"Beware the Spirit's withdrawal. Our disobedience grieves and hinders the Holy Spirit's work. If He is insistent that you obey in some area, do it--or you'll feel a lack of the Spirit's presence."
Oh boy, was that like getting hit between the eyes with a two-by-four. I've felt that lack of the Spirit's presence recently and I know exactly why.
Two times this year, God has laid on my heart to do three things: (1) Give up after-dinner snacks, (2) Go upstairs to bed earlier at night, and (2) Pray for someone specific in my family (who shall remain nameless here). The first time God spoke to me about these was at the beginning of Lent, and I followed through. The second time was more recent and was kicked off for me by Trish's Forty Days of Faith project. The second time, I wasn't as faithful to following God's directions. I did great at first, but then I fizzled out when events in my life and in my loved ones' lives started to get stressful.
In the last few weeks, I've been floundering and questioning and asking God to bring me closer to Him and to let me hear His voice and, although my desire is sincere, I see now why my concentration and efforts have been half-hearted.
I don't know why God asked me to do these very specific things. Well, that's not entirely true. Some of it is easy to figure out. The after-dinner snacks aren't good for me health-wise, and I know that I use food as a crutch and comfort when I'm stressed out, angry, depressed, etc. Going upstairs to bed earlier gives me time for prayer and devotions, plus helps me get a good night's sleep, which makes me happier and better equipped to be a good and patient mother, wife, co-worker, etc. Praying for this one person in my life is less clear because I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to pray for, but the act of doing it has done wonders for my relationship with this person.
And, when I was following God's directions for me, I felt REALLY GOOD. Physically, mentally, spiritually. I was hearing God's voice and seeing prayers answered in wonderful and unusual ways, and I felt very close to Him. I was really trusting Him.
Ever since I messed up and stopped following his directions closely, I've been moody, felt uncomfortable physically in my own body, had less patience, and entered the lovely cycle of eating to make myself feel better, which then makes me feel bloated and gross, which then makes me feel guilty for doing it in the first place. And, I feel distant from God, like I'm just grasping at little wisps of of Him here and there.
Reading that excerpt of the book this morning made me realize that God didn't just ask me to follow those directions for Lent, he meant always. And, here I've been rationalizing to myself: I'm a generally healthy person, I'm not overweight, I don't need to be so strict about this diet stuff. I'll just stay up to watch one more episode of fill-in-the-blank silly sitcom because I need to veg out and relax. I'll pray for him/her tomorrow morning.
I know that God knows best. He knows the reason why I should stop my unhealthy habits, even if relative to other people's addictions, they don't seem that bad. Maybe he's keeping me from a heart attack down the road or getting my body and spirit ready for a trial of some kind. I just can't know.
But any time I get a message from God like I did this morning, I get excited. I love those moments when my eyes bug out in my head and my mouth drops open from surprise at how God can speak so directly to me. Because it means He still loves me. A lot. He hasn't given up on me, even when I'm not really paying attention to Him.
And, just in case I missed it, He threw me another aha! moment. Over the last week or so, I've been singing in my head Psalm 51:10: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me." Well, here are the last three sentences of the chapter I read this morning on the subway:
"For God's Holy Spirit can create in you a clean heart and a right spirit. Restoring to you such joy in your salvation, such compassion in your heart, that you won't feel the need to call down fire from heaven.I put the book down at that point just to let it all sink in, to thank God for reaching out to me, and to tell Him that I heard Him loud and clear. God is the best! :-)
For heaven's fiery love will fill your soul."
And, thank you and blessings to Joanna Weaver for her amazing books (cool - I just found her blog!) and to my mom for lending this particular one to me.