Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jehovah Shammah: God is There

I wrote a quick post last week about my weekend at Created for Care with my mom. Since then, I have been swirling around the sea of work/new house/Noonday/sorting through everything I learned at Created for Care. So my brain and my body have both been moving in overdrive. That is why I am just now getting to write to you about one of the most extraordinary parts of last weekend up in the wilderness of Georgia.

One of the things you have the opportunity to do at Created for Care is sign up for a Date with God session. Now, I will be the first in line to admit that I was a bit skeptic last year. Maybe I was nervous. Maybe it seemed too foreign. Maybe the idea made me a little bit uncomfortable. I don't know. Whatever the source of my anxiety, I decided to pony up and go. And I am so glad that I did.

During your session, you go into a room with several different stations that all have different ways for you to experience time with God. Some are familiar: Bible reading, praying, communion. Others are less so: painting, drawing.

I actually never wrote about my experience at Date with God last year. I think it hit too close to home for me to write about at the time. Maybe I will have the chance to get into it tomorrow. I hope so, because it is a really cool story.

So back to this year.

If you have been following our story here for any length of time, you know that things have been incredibly difficult for us lately. No movement in almost six months. No end in sight. And so, many of my prayers have been, "God, where are you?" And that is kind of where I was when we arrived at C4C on Friday afternoon. Wondering where in the name of all things God has been. Because I certainly have not felt like He has been anywhere near me. So going into the weekend, I was most hoping to hear from God and to have my spirit restored, renewed, refreshed.

OK. So it is Saturday afternoon at 5 PM, and I am waiting outside the Date with God room with several other adoptive moms, ready to go inside and hear what God has to say. A retreat volunteer comes out and is giving us some instruction on what to expect when we go in. She runs us through what the different stations will be this year and tells us to just enjoy God's presence. The ONLY instruction she gives is to stop at the table just inside the door and pick up a card. Each card has one of the names of God used in the Bible printed on it along with come Scripture references for that name. Those are the only directions.

So what does this teacher do? Do I follow directions? No. I blow right by the table and decide that I am going to go sit and pray and ask God to show up.

I walked into the room and found a quiet corner to sit in. And for a really long time I just sat there and kind of stared. I wanted so much to hear from God, but I have just been so hurt by everything He is allowing to happen in our lives that I have unwittingly built up this wall around my heart in a vain attempt to protect myself from further suffering. Sitting on the floor in that room, I felt at a complete and total loss; it was like I did not even know what to say.

After what felt like a loooong time of sitting and staring, I opened my Bible to 2 Corinthians 1. I had heard some ladies talking about it earlier in the weekend, and I thought it would be a good place to start. Here is what I found:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 
who comforts us in all our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, 
so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 
If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; 
if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, 
which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 
And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, 
so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

I read these words, and I cried out to God. Ugly, heaving cries. So much so that one of the retreat volunteers brought me a prayer shawl so that I could cover my head and weep in private. My initial reaction was to be angry. Because I don't FEEL like the God of all comfort has been comforting me. I don't SEE the God of compassion working in my life. I feel alone. I feel lost. I feel forgotten. 

And I finally summoned up the courage to tell God that. I was HONEST with God. It;s not like He hasn't known all along how I have felt, but I finally TRUSTED Him enough to tell Him the truth. After weeks, months, YEARS of trying to say the right thing and be the right way, I caved. I told Him the truth. 

And for the first time in a pretty long time, I felt like He heard me. 

I want to be clear here. God has been hearing me and listening to me all long. He has not changed. I have. Sitting on the floor in that room, I FELT like God was sitting right there. And I cannot tell you what that did for my heart. Peace washed over me in that moment in a way I have not experienced (honestly) in years. And I saw that the God of all comfort had been there the whole time; I had just stayed hidden behind my impenetrable walls, refusing to let God in, believing that, somehow, choosing to do so was protecting myself from more hurt. But when the walls cracked, God used that moment to collapse them to the ground, and then He reached in and reminded that He is right there. 

He has always been there. I think I have always known that in my head, but it has been so hard for me to feel it in my heart and soul. That is why this moment came as such a sweet relief for me. I finally FELT what I have KNOWN to be true all along.

When I finished praying, I got up and walked over to the map that was hanging on the wall and prayed for our children and for the other families represented at the retreat.

I was about to pick up my purse and head out, feeling lighter than I had in years, when I passed a table with a bowl on it. Remember those directions I ignored? The bowl was full of cards, each with a different name of God and its meaning printed on it. Without really looking, I reached into the bowl and pulled out a card.

Jehovah Shammah
God is There
Ezekiel 48:35
Philippians 3:7-8
2 Corinthians 4:11, 16-18


The VERY thing I had been struggling with--feeling like God has just not been THERE for me--is the precise card I pull out of a bowl I ignored when I first walked into the room? 

Now, I grew up going to a Christian school, and I have heard a LOT of names for God over the years, but I have never heard Jehovah Shammah. So I made a beeline back to my corner, sat down and flipped open my Bible to Ezekiel 48:35. This happens to be the very last verse in the book of Ezekiel. God is instructing Israel on how to rebuild Jerusalem, and He tells them that the city is to be called Jehovah Shammah: God is There. The city itself is to serve as a reminder that God is always there. What a beautiful concept, this idea that God presence is always there, wherever we are. And I found myself clinging to it. He is there. He is there. 

But that is not all. 

The verse below is Philippians 3:7-8. 

Now, I am not super familiar with verse 7, but verse 8 has been my life verse since I was about 15 years old. It is the verse I hung onto in college and the one I shared in my baptism testimony almost four years ago. Here it is: 

"What is more, I consider everything a loss 
when compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, 
for whose sake I have lost all things. 
I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ." 
Philippians 3:8

I have owned that verse for over a decade, considered getting it tattooed somewhere on myself. And in that moment, I felt God asking me a difficult question: 

"Do you mean it? 
Is everything else really a loss compared to me? 
Would you forsake everything else for me?"

Oh, it was a tough question to answer. Because I knew what the answer SHOULD be. But then I looked at my life and saw that I was holding far too tightly to the things I wanted. If I wanted my answer to that question to be a true, "Yes," then I knew I would have to let go and trust Him.

So I am praying anew that God would help me let go. I know myself too well to think that I could ever do this on my own.

But I serve Jehovah Shammah,the God who is there. And I know that He will get me through to the other side.

So when I wrote about Created for Care last week, I told you that the weekend focused more on the condition of my heart than anything else. Hopefully now you can see why. God did what I asked of Him. He spoke to me, and He did it in an incredible way, right?

So I want you to know this same truth. Maybe you are like me and you are going through the hardest thing you have ever endured. Maybe you feel lost and alone, like God hears and responds to everyone but you. Maybe your life not only feels that way, but it looks that way, too. If that is you, I hear you, sister. I feel you. I get you. And you are NOT alone. It might feel that way and look that way. But you're not. Jehovah Shammah is right by your side, and He loves you with a deep and limitless love. I know it is so hard, but press in and seek His face. Listen for His voice. Try to make just a crack in those walls you have put up, and you will see that He is right where He has been all along. Standing beside you, hurting along with you and longing for you to turn to Him.



  1. Oh, this is so lovely. I had really profound experiences at Date with God both this year and last year as well. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Beautiful!!! Love this! So glad you had a Date with God :)

  3. Thank you so much Baylor, for posting this! You are sure to encourage many!!


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