Unfolding Enough: Ravished

Welcome to our final session of Unfolding Enough. Taking this journey with you has been a joy and blessing.

Throughout Unfolding Enough we used Five Building Blocks of Faith to see where we are in our relationship with God and move us out of the Land Of Not Enough.

  • Connection. Spiritual practices or disciplines which bring us closer to God in a different way than we would normally approach Him.
  • Conversation. Entering a time of prayer with God through both sharing our hearts openly and listening for His response.
  • Curiosity. Seeking the truth of who He is and who we are through Bible study.
  • Community. Exploring the importance of being connected with the communities we live in, as a way to be encouraged, to encourage, and to draw others into His Kingdom.
  • Story. Connecting our stories to His story and remembering He is the Author of it all to bring about our good and His glory.

Through the Five Building Blocks of Faith, Esther taught us we live all of life In His Presence. Through the stories of David and Jeremiah we saw God looks at a person’s heart and thus we are Never Misunderstood. Samson’s life revealed our Right Relationship with God is matter of love not law, and last week Naomi’s return home reminded us our only responsibility is to boldly claim I Am His.

We close our time together focusing on the love and romance found in the Song of Solomon.

Connection

This week we practiced a way of reading Scripture called Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina, or divine reading, is a way to take a passage in the Bible and look further and deeper by letting go of what we already know and intentionally listening to God as He speaks through His Word.

The practice for this week was adapted in order to give you a taste of what this kind of spiritual reading is like. Let’s read once more together the words of Isaiah.

Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
   or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
   yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
   your walls are continually before me.
Your builders outdo your destroyers,
   and those who laid you waste go away from you.
Lift up your eyes all around and see;
   they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, says the Lord,
   you shall put all of them on like an ornament,
   and like a bride you shall bind them on.

Isaiah 49:15-18

What did you experience or learn in your time of reflection on this Scripture? What about this discipline helped you grow closer to God? Were you frustrated in some way with it?

Carol says:

I hesitate a bit to share what I heard Him say because I’m unsure if it lines up with others’ understanding of these verses. After some research, I did not find confirmation of what I heard Him speak to my heart, but it does echo the heart of the message found in His Word.

Your builders outdo your destroyers… captured my attention. My Builders are God: Father, Son, and Spirit, and Yes they outdo my destroyers on every level: my own fleshly desires and the enemy.

Then I heard, or saw, Him say, in the emphasis of two phrases: those who laid you waste… As I live, says the Lord, you shall put all of them on like an ornament… Meaning, those who cause us suffering, who try to destroy us, will become for us ornaments of glory because of our faith in Jesus.

It is a message heard throughout Scripture, the one Jesus lived out in the flesh on earth. Our faith in the Father works even the worst done to us for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Just as Jesus endured the cross bringing glory to the Father and good to those who believe, the suffering we endure will be used by Him for the same purpose. Bringing glory to Himself through us and good to His people.

In the end, the works of those who try to destroy us will be something which adds to our glory before Him.

Reading Scripture is not the only means of listening for divine inspiration. Another form of this practice is called Visio Divina, divine seeing, which uses an image or work of art to listen to God’s voice.

Maybe you have a natural bent toward music. Listening to a song several times with the intention of being in God’s presence may be something you might try. No matter which spiritual practice you use the point or focus is never something additional to do, never an activity to make you holy, but an opportunity to enter the Holy and fully connect with God.

Conversation

On Day 2 we began reading passages from Song of Solomon. This book of the Bible is different than any other of the sixty-five books. First of all it is a book of poetry. Songs written to portray an intimate love story. Yet scholars differ on what kind of love story.

Most agree it is a romantic story between a woman and man. Celebrating the joy and hardship of marriage and lasting relationships. Some believe it is also a story of God’s love for Israel, and Christ’s love for the church.

  • What were your initial reactions to reading Song of Solomon?
  • Did you ever feel like you were spying on something private or personal?

Read Song of Solomon 1:5-6

  • What was the woman’s focus when she considered the man’s love for her?

On the surface, the woman is primarily concerned with her appearance. How it reveals her time working hard in the vineyard, and her neglect of herself. But the descriptors of her darkness can also refer to her spiritual and emotional state: sin and suffering.

She says she is dark like the tents of Kedar or the curtains of Solomon. Her dark covering tells a story. The people of Kedar were a nomadic people and descended from Ishmael’s second son. Ishmael’s birth came about because of impatience on God to fulfill His promise to Abraham. The prophetic word given regarding Ishmael was he would fight with his brothers and be a wild donkey of a man (Genesis 16:1-12).

