My favorite grocery store where I do most of my weekly shopping is currently closed for renovations. My kids are committed to this store’s off brand foods. Which means I have been schlepping two towns over to go to the next nearest store branch. Depending on traffic, the whole endeavor takes anywhere from an hour and a half to two and a half hours. This is for something that used to take forty-five minutes…
This last weekend I started to complain about how long the renovation is taking and how much time I wasted the last several weeks. But in the few quiet minutes before I got out of bed the day I planned to do my shopping, I was chastened. In that space between asleep and awake I heard the Lord whisper to my spirit, “I set up this time to be alone with you. Can’t you just be with me? Can’t you recognize what I’ve done just to be with you?” I had spent the last day complaining about the gift God was trying to give me, instead of receiving it.
Here again, I found myself swept up into an invitation to be in the presence of Jesus. When I look back over the times of hardship or frustration in my life there has always been these hidden pockets of time with an invitation to fill them with Jesus. Sometimes I caught it and accepted the invitation, sometimes I missed it and filled it with my favorite vice (TV).
I know my example of the inconvenience of grocery store locations is rather trivial. But that’s the generosity of God. He is in the trivial “hardship” as much as He is in the life-changing hardship. He is Immanuel, God with us, whether we take the time to see the evidence of that with-ness or not.
When I was in Israel we had this bus driver that insisted we sing “This Is the Day” every morning as we set off for the day’s adventure. The first day my group sat in awkward silence while the leaders sang halfheartedly (I mean, it was a trip for high school students, and what self-respecting high schooler is going to sing Sunday school kid songs?) the bus driver went on to goad us with his broken English about how every day was a gift from God and the goodness of God could be found in every day. So we should sing and acknowledge today and the gift it is.
The speech, combined with his terrifying driving practices, were enough to get the whole bus singing. By the end of the week we all waited for the first off-tone note to ring out from the raspy voice of the driver and we all glorified God with full gusto.
The main line of the song is actually from Psalm 118, “This is the day the LORD has made; and we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NKJV) However, the cheery tune and simple message of the Sunday school song doesn’t exactly translate the full story of this verse.
The Psalmist spent the first 20 verses of the psalm describes being surrounded on every side by enemies, all the while holding onto the promises of God and His salvation. The basic rhythm is like, “Thank you LORD for your character and your promises. Here is my crappy circumstance. But I will rejoice in your character and your promises. Because You are God, I will live and not die.” Then there are some prophetic references to Jesus, and right in the middle of those is our Sunday school line.
So whether today looks like a disaster, or is going along swimmingly, it is the day the LORD has made. Since He made the day, and He is with us, there is likely a hidden pocket or two somewhere in there where we are invited to be present with Him. A time to remember the LORD’s character, or His promises, or just to be. God is good, the space and time He makes for us to be with Him is good. Even if that good looks like the “bad” of traffic.