The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irina Demkiw” and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper) and on my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on November 27, 2011.
When I am reaching for God, seeking His peace, seeking His face and presence, I sense His love encouraging me to come closer. It is so quiet and subtle. In hindsight, it seems as if my God was wooing me to be near Him. He is always near me but I am not always aware that I am near Him. This nearness takes place in my heart, my soul, and my spirit.
Earlier I mentioned that I understood that God chose me. This intrigued me. I never felt worthy to be chosen to be His. The scripture that comes to mind is
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. John 15:14-16 (KJV)
Upon reflection I sensed that God wants me to “know” that He really was with me and selected me to know Him. I wanted to know Him better.
I heard a story that still makes me smile. A television cook was excited that he was preparing lamb for Easter and went on to tell his audience why he was so excited about it. He said that he always serves wine with the lamb. The wine was the reason he was so happy. The story goes like this.
There was a shepherd who was tending his flock. He called the flock and the sheep turned in the direction to follow the voice of the shepherd. The cook described that in Europe and eastern countries, the shepherds do not “herd” the sheep like cattle – that is coming from behind. They are at the front of the flock and call them and then lead them to the next pasture. Then he said the shepherd found that in the flock there were two ewes that were ready to delivery their lambs. One ewe delivered a beautiful lamb and immediately the lamb began to suckle. The ewe did not recover from delivering the lamb and died. The other ewe delivered a lamb. This lamb did not live long and died. The shepherd realized that he needed to do something quickly or the new born lamb that lived would soon die if it did not have milk. He knew that if he presented the lamb to the ewe that lost her lamb, the ewe would reject it. She would smell the lamb and recognize that the lamb was not her own. He took some of the blood from the lamb that died and wiped it on the lamb that was alive and presented it to the ewe. The ewe smelled the blood of her own lamb and received the alive lamb as her own. The cook said that is how God the Father receives us because we have the blood of Jesus on us and he receives us. This touched my heart. Maybe not good theology, but now I understood that Jesus’ blood was the key for me with God the Father.
I am a slow learner. I spent time in prayer just thanking Jesus for what He had done for me and for every person whom God the Father has chosen. I believe that everyone in our world is chosen. I believe that we are all given our mission, our destiny. I am still learning about this awesome responsibility.
As I began to know Jesus better, I recalled scriptures that state that we are created to take care of God’s creation and His creatures:
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. (Genesis 2:19-20 KJV)
When you have been given the responsibility of “naming” something, this is a sign of responsibility for you. God gave the privilege of “naming” to Adam and thus we human beings have the inherited onus or responsibility for these creatures.
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8: 5-8 KJV)
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet. In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:6-9 KJV))
For me to understand who I am, I need to look to scriptures and to the early fathers for wisdom. I am a physical being, but also I am a spiritual being. The earth is the physical home for my physical body, but since I am a spiritual being as well, I need to be in touch with my God who is teaching me about living my spiritual life. If I embrace the physical more than the spiritual; that is, if I choose to focus more on the “world” than on living and growing spiritually, then I risk that my spiritual life will be so diminished that I might die spiritually. I choose the spiritual life and choose to know, love and serve Jesus. This is a choice that I renew daily.
Jesus taught the prayer, the Our Father. When I received the word “our” I realized that He was saying that His Father was my Father too. This message went passed my head and straight to my heart. Deep in me was this new awareness that I was a daughter of God, a child of God. Before, these were just words, but now there was a reality to the words. The nearness of God was constant and when I focused on receiving all that God has for me, the sense of belonging came stronger. After seeking for so long, I felt that I was home. For me, home is God and I was becoming more aware of the love of the Father for me. Jesus was helping me. There was a difference when I prayed to Jesus. I felt there was a greater intimacy.
I am getting to know the Holy Spirit. He comes and holds me in my spirit and comforts me and teaches me.
I believe that to discern and listen to what God has for me in my life, it is important for me to know Him and to know who I am in Him. In my journey, which is constant discovery, I have learned that I am a woman of God, a child of God, a daughter. Glory to God!
For so many years of my life, I went to church regularly and almost missed the fact that I am a child of God. So often when attending church, my focus was to be involved with the community, being a part of the organizations, supporting Ukraine especially before independence was announced. I had a sense of belonging to the church. The priests probably said it at the pulpit that each person is a child of God, and scriptures may have been read aloud about it but somehow I did not get it. This revelation was amazingly personal and I felt a very deep sense of belonging to God as I received the truth and treasured it in my heart.
Upon receiving this revelation, the subsequent reaction has been that the words of the divine liturgy seem more relevant to me, more personal. I have always enjoyed going to the liturgies and socializing. I always feel good afterwards. This experience of the divine liturgy stirring my heart was new for me — to hear the words of the divine liturgy seem like God was speaking right into my heart and I had a deeper desire to listen. The time flies by when I am at a liturgy. Those words bless me and change me from the inside out. We are so truly blessed in our church with the holy scriptