Scattered Visibility

© 2016 Lynn Abbott

“Can we get lost, Mom?” he asked.

“What kind of a question is that?” I retorted.

“Oh, it’s always so much more fun when you get lost, Mom,” he quipped.

I gave him my most searing glance, and shot back, “I never get lost. I always know exactly where I am.”

“Sure, Mom. Anything you say,” he said, flashing the most irritating, and knowing grin. “I still think it would be great fun to get lost! It’s such an adventure.”

That’s right.  It’s a case of role reversal in my family.  My husband is the first to stop to ask for directions. For him, it is an opportunity to meet new people.  And of course, there’s always the GPS.

Ahh…shouldn’t be problem then, right?  But I have real talent.  I can get lost even after consulting Google.  Sometimes especially using Google.

Well, so much for that. I’d rather figure things out on my own anyway.  And so, my son has had his share of “adventures.”

Things get particularly difficult, however, when I run into foul weather.  Fog most certainly unravels me.

And yet, I am very familiar with that misty atmospheric condition.

Each autumn, it rolled in.  And as an English resident, I delighted in the silvery mist, the diamond sparkles dancing upon red and gold leaves, and long walks with my standard schnauzer along the River Thames.

No worries as long as I didn’t have to drive far.

However, by mid-winter, I donned my sunglasses, strolled into my lecture room, and admonished my English literature students, “Think sun.”

Thus, I repeatedly proved that fallen and finite humanity can only handle low visibility for just so long.

Perhaps, like me, you impatiently scramble to find a way through the misty maze.

In the beginning, mystery can be beautiful and exciting; the journey into the unknown holds promise.

Yet, over time, the cold moisture penetrates the warmest of coats. Eyes water in the wind.

In frustration, I struggle to see through pea-soup. Yup, I grow weary of the patchy haze.

And I want to “know” what lies ahead–to catch a glimpse of the good, bad or ugly.  I suppose I hope that, like Marty McFly of Back to the Future, I will find a way to alter what is to come.

Uh, huh. When the cold and bitter wind slows our progress and the days run dark, fog no longer wraps us in friendly mystery; instead it cloaks the fearful unknown.

We long to direct our course to a safe resting place; to escape the unseen terrors that undoubtedly await…

Financial insecurity
Suffering of every kind

When the sun shines bright, we may catch ourselves singing with William Ernst Henley, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

But when the  fog rolls in, you and I recognize just how finite we really are.  Visibility is certainly scattered; vistas patchy.

Suddenly, it makes sense to stop for directions.

While I can’t see the future, I know the One who can.  God’s directions are always perfect.  I need only trust my heavenly Father to guide me when the days grow dark and visibility is low.

Unfortunately, in the midst of thick fog, I often struggle with that.  I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

Sure, I pray for direction.  That’s a good start, of course.

But then, I frequently turn and follow my own understanding.  Not so good.

It’s no surprise that I lose my way.

After all, James clearly warns against this kind of folly and offers the antidote in his epistle:  “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does,” (James 1:25).

You better believe I’m grateful for grace.  Without  it, I’d surely be wandering for more than 40 years in the desert.

God, however, is a patient Sovereign.   He is unwilling that any should be lost (2 Peter 3:9).

The Biblical account of Saul undoubtedly illustrates this.

Although Saul would likely be applauded by our modern culture as a decisive, self-made leader, he ultimately crumbled. Indeed, as the captain of his soul, he went down with his ship.

“I do it myself,” I cry.

I think, perhaps, that God recorded Saul’s history for people just like me.

Examining the life of Saul, I learn a lot about dealing with “fog.”

As well as how not to deal with it.

Saul, Israel’s first king appeared “most likely to succeed.”

He had the right pedigree:  his father was a valiant warrior.  In addition, Saul was  “Man of the Year.”  Scripture describes him as “without equal among the Isaraelites.” In fact, he was taller than any of his people.  His very presence commanded respect.

He certainly appeared a promising candidate.  Appearances, however, don’t tell the whole story.  God noted this when it came time for Samuel to choose Saul’s replacement: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Saul’s trouble?  He trusted his own judgment rather than God’s infinite wisdom.  Of course, Saul’s lack of faith was not initially apparent.  He valiantly kept up an outward show of faith.  He paid lip-service, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Yet, as he encountered life’s fog, he drifted further and further from wisdom that originates with reverence for God, (Proverbs 1:7).

Thus, he wandered deeper and deeper into the haze.

Waiting on God–trusting in God’s loving sovereignty– posed a particular problem for Saul.  For example, when the Philistines prepared to invade Israel, Saul planned for battle. So far so good.

Saul also followed his military’s tradition: Samuel would bless the undertaking and offer a sacrifice to God.

But for whatever reason, Samuel had sent word that Saul would have to wait seven days for Samuel’s arrival.  For Saul, that spelled trouble. When the allotted days passed and the prophet had not yet arrived, the young king panicked.