The other descriptor she uses is dark as the curtains of Solomon. Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba. A sordid story lurked behind his birth into Jesus’s lineage. But he was also evidence of God’s grace. Therefore, she calls herself dark but lovely.

Later in chapter one and two we heard her describe her lover.

Read Song of Solomon 1:12-14 and 2:3-6

  • What are some words she used to describe him?
  • What senses did you recognize in her words?

Our conversations with God often look similar to the words we read in Song of Solomon. Like the woman, we focus on our faults, failures, and mishaps. We wonder what in the world we have to deserve the love of God. Living in the Land of Not Enough causes us to constantly rehash our unworthiness to God through prayer. While repentance is necessary one who is still living “not enough” rarely moves on from there. The focus on self blocks our vision of who God is. Sometimes it helps to consider engaging all of our senses in prayer as we live out each day.

Read Romans 1:19-20

  • How do we perceive the divine, supernatural or invisible attributes of God?

All of creation speaks of the Divine. When we engage our senses fully as a way to prayerfully connect with God through the world we live in, we converse with God without ceasing. All of life transforms into prayer… a conversation with the Holy.

Curiosity

Read Song of Solomon 4:9

The King James Version uses the word ravish to express God’s love for the church. Others use stolen or captivated. Through the passion of Christ, God’s ravishing love is fully revealed to us.

  • How did reading the crucifixion story help connect you with a love that is so violently strong?
  • What comes to the surface of your thoughts or emotions when you considered this kind of love?
  • Did you write the word Ravished on your hand? If so, how did God use it to remind you of His love?
  • What kept you from writing the word, if you didn’t?

God loves us with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength. He is all-in when it comes to loving us because from the moment He created us, we captured His heart and imagination. Is it no wonder He calls us to love Him the same way? With all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Community

Learning to embrace all aspects of God’s love helps us to connect deeper with God and more intimately with others.

Read Song of Solomon 1:7

  • What is the woman’s main concern or cause of anxiety?

She doesn’t know where to find her lover! And she thinks this means he has rejected her: Why should I be the one left out, outside the orbit of your tender care? These words in The Message giving a picture of being excluded are translated more literally as “a veiled woman” or “one who is veiled.”

A veiled woman in the Israelite culture covered herself in mourning, as in the loss of her husband, and prostitutes veiled themselves (Genesis 38:15). She feels as if she has been left out on purpose, abandoned, or used. She is not only seeking to be with her lover, but legitimacy in the relationship. Full acceptance.

We too often find ourselves in circumstances where God feels far away, as if He’s abandoned us. It’s as if we can’t fathom the situation or circumstance we’re experiencing would exist if God were present. And so we go frantically searching for Him. We call out of our dark seasons wondering where God is, and how to find Him.

God’s reassuring answer echoes through the man’s response to her searching.

Read Song of Solomon 1:8

  • How did the man respond?
  • What does this reveal about God’s response to our own anxiety?

This Scripture shows us three things when we become anxious or feel abandoned by God.

First, boldly tell God about your feelings. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging how we feel to God. This is not about doubting God’s presence or faithfulness, it is more about recognizing Him in the midst of our struggle. It allows all that we know in our head to migrate the eighteen inch span to our hearts. When you are feeling abandoned, alone, anxious to recognize God in something, tell Him.

Second, the man’s response is one of gentle encouragement and direction. It is as if God says to us, “It’s all o.k.” It’s alright to feel this way, alright if you don’t quite recognize My presence. We can take a deep breath and hear God say, “Stay right where you are. I’m here. Keep doing what you’re doing and take care of what I’ve given you.”

Finally, “Stay with your shepherd neighbors.” Relying on others during hard times can be hard for us. Our pride can keep us from humbly asking for assistance or encouragement. Our fear stands in the way of trusting another with our struggle. We put smiles on our faces and press our anxiety down. The outcome is weak community with very little connection.

We pass our brothers and sisters on Sunday morning and don’t know much more than their name. If we were willing to share, willing to depend on community, willing to take the risk, our connection with God would grow in ways we cannot fathom. Each of us are gifted with experiences and talents to build each other up.

Story

Your final day of study was the sharing of Stacy’s story and an encouragement to consider your own story. Let’s spend our final minutes together sharing some of our stories. Consider the questions below to inspire conversation.

  • During our study where did you notice you are mostly likely to live in the Land of Not Enough?
  • What part of our time together impacted your story?
  • Have you seen some fruit of transformation in your life?
  • In this season of your life, what story is God writing in you?
  • Who might need to hear your story in your community?

As we close today let’s read together the words of Psalm 139:

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—

   when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139:17-18

Our prayer for you is for God to continue to unfold enough in your life, and no matter where you find yourself you will always awake knowing God is with you.

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