This is an interesting time of year for me. Not only is it the new year, but it's also my birthday. I turned 30 yesterday (yes, happy birthday to me) and it is such an odd feeling. On the one hand, I'm delighted to be older, to be maturing, to be growing out of some of my baggage and selfishness and silliness (my closest friends might beg to differ, but this is my blog and I can make whatever outrageous claims I want to). On the other hand, it's completely unbelievable to me that I'm 30. I really still feel 24. Not that I don't notice the energy slump, the extra time it requires to recover from my New Year's Eve party, the extra ache in my knees after a run. But when someone says, "Oh, her daughter's about 24," I think, "Oh, my age!" I have to stop and correct myself that 24 is NOT my age. It's over half a decade younger than me. And that's an odd feeling.
But this morning in the quiet before my boys started stirring and the day exploded around me, as I sat with my Bible and my holy cup of coffee, I thought back over this last year (which has been crazy) and over as much of the last 30 as I could remember, focusing on the last 10. What do I see? I see God's faithfulness. He has been so faithful. I have been through a lot of ups and downs and challenges. I have struggled; I have wept; I have fought and kicked against the goads. I have doubted and questioned and thrown fits. But God has not. God has kept steady and solid and sure. God has tirelessly pressed on, pressed upward, pressed into me. I distinctly remember times when I was sure He was on vacation or at the very least on the other line! But when I look back I see the refinement, the prodding, the gentle, or at times not-so-gentle pressure. I see times when I felt like I was going through hell only to look back now and see His mercy. His tender, terrible mercy.
And I'm reminded of Israel. They have no king, just judges. Lines and lines of judges, some of whom have done well; some not so well. And here they are, under Samuel. Not only a judge but a godly prophet. They have finally gotten the ark back. They made a muddle of things there, bringing the ark to a fight that God had not picked, but they have rectified the situation, gotten the ark back and want a new beginning. They ask Samuel what to do and in the midst of the altar call, here come the Philistines again. They obviously hadn't learned their lesson from all the tumors and rats that God inflicted them with and they think they'll have the same result as last time when they captured the ark. But this time, Samuel is there. Samuel cries out to the Lord and asks for His mercy, His might, His will. And God answers with a whopper of a thunder storm, knocks the Philistines silly and Israel has the victory. So this time, they did it right. For now, they are following the God of All Creation.
In a humble spirit and totally surrendered, Samuel sets up a stone of remembrance and calls it Ebenezer: Thus far as the Lord been faithful. Up til now, things have been crazy. We've been running things our way some and God's way some. Sometimes we're surrendered; sometimes we're stubborn. But so far, no matter what we do, God is faithful. So far, we cannot look back and pinpoint one time that God has not done exactly what God said He would do. Right now, and there is no evidence to the contrary, He is a faithful and good God.
That's where I am this January. This 30th birthday. Thus far has the Lord been faithful to me. Thus far He has accomplished His will and purpose through me and for me. Thus far, His Name has been glorified and my good has happened, even in spite of me sometimes. Thus far, He has been the author and perfecter of my faith. Thus far I have not gone without food or shelter or friends or family or love. Thus far...