“Fog” settled.  The fearful unknown loomed.   Saul’s men began to scatter.

I suspect that the young king felt he could not wait for Samuel or God.  He may have said, “Something has to be done right now or my men will lose all confidence in me.”

Saul took matters into his own hands.  Although he wasn’t a priest or a prophet, he offered the sacrifice.  He attempted an external, albeit faulty, show of faith.

But obviously, he didn’t trust God.  He ran ahead, and  did what was right in his own eyes.

In fact, self-rule became an ongoing pattern for Saul. He lived by his wits, and tried to manipulate events to his advantage.

Ironically, throughout his entire reign, Saul unsuccessfully sought to secure his power.  And in the process, he became increasingly paranoid and unreasonable.

On one occasion, during battle against the Philistines, Saul impulsively commanded that his warriors should fast or face the death penalty, (I Samuel 14:24-45). When it was later revealed that his son Jonathan, ignorant of the moratorium on food, had innocently tasted honey while passing through the camp, Saul intended to apply the full force of the law.

How dare anyone disobey him! Saul was a god unto himself.

Regardless, he seemed to fear that the people would rebel or believe him to be weak if he offered grace to his son.

Lost in the fog.

Little by little, the cracks in Saul’s mantle began to widen. The earthquake was inevitable; Saul’s kingdom would crumble, (I Samuel 13:14).

Yet, Saul stubbornly refused to follow God’s direction. Saul later disobeyed God’s command regarding the taking of plunder after Israel’s defeat of the Amalekites. In this particular case, God had expressly forbidden their plundering (I Samuel 15:1-9).  Israel was to completely destroy all vestiges of the Amalekite kingdom.

But God foreknew the consequence of Amalekite survival: Haman, an Amalekite (aka Agagite), would try to destroy Israel (Esther 3:1-6).

Yet, Saul “knew” better. And Israel plundered.

He tried to keep up religious appearances; He made excuses, claiming  spiritual motives. He said he wished to offer the spoils to God.

“I’m never lost; I’m never wrong,” He essentially said.

And then, he blamed the people: “I have transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice,” (I Samuel 15:24).

Saul would not repent his actions and his rule unraveled. Grasping for power, going his own way, he fell apart.

Clearly, Saul’s life illustrates the truth of Christ’s words, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it,” (Matthew 16:25).

Saul preferred his own finite understanding to God’s infinite wisdom; thus, he wandered aimlessly for the rest of his life… Directionless. Angry. Paranoid.

He pursued David from cave to cave. In jealous paranoia, he wished to kill David (I Samuel 24:1-2).

The fog closed in.

Even so, Saul neither genuinely sought nor followed God. Despite the fact that God patiently allowed him to reign for forty-two years, Saul never wised up.  Although God  revealed truth to Saul, the stubborn king preferred his own fallible understanding.

Indeed, Saul never humbly or authentically turned to the One who sees all… the Infinite One who dwells above the “fog.”

Instead, Saul continued to deny Yahweh’s sovereignty. The wayward king attempted to control the future.  He placed faith in his own limited sight rather than trusting God who sees beyond.

It’s no wonder Saul lost his way.  He didn’t truly look up.  He paid lip-service to faith, but never relinquished the throne of his life to Yahweh, the infinite Sovereign-Shepherd.  Saul appeared to ask; however, he did not intend to follow.

He simply made futile grabs for power.  Hoping to manipulate the future, he  consulted a medium, a practice against which God had warned, (I Samuel 28).

What a contrast to his successor, David!  Although David at times wandered far from God’s path, he nevertheless genuinely repented and returned to his heavenly Father.   Imperfect but genuine David…

Saul, on the other hand, stubbornly pursued his own way. He chose the haze.

Such an unnecessary tragedy.  God  waited for Saul to genuinely turn to Him.   But sadly, Saul chose appearance over authenticity.

As I consider Saul, I wonder, “When I ask God for His wisdom and leading, do I intend to follow through?”

In other words, do I simply go through the motions? When I pray, do I only seek permission for what I already intend to do?

Or do I ask in genuine faith, placing my trust in my all-knowing heavenly Father and His Word?

You see, genuine faith follows through.  Or as James puts it, authenticity walks the talk (James 1:22).  And in so doing, the finite heart actively recognizes its need for the infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, loving and gracious God, the great “I AM.”

Yeah, I’ve gotten lost more than a time or two.  Fortunately for me,  God’s grace covers that.

In fact, our loving God patiently waits for prodigals to return to Him.

It all boils down to this: if you and I genuinely acknowledge and follow God, He gently guides us through all the hazy unknown.

That’s right.  When the fog rolls in, the Light of the World leads us safely home.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight,” ~Proverbs 3:5,6

“But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously, and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind,” ~James 1:5,6