Spiritual Growth, The Spiritual Discipline of Journaling

Rouse My Soul | Encounters with God on the Dusty Road

I jolt up out of bed fumbling to turn off the alarm. I woke earlier, but decided to rest my eyes for another fifteen minutes and must have fallen back to sleep. I quietly grab my glasses from the nightstand and slip into dining room. The notebook covered table makes me smile. This is my watch-tower – where I meet the Lord in the mornings. Long before the alarm clock ever goes off, he’s already there warming the chair for me.

I squint my eyes against the light and rub the blur away. My eyes may be foggy and I may have had a sluggish start, but as I sit and begin to read, I am actively fighting against a blurry and sluggish soul.

I pick up where I left off. Hagar is back in the wilderness. She and Ishmael are in the wilderness of Beersheba, lost and parched and close to death. Later, Abraham interestingly names a well Beersheba in his treaty with Abimelech. It means Well of Seven or Well of Oath. In distress, Hagar cries out to El Roi, the God who saw her once before in the wilderness. And El Roi sees her again. He hears Ishmael’s (God Hears) sufferings and opens Hagar’s eyes in the well of oath wilderness.

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water and she went and filled the [empty] bottle with water and caused the youth to drink.

Genesis 21:19, AMPC

El Roi sees and then causes her to see. He opens her eyes to the source of their deliverance, a well of water, fulfilling his oath to Abraham that Ishmael would also live to father a large nation.

Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to sin in Eden and effectively closed their eyes to the heavens – the veil fell thick upon the earth, like the sleep I tried to rub from my eyes. And yet, God opens Hagar’s eyes – perhaps to a well hidden by brush, or perhaps he briefly opened her eyes to the heavenly realm to see what was otherwise hidden from mortal eyes.

My son loves to go on walks. So I load him in the stroller, put on my worship playlist and we walk the neighborhood. As we walk, I try to think of what I’ve been studying and usually some connections will come together in greater detail. I can study scripture, but if I don’t invite Jesus along on my way, I won’t see clearly. It is he who opens the eyes of our faith.

In Luke 24, rumors of a risen Jesus circulated all throughout Jerusalem. Two men, one perhaps Cleopas, whom some scholars believe was Jesus’ uncle, are on a seven mile walk to Emmaus. And as the two men walked, they talked. Continually and actively reasoning and questioning the accounts they heard of the empty tomb. Step-after-step, examining it amongst one another. And suddenly, a man draws near and joins in their steps and their discussion.

The men on the trail were examining their thoughts on scripture and Jesus gently inserts himself in their conversation, meeting them along the way. But the men didn’t recognize him as the resurrected Messiah. When the Bible says he drew near, the Greek root word is actually describing the curve of a bent arm, that which closely enfolds. Even though they didn’t recognize him, he intended to show them, like one who throws his arm around their shoulders as he journeyed with them.

Oh, slow of heart to believe, Jesus says as he joins in their discussion – has it not been written since the beginning of time?

Hagar was in a physical wilderness. The travelers were in a wilderness of faith crisis. The one they believed to be the Christ was dead. There were rumors that he had risen, but how can this be they reasoned amongst each other on the two hour walk. They were disappointed in their its-not-supposed-to-be-this-way expectations. They were saddened and yet Jesus himself brought-back-from-the-dead stood before them, if only they could see.

Who knows how long Christ walked with them, but as they reached their destination it appeared like he was going further than Emmaus and this caused them distress. The travelers grab hold of him, begging him to stay. They constrain him to remain, to continue to be present with them. They still did not recognize him, but they did not want him to leave.

Jesus stays. He tarries. He breaks bread with them and as he tears the bread, the symbolic representation of his breaking body three days prior, the men’s eyes were opened. Their eyes were opened and they knew him well.

In shock they exclaim: “Did our hearts not burn within us while he opened to us the scriptures?” Jesus himself was the walking Gospel, feet dusty as he walked miles with the men, taking the time to correct their disillusions and build their shaky faith. He opened the scriptures, disclosing the thoughts of God and they were greatly moved. To open is to open thoroughly as one’s soul is roused to the faculty of learning, desiring understanding. This was why the held his arms bidding him to abide with them. He opened the scriptures and then opened their eyes and heart to receive it with understanding. He sits at the table with them, stares into their eyes and in his grace inflames their hearts with his divine heat and opens their eyes to his divine light.

As Hagar’s eyes were opened to the life-giving water source, God awakened the travelers to the reality of the resurrected Living Water.

We’ve been taught to get more sleep if we are tired, and this is true of the physical body. But when you are tired spiritually, you don’t need more deep sleep- you need an awakening. Maybe we need to wake earlier, despite our blurry eyes and sluggishness so God can rouse our souls.

Because there’s no awake like an awakened heart. 

The men had to be tired after their long walk from Jerusalem, but they don’t wait for a good night’s sleep, they immediately leave and hasten back to the city. How different this walk must have been. Before they were sorrowful and confused, here perhaps their feet were as light as their souls, perhaps running and laughing making the seven mile return in record time. “They aren’t rumors,” perhaps they yell to all they see, “He has risen indeed!”

Oh, the joy of meeting Jesus.

In 2 Kings, Elisha was surrounded by the enemy. His servant, terrified, exclaims “What shall we do?” Elisha prays for the Lord to open his eyes so he may see. And the servant saw and beheld an army of angels protecting them. The Lord briefly opened his eyes to what Elisha’s faith saw all along – the heavenly realm of God’s glory. Elisha’s prayer is literally translated open the eyes of his faith.

Oh, the peace of meeting Jesus.

What other king would not just allow his servants to intimately know his, but actually long for it? Who else calls his servants friends? He is the one who initiates and sets our souls aflame. Don’t let us journey through life and not recognize you, Lord. Open the eyes of our faith. Help us see. Help us live in the reality of the resurrection – not with a sad countenance of unbelief, but with eyes wide open to heaven, “I have seen him!”

Thank you Jesus, for meeting us on the dusty trails. Thank you for coming down and getting your feet dirty and your heart bruised. Thank you for setting hearts aflame again and again. For those who do not recognize you yet, open their eyes. May they see you and come to thoroughly know you, because those who truly know you can’t help but love you.

We are far from home, yes, but we are not far from him.

Mary Willson

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