“Satan dines upon what we withhold from God.” Francis Frangipane
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5
There are moments in our lives when we realize that the cocoons of comfort we’ve woven around ourselves to protect us from the threats we thought were “out there” have become more like death rags, wrapping us up and binding us to the even greater danger that lurks within.
It’s a scary thing to not feel safe within yourself.
To realize that your biggest enemy may just be the person staring back at you in the mirror. And to realize with sickening horror that the infestation that’s been eating away at you your whole life is coming from the one place you can’t escape, your own heart.
As the lyrics of a popular song state, “where do you run to escape from yourself?” (Switchfoot).
This realization started for me not far into my Christian walk. Up until then, I had lived a life of chaos, I didn’t realize it, but the constant drama and activity always around me had become my favorite hiding place, my cocoon. But, once I came to Jesus, the chaos that I had once kept myself cloaked in, did not fit anymore. I was learning to be brave, to risk my first steps outside of the cloud of my own debris that had kept me enveloped my whole life. I knew that to stay in the chaos was to reject the peace that Jesus was offering me, and Heaven knows I needed His peace.
But an odd thing happened once my heart became still enough to catch up to myself, I began to FEEL! And it was terrifying! It was as if all the pent-up anger, fear, guilt, shame, abandonment and insecurity as well as feelings and emotions too strong to ever find words for began to chase after me and wrestle me down into a powerless heap.
There is a story in Genesis 32 that depicts what this season was like better than I can ever describe. It is where Jacob, a man who had been a deceiver and a hider his whole life, is finally called by God (after 20 years) to return home. Only, to return home means that he must face his greatest fear, the confrontation with his brother, Esau, whom he had stolen a birth right from. On the night before Jacob is about to enter the land where he is sure to meet confrontation with his brother, God allows a strange event to happen. I will let the scriptures tell what happens next,
“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:24-28
Sometimes God will allow us to catch up with the Truth about ourselves so that we can watch Him wrestle it off us.
For Jacob, it was a one-night wrestling match that had taken 20 years to build up to. My wrestling match has lasted years, and I am only now beginning to really walk in to my identity as one who has striven with God and men and is prevailing. And I would be lying if I said that my old identity didn’t come looking for a “re-match” from time to time.
Now, when those old familiar feelings come back and stare me down in the mirror, threatening to reclaim the territory of my heart, there is only one response I can offer to escape my sure defeat and secure the boundaries of my conquered territory. That is to refer them to God’s TRUTH about me. His identity for me is everlasting and stands. It’s stronger than any of my defenses and it’s the only one that secures life, not only for me, but for those whose life I am in care for.
There are two ways that we can gain ground in finding God’s identity for us, as well as protecting the ground that He has already given.
- We can dine with Him daily. Notice that I didn’t just say, “dine on Him.” There is a difference. It’s very tempting sometimes to rush through time with God or to make what I can get from Him the priority over Being with Him. In Jesus, His “withness” is our “way”. It’s truly being in His presence and experiencing Him that keeps us and sustains us.
- When that old identity comes for a wrestling match, it will inevitably come with those old feelings and coping mechanisms disguised as comforts with it. If you can help it, don’t open the door, but if you do, as soon as you recognize where you are and what your situation is, recognize WHOSE you are, and call upon Him. This is hard because our first instinct is to want to hide from God when we have turned astray and let old feelings and habits in that no longer belong (just ask our Adam and Eve, our first mom and dad). Next, recognize WHERE you are, and tell Him. This is basically confessing. And it’s okay, because of the CROSS, we are safe to confess ANYTHING to JESUS and KNOW that He LOVES us right where we are and will come for us. And WAIT upon Him. He WILL come for you. You are His child and I don’t know any mother who would give up looking for one of her children who has gotten lost. So, it is with our Perfect Father, He moved heaven and earth to have the Legal right to come for you when you need Him. And He will.
About now you might be wondering why I titled this post “Dinner with God” when I doesn’t really talk about dining at all.
Well, in Psalm 23, the “table” that David was referring to was a place where the shepherd and his sheep would arrive that was lush with green grass. It was often at or near the top of a mountain of which they had spent months ascending to. And although it was a wonderful and bountiful mark of achievement for the shepherd and his sheep to arrive there, it was also a place that was wide open, where the sheep were in plain sight of on looking natural enemies. For a sheep to be able to enjoy this “dining” experience, it must have complete trust in his or her shepherd, knowing that, even if an enemy should come, the shepherd was going to take care of them because the sheep belonged to and was loved by the shepherd. So there, we have our table.
Now, for the food…
In John 4, we see a beautiful exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in which Jesus offers her, “Living Water.” (if you don’t know the story, it’s a must read). And towards the end of their interaction, after Jesus has given her this Living water, and she has accepted, and been so thrilled to have met and accepted Jesus and His truth about her, we find that Jesus, who had been hungry at the beginning of this chapter has a different outlook.
“Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him saying, “Rabbi, eat” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” John 4:31-34
It’s truly an amazing thing to ponder that, just as we find comfort, sustenance, strength and even delight in food, so Jesus finds in serving His Father through His love for us. And so, the same goes with us. Dining with Jesus may not always take place at a literal table, it may not even take place with another person. It may be a moment between you and He alone, where you let something go in your heart that has kept you distant from Him your whole life. It may be that moment that person hurts you, again, and those old familiar voices begin to rise within you, but this time you allow His love to quiet them and you are able to forgive. Or it may be that moment you notice the woman with all the kids in grocery store, and your heart goes out to her and you are moved with compassion to reach out to her with support and kindness because you remember what it was like to not talk to another grown-up for three whole days. These moments of dining with Jesus are before us all the time, they are waiting for us the moment we awake and find that we are still breathing, still here this world that is so hungry for a taste of HIS mercy and grace. As Jesus, Himself said, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together.” John 4:35-36
So, the table is set
The food is here
The only question is, are you willing to come and dine with Jesus?