Looking Up

By Joy O’Neal

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Happy first week of Spring! The irony of this publication and its content falling on the first week of Spring makes my heart sing. If you are like me, then your heart is desperate for a seasonal change. This beach bums heart currently feels semi stuck in an eternal Narnia over here in Colorado Springs. Although true in my physical surroundings I am also currently experiencing a bit of a spiritual Narnia of stagnant faith. So today, I’d like to take a moment to share with you on the topic of looking up.

As a planner, I am the queen of wanting a glimpse at God’s bigger picture. According to StrenthFinders, I am an activator, which means getting things going is my specialty. What’s next? and What are we waiting on? are just a few of the questions I battle with daily.  Although great qualities in certain arenas, spiritually these questions can cause frustration.  Even as my flesh continually battles for the reigns my God brings gentle reminders inside of the mundane that beckon me to release my grip and once again look up to Him.

Many years ago, while helping facilitate a weekend beach retreat for women, I shared about an eye opening practice that transformed my heart around looking up. During this retreat I had a very short speaking opportunity so I asked the women to engage in an experiment throughout the day. Their instructions were simple! Each time they entered a new establishment they were to look up. For me, this experiment was shocking! I realized that out of almost every establishment that I frequently visited I had NEVER seen the ceiling. My Spirit shifted around this simple practice and once again a deep impression by the One who loves us most was written on the walls of my heart. Just as I had experienced, many of the women came to me with similar shock realizing they had in fact never looked up inside of these various establishments that they had visited more times than they could count. 

If you are like me and currently in a stagnant season then you too have possibly forgotten the power that hides inside of simply shifting our eyes upward. As moms are days require us to repeatedly keep our eyes directly on each passing step. Making sure our little ones don’t fall down the stairs, the piling laundry gets washed, that project gets done and the biggest one of all--WHAT’S FOR DINNER (which I fully think should be a forbidden question). They cause us to keep a fixed focus.

Aside from writing and playing mom to my tribe I am also a preschool teacher to the worlds cutest class. Each week my partner teachers and I rotate on teaching Bible to the precious souls we are blessed with. This week was my turn to lead chapel and by no coincidence the Bible story just happens to be my most favorite of all! Doesn’t our God love us so well?

John 3: Jesus Teaches Nicodemus.

Sitting low to the floor with twenty something preschoolers looking up at me, I was reminded how the story of Nicodemus became my favorite. As I shared with you earlier, I am full of questions. I love learning and will be the first to raise my hand. During a hard season in my life I was plagued with questions. Because of my personal pain, I questioned everything. Why did this happen? God, where are You? How did I miss the mark? Did I hear You wrong? These are just a few of the questions I asked daily.  

This is when Nicodemus and I became best friends. I found Nicodemus tiptoeing through the dark night towards Jesus with his questions. I know theologically Nicodemus was keeping quiet and unseen by coming to Jesus in the night but I like to also believe that he couldn’t sleep without getting his questions answered. Just as the answers Jesus gave Nicodemus that night, I too have wrestled with the confusing answers I’ve received during each season of questioning.

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Only when I take my eyes off each step and shift them upward do I start to see the true answer. I can’t image the level of confusion Nicodemus felt as Jesus told him about rebirth. For Nicodemus, the words of Jesus must have seemed like a sci-fi movie scene. Reading through the text of John 3 I wondered how Nicodemus must’ve felt when he heard that Jesus had been crucified. Possibly Nicodemus felt the same way we do when we feel a dream or promise that God has given us has died.  I imagine Nicodemus full of questions again. But where we find Nicodemus next in scripture is the exact reason I share this story with you.

John 19:38-42: The Burial of Jesus

Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to prepare and bury the body of Jesus. I have to believe that Nicodemus was once again full of questions as he wrapped and anointed the lifeless flesh of Jesus. What was right in front of him didn’t look like eternal life. It didn’t look like the answers Jesus’ had previously given him. Nicodemus’ fixed focus looked like death. Oh, but if Nicodemus could’ve looked up into the heavens and seen the war that was being won for eternity in those exact moments!

Mamas, I know--BELIEVE me, I KNOW--that each day requires us to keep a fixed focus on the task ahead, but can I challenge you to look up? There is a battle being won over your dreams and family too! Trust Him with your questions and trust Him in His answers. And while you are at it, see if you’ve ever noticed the ceiling in Target!