Recently I’ve been reading through a ministry book by Witness Lee titled “The Sufficiency, Pursuit, and Learning of the Lord’s Serving Ones.” I’ve been reading it in the snatches of time I have during the day – while waiting at the bus stop, on the bench at the park, during CC’s swim class. Reading it in little snippets during the day has been so enlightening, helpful and supplying. I’ve really enjoyed a particular portion I read a few weeks ago, which I’ve been chewing on and quoting to everyone. It’s so good, I’ll just quote part of it here –
Genuine spiritual life grows in desolate circumstances. We should not expect to always receive light when we read the Bible, to have the Lord’s presence when we pray, to save many sinners, or that our wife, husband, children, parents, and siblings will be spiritual. These expectations are unrealistic. Those who are genuinely spiritual pitch their tent between Bethel and Ai. God does not allow us to be free of desolate situations…God desires that we remain in the status in which we were called…If we can be normal human beings in our troublesome, complicated, and fallen situations, then we will have the genuine exercise of spirituality. Living between Bethel and Ai should be our normal experience.
Our outward circumstances in coordination with the operation of God give us the opportunity to develop a genuine spiritual life. We should not expect to be in a situation that is heavenly and without any problems…We have the weaknesses and desolation, but we also have the Lord’s blessing. We must leave our spiritual longings and learn to experience God in our desolate situations so that we may have genuine growth in life.
Is that not encouraging? To give some background, in Genesis chapter 12, Abraham was led by God to pitch his tent between Bethel and Ai. Bethel means “the house of God” and Ai means “a heap of ruins.” This is exactly where God also leads us to pitch our tent today. In our Christian life, our experience is often that we face the house of God on one side, but a heap of ruins on the other. We may be enjoying God in His house, but we also often find ourselves in the midst of many desolate situations that cause us to wonder if God is really with us. So often I have the mistaken concept that the more I grow in the Lord, the easier my life should become. But I was so helped to be reminded that genuine spirituality and growth comes out of the experience of Christ in the midst of all the desolate situations. We should never expect our life to be problem free, but our normal experience should be one of living between Bethel and Ai.
One day last week the Lord reminded me of this in a very practical way. It was a regular weekday and the day began as all other regular weekdays begin. Some time after breakfast CC discovered that his little brother had destroyed his Lego creation from the night before and a level 9 tantrum ensued. Let’s just say the situation quickly deteriorated from there. We missed the school bus, and as I was trying to get the boys out the door so that I could drive CC to school, they began fighting about who would open the door. By the time I got both screaming boys buckled into their car seats, I was on the verge of screaming myself. I was tempted to just leave them there and go back into the house and crawl back into bed. That’s when the Lord spoke that portion to me again. Here I was in the midst of a desolate situation, here I am facing Ai, but that is perfectly normal. If in the midst of that, I turn to the Lord and learn to be a normal Christ-enjoying mom to my children, then that can be an experience of genuine spirituality and growth in life.
So as I drove, I let the boys scream until they were all screamed out. I inwardly called on the Lord and tried my best to speak to them with my soft non-screaming voice. I don’t think I ever had the chance to get into the Word or spend much time in prayer that morning, but I felt like I touched the Lord and had a real experience of Him in the midst of that loud minivan. When we cooperate with His operation in the middle of our troublesome circumstances, whatever they may be, then God will really be able to grow in us in a practical way.