A picture is worth a thousand words. Visualizing something helps us internalize it. I have been working with Chloe on her writing skills. Specifically, describing a character in a way we can “see”. I am learning it often takes more than a first pass to do a good job with this, and that’s where the trouble comes in. Both of us are tired of the activity and ready to move on long before we’ve given it enough work and rework to do our character justice.
I find it’s the same with life. We often don’t look long enough to really get the lesson. This keeps coming up for me again with an area of struggle. As I mentioned before, I am studying Revelation this year. And it is full of vivid imagery. Crazy, in fact. Hard to know what to take as literal vs. symbolic. And even harder to know what/how to apply it to my actual life. But I keep coming back to John – the disciple who received and wrote down the Revelation. God won’t let me get distracted by all that’s happening. He keeps bringing me face to face with the character of John. Clearly, there is a life lesson he wants me to look hard and long to learn.
John, who has pastored the first century church. John, who had been an elder in Ephesus. John, who took care of Mary, the mother of Christ. John, who enjoyed years of fellowship with other believers, faithfully doing the work God had given him.
But that’s not where John is now.
Now, John is alone on the island of Patmos. Exiled unjustly by persecutors. I am sure at great personal cost, sacrifice, loss of comfort, etc. Possibly even in shock, confusion, and trauma. This most certainly must have been a difficult change for John. I can think of more than a few reasons I would have been rather unhappy about it, if not downright disgruntled. But not John. We don’t see any evidence of pouting in his part. John, in faith, kept right on doing the things he did all those years of fruitful ministry.
“I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…” (Revelation1:9-10)
Here is John in worship and prayer on the Lord’s Day. Like always. Even alone, even when experiencing the pain of persecution. John keeps doing what He is called to do, trusting in God’s purpose, presence, and provision in Patmos. Hmm. Is that so?
This is the part when I became vividly aware of my brooding spirit. Sure, I’ve gone through the changes of the last year, and I have kept doing what I feel God has called me to do. But reluctantly, and fighting a pervasive poutiness all the way. I’ve confessed a rotten attitude to the Lord many times, and asked Him to renew my spirit. But frankly, it is still a struggle on most days. John’s steadfast spirit has encouraged me to persevere despite my poutiness. To “see” that John received a greater revelation as He continued to serve the Lord in faith – making no provision for the flesh that wants to sit down and sulk. And resisting Satan, who comes to steal, kill, and destroy our faith and our lives. What change are you wrestling with? Confused by what God is doing and what it means for your life? What is your Patmos, the place where you are sorely tempted to pout?
Here is a trustworthy saying: God does not speak to sidelined saints.
Rise up and do the things you did at first. Even if you feel futile, empty, and alone. Especially then. And know you are not alone. The God of Revelation stands behind you, ready to speak to him who has ears to hear.