By C.S. Imming (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
When John and I were first married, we spent our first summer living in the small town where he grew up. The town was a cute little one with not much to do. The lake, although beautiful, got a little tiring to a city girl used to a lot going on. Early on in the summer, my mother-in-law suggested that we drive to a neighboring bigger town and check out a really great park there. Because we had no money to go out to eat for our dates, we went to the store, bought a pint of ice cream to split and bought a package of plastic spoons to keep in the car and this began our weekend tradition. Every weekend we would drive 45 minutes to this ‘really great park’ with a parking lot surrounding three sides. On one side it had an ampitheater that I knew must host weddings and small outdoor concerts. The park had a cute little bench overlooking about an acre of grass and a beatiful view of a somewhat busy road. I was a little perplexed about what was so great about this park, but kept my thoughts to myself. Young love overlooks lame parks – that overlook parking lots -and busy roads – that have six trees. We wondered what was so great about this park, but kept going anyway. At least it was something to do.
Fast forward about six years. We had finished up school in Pensacola, FL and were three kids richer living in Omaha, which is only about three hours away from where my husband grew up. While visiting my in-laws one Saturday, my mother-in-law suggested bringing the kids to ‘the park.’ I thought, “What in the world? That park again? With kids – and parking lots – and roads – and a couple of trees?” Wanting to be easy to get along with, I said, “Sure, let’s go.” We drove up and parked in the same spot we had always parked in. I looked with fondness at the bench and started to walk toward the park when my mother-in-law said, “Where are you going?” and started walking in the opposite direction. I followed.
We walked AROUND the small amphitheater that hosted weddings and concerts and there before us lay a huge, beautiful landscape complete with carefully manicured gardens, a beautiful stream that went throughout, little bridges to walk over the stream and acres and acres of the most beautiful park I had ever seen in any city big or small. The park was filled with flowers and all kinds of plants. It even had a quaint brick lookout tower with a spiral staircase and hundreds of large trees. (the picture at the beginning is an actual picture of the park) John and I wasted our first summer eating ice cream in the parking lot when we could have spent it in the park. The problem was, we thought the parking lot was the park and so we settled. We thought we were in the park. We drove 45 minutes EVERY week to go to a parking lot. Awesome. My mother-in-law had a great laugh over that one.
When I think of this story, I can’t help but think how often we are like this with God. We think we have experienced all there is when in real life, all we’ve seen is the parking lot. Parking lots are boring except when there is young love. Parking lots will be okay for a while, but after a while they get pretty mundane. Sometimes, tragically, we think we have experienced all there is and quit seeking Him. “Yeah, God, this park is nice. Yep, the grass is pretty green and that’s a nice tree over there. The noise and clutter is a bit unnerving, but I’ll get used to it. Afterall, I’m in the park and you said the park was beautiful. I think it’s beautiful too.” While in our hearts we’re wondering, “Is this really it? How come this is so much less than I was thinking? I had hoped for so much more.”
I’d like to think that if John and I had lived there longer than three months, we may have eventually gotten curious and decided to walk AROUND the building and discovered the beauty beyond. It would be interesting to know.
Truth be told, every single one of us is in the parking lot or have explored very little of the park when it comes to knowing God. He is so much bigger and greater and more than we could ever imagine. This God Who IS love and doesn’t just love. This God Who is a holy righteous and fair Judge. This God Who understands the expanse of the Universe all the way down to the smallest atom. This God Who knows our hearts, our minds, our past, our present and our future. This God Who knows how to take the ashes of our lives and construct something magnificently beautiful that glorifies Who He is. This God Who loves each one individually and loves mankind corporately. How in the world can we know Him? This God Who desires restoration for those He has made and loves so much that He would have His Son come as a man to die for that restoration and for man to know he is loved. Not only that, but He doesn’t put us on the same road, but has uniquely designed each of our lives fantastically individual yet weaving together.
No matter how intimate and deep we go with Him, in this life we will see beauty for sure and we may explore pieces of that garden, but we will never exhaust it. We could spend every waking minute of every day with Him and still not have scratched the surface of Who He is. If we are bored, it is because we’re in the parking lot and that if we look we WILL find.
Friends, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be bored on the bench, thinking I’m in the park when I’m actually sitting in the parking lot. I want to spend my time seeking Him, because He says there is more. He says in Matthew 7:9, Jeremiah 29:13, and in Deuteronomy 4:29 that when we seek Him, we will find Him. When I’m tired and tempted to think that I’ve seen all there is to see, I want to remember what it says in I Corinthians 2:9-12
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”[d]
10 But[e] it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.
He has planned amazing things for us, things we can’t even imagine. He loves to show us His deep secrets, but we won’t hear those sitting on the bench swinging our legs. If we have given our lives to Him, it says that we have received God’s Spirit SO THAT we can know the wonderful things He has FREELY given us.
Sometimes we don’t seek because we just don’t know. We just THINK we are in the park. We have an enemy who wants to keep the park a secret. People who know about the park are a threat because they can’t stop talking about how wonderful it is. They want everyone to know. People who know about the park have purpose and meaning to their life. People who know about the park can’t help but be excited about it. For many, the enemy keeps the park a secret or people don’t stop to check it out. For others though, they do stop and they do check it out, but they get confused. They mistake the parking lot for the park. It’s easier to do than you think.
If I were your enemy, I would make sure to do everything I could to make sure that you thought the parking lot was your park. If that happened, I could keep you discouraged, bored and in unbelief. I would also make sure that you never felt comfortable voicing that you were disappointed because you thought the park would be so much more. I would make sure you stayed in the parking lot and would learn the parking lot game. “This tree is beautiful. Isn’t it beautiful here? Look at the green grass. This is a cute little white bench,” while inside the thoughts are, “This is nothing like I thought it would be. This little white bench is dumb. This tree IS beautiful, but there are hardly any. The street noise is unbearable.” I would make you feel like you were the only one that thought that because then you would never venture around the building. I would also make you think that you had seen all there is to see because then you would never ask, you would never seek. Afterall, you would think you had seen it all. Or, I would make you feel ashamed for being dissatisfied so that you would never voice it and you would even ignore it. I would make you think that it was me giving you those thoughts so that you would push them away instead of investigating further.
Can I just say that dissatisfaction with your relationship with God is GOOD? A dissatisfied heart means there is somewhere for God to fill. Psalm 107:9 says, “For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.” It means that your heart knows you haven’t seen all there is to see. It means that you KNOW there is more to Him than you have seen. We don’t need to be afraid of it. So many of us try to shut those thoughts and feelings down and ignore them or hide out in shame that we have them. That dissatisfaction is God stirring us to seek. It’s HIM! It’s HIM calling us to come deeper with Him. We may not know how or what, but the great thing is that He ALWAYS does. He’s not confused and He never will be. Our job is to ask.
I Corinthians 2:9 is worth repeating,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”
If you love Him, this verse is for YOU. You cannot even imagine what He has prepared for YOU. Your mind can’t even think it up, but through knowing Him, You CAN begin to see because verse 12 says,
12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.
This tells me that He wants to share it with YOU.
If we’re bored, we have a parking lot mindset. When we’re bored, it’s time to move deeper. Let’s ask Him to help us know Him more!
Father, Thank You that I only seek You because You have sought me first. Please help me to see. I want to know You more. I just want You. I don’t know what that looks like, I don’t even know HOW to seek You sometimes, but I know that I do want to know You more. Show me what that looks like. Give me the wisdom to hear You and know You. You say that if any of us lacks wisdom to ask and so I know that You DESIRE to give it to me. Thank You that You love me more than I could ever think or imagine and that You have prepared wonderful things for me.