Stories from the Cleft: Real Faith Being Refined

For the foreseeable future The Training Table menu will consist of short stories of how faithful God is in all ways—as we are faithful… even as we falter, flail, and of’ times fix our eyes on how WE think God is supposed to work things out, rather than how God works things out!

Check for a Heartbeat… Then Get on With the Primary Reason I Have One!
As I rise in the morning of each day, I try to always greet the new day (Lamentations 3:22-24) with several sorts of prayers. One constant in my prayer life is this, “Lord God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, please let me see your glory today!” It is a simple yet robust prayer. Moreover, as we all know, “Ya gotta watch out what you pray for!” Seeing God’s glory can take many forms. It’s rarely in a form we expect.

As you may recall, God met this same request by Moses in the following way: “Then Moses said to God, “Now show me your glory.” And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” He said, “You cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live.”  Then the LORD said, “There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen (by anything impure or unholy in any way).” (Exodus 33:18-23—parenthesis added)

“Stories from the Cleft”are real-life stories about how God has been so merciful, powerful, personal, and providential to honor my request. And, as you may have already considered, a request I believe that is befitting of anyone who has been saved to serve, redeemed to redeem, comforted to comfort, enlightened to enlighten, encouraged to encourage, blessed with truth to impart truth… You get the pattern: God is in the reclamation business, and we are called to do our part… OR live a life of a hardened heart (Psalm 95:7-8). Choose carefully.

Each “Story from the Cleft” will be closed by a remembrance, encouragement, exhortation, or warning of some kind. Please accept them as offered respectfully, and as a nourishing morsel to help you run the good race (1 Corinthians 9:24)!

Sister Cece’s Real Faith…
As I leaned back in the chair to enjoy a hair washing before being shorn, the following dialog with my Sister in Christ CeCe ensued. CeCe is a sweet and strong African-American woman who lives by faith… in a God-filled and daily fight for an often-times fleeting life… in North St. Louis.

CeCe has been a friend for some time. She is a supporter of my book, “The Weeping, the Window, the Way: Will Suffering Make You Bitter or Better”, and recommends it to others. You will see why this is an important caveat…

I have had the greatest honor of being inspired by CeCe for many years now. Her quiet yet resolute faith meets with the angel of death practically on a daily basis. This is a far, far cry from my very comfy life mostly insulated from the reality of depravity—at least on the surface—that is the daily trial of so many faithful people.

“So, how have you been, CeCe?” I said.
“Ohhhhh…, pretty good, John. How about you?”
“Been good… blessed. But that didn’t sound very convincing, CeCe. Is everything okay?”
“Ohhhh…, I’ve gotta heavy heart… My son commited suicide on December 5th.” CeCe said.

My hope from the cleft to go deeper was fulfilled: Nearly equal to the shock that shot through all of my being, was the almost eerie calm with which CeCe told me of her son hanging himself. Due to my being reclined, toweled, and soaking wet in the sink, I was rendered incapable of running into the chaos of her pain… and to CeCe’s aid in the moment. But, for the first time in this conversation, “God’s glory passed by”: In that moment, CeCe’s heart-shattering trial was overcome by a peace that passes all understanding: Tears of intermingled pain and joy welled-up in my eyes.

Except we both understood: Context is always so helpful: The roots of CeCe’s faith ran deep… and this “hurricane to the heart” would not uproot her faith. I was blessed for being in the shade of an Oak of Righteousness (Isaiah 61:3)!

“Oh my God, CeCe… I’m so, so sorry.” I said, “I’m speechless. There is no worse pain than that, my friend. I’m so sorry… Have you been making it by okay?”

“I do have a heavy heart, John, but the Lord has given me a peace… He’s real close by… He’s never been closer… He’s gettin’ me through this… It’s hard, but He’s gettin’ me through…”

Real Faith… Being Refined
“I can’t imagine a freefall of hurt worse than this, CeCe. A child.. and a suicide.”

“Yeah… It’s bad. I have a heavy heart… The freefall is real bad… But, you know how it is, right? The Lord is my foundation… Never been more of a rock than He is today! He’s my Rock. And I’m going back to read about that again in your book too… I want this to be a time when God’s preparing me to be a more powerful witness of His to others, John! I’m excited to see how God will use this… My son’s in heaven. Yes, he was saved. I brought him up right. He’s God’s now… always has been. And now it’s time to be a witness of God’s plan to others…”

And “God’s glory passed by”… again: CeCe’s faith was strong and deep enough that she was already seeing how her faith in the worst of trials was being mightily refined and used for God’s glory, and the blessing of other people too (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

“I’m so very sorry for your heartbreak, CeCe, But I’m also praising God that the light of His love and truth is shining more brightly in you than ever, Sister! Praise Him! And I’ll see you real soon okay? You’re such an encouragement to me!”

“Thank you, John. Feel free to tell my story. Maybe it will help someone else. And people can pray for me too…”

And, from there, I stepped ten feet into the cleft of my next encounter of God’s glory passing by…

Praying to See God’s Glory: A Partnership of Seek and Follow!

  1. Remember, in the context of Moses’ story, the time in the cleft is a time, in a holy place, to experience God, IN BETWEEN the “ordinary times of life” when and where we are called to be a calm assurance in the chaos of a broken world: Moses’ yesterday was doing laps around the desert with a chosen, yet grumbling, forgetful, and callous people. Moses’ tomorrow was being welcomed home by one of the biggest idolfests in history. The holy place of the cleft was and is a gift from God to bathe in the direct light of His glory. It’s a reward AND a preparation: For our commitment to THANK God by waking each day… putting on the armor… and RUNNING INTO THE CHOAS… as God’s light and salt. The cleft is extraordinary, amidst the ordinary, to help us see that, as far as God is concerned, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.
  2. When we make a request of God to be used of Him, “to see His glory”, we have to NEVER BE SO SURPRISEDeither by the divine, or by the depravityso that we are as disarmed and defenseless as the world. We have to be on the lookout: Prayerful. Vigilant. Other-centered. Expectant. Urgent. Excited. Armored… and Armed. There are no chance encounters for “the cleft dweller”!
  3. More to follow…

I cannot wait to see how God will bless me… bless you, perhaps… with honoring a humble and mostly faltering request to see His glory. This is not request anyone should make lightly, Beloved.

By NOT beginning each day by making such a request of God is a riskier request still—to be mightily trained to run the good race… and then be side-lined by our own choices to live a risk-free life! We cannot have it both ways, and be free from an infernal.. that internal… conflict within our heart: Isaiah 6:9-10.

Next week, “Stories from the Cleft: The Risk-Reward Factor”.

May God bless you and yours in every way,

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