a barren soil is actually one that is conducive to producing a bountiful harvest of spiritual fruits.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:11 NIV)

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Journey with Jesus,