Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Double Trouble

The door to the vet’s office closed sharply behind me as I stepped up to the counter to request some refills on medications for my dog. I stated my name, and the girl behind the desk looked up my records on the computer. Once she found my information she read off the seven digits on the screen and asked if that phone number was correct. When I replied in the negative, she frowned and looked at the screen in puzzlement as we both tried to figure out why the name and number didn’t match. Suddenly a voice from the back of the office where another worker was filing folders called out, “There are two ‘Elaine Bridge’s.” Surprised, the girl checked the next record and found my information, and I left with my prescriptions minutes later.

There are two ‘Elaine Bridge’s. The words caught my attention. It was clearly a sentence God wanted me to hear, but I as yet didn’t understand the message. My spirit, however, was beginning to feel a little uneasy.

The next day I was scheduled to work in the grocery store and found myself stationed that morning at the register next to one operated by another cashier who was also named ‘Elaine’. For the four years we’ve worked together we’ve laughed at the “Elaine echo” that results when we meet and greet each other by name in passing. On this day we were working together companionably when the phone at her station started ringing. She listened in silence for a few seconds to the voice of the floor supervisor, a woman who was new to our store and had yet to meet all the front-end employees, myself included.

“No, I’ve already taken my break,” she said into the phone. “You must mean the other ‘Elaine’. There are two ‘Elaine’s.” She hung up the phone, and sure enough, soon I was clocking out for my fifteen minutes of freedom.

There are two ‘Elaine’s. Those words echoed in my spirit, where I’d heard them loudly enough already, just the day before.

With a sigh I had to admit that there are two ‘Elaine’s. There is the one that loves God passionately and looks for Him constantly, ever searching for a deeper relationship in her walk with Him. Full of faith, she prays with confidence, knowing that God loves her, hears her, and answers her prayers. But then there’s also the other ‘Elaine’…the one who doesn’t have an easy answer for the friend who asks her to explain the ways of God, especially when seemingly innocent people are hurt in the accomplishment of His purposes. She’s the one who knows that God can heal but wonders if He will, especially if she’s the one doing the praying. She’s the ‘Elaine’ who sometimes has doubts about her own spiritual standing. And she’s the one I’ve been subconsciously hiding from God.

From the days of Adam and Eve, we humans have been hiding our less-than-perfect selves from the God Who created us and Who knows every detail of our daily lives. Afraid of disappointing the One we love and disqualifying ourselves from His service with our shortcomings, we submerge them into our subconscious and try to pretend that they simply don’t exist. And yet all God asks of us is to simply come clean… to admit our failures, our weaknesses, our sins, our doubts and our fears…to bring them to Him and lay them at His feet…to allow Him to work in us and change us.

There is nothing we can say or do that will diminish God’s passionate love for us. He may be disappointed in our lack of faith, lack of focus, and our out-and-out failures, but He is never disappointed in us. He simply desires that when we are weak we’d come to Him for the strength that we lack, as did the father in the Bible with the demon-possessed son who struggled in his faith but said, “…I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV)

The Bible is full of stories of people who accomplished great things for God with less-than-perfect faith. They range from Moses who felt he couldn’t speak for God, to Jonah who wouldn’t do so and was swallowed by a whale as a result, to the believers who prayed for Peter’s release from jail and then didn’t believe it when it happened. Throughout the Bible, God set people physically and spiritually free in spite of the imperfections of those He assigned to do the work.

So then why should we worry about those days when our faith is lackluster and our spiritual muscles are weak? Perhaps the answer is simply that time is short and there is much work to be done before the trumpet blows and the world as we know it comes to an end. God simply hasn’t got the time left to coddle and coax and convince us that we are capable of doing what He asks. As events accelerate towards the end of time He needs a people who will hear simply His voice and move accordingly, without days and weeks of prodding and pushing.

On another day just recently I was once again working at the store, again stationed just a few registers away from the other cashier named ‘Elaine’. Suddenly a voice from the customer service desk came over the intercom: “Elaine, please call the office at extension 2021. Elaine, call 2021.” The other cashier and I just looked at each other, wondering which ‘Elaine’ would answer the call.

May God never have to wonder the same.

“In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor.”
(Ephesians 1:7 AMP, emphasis mine)

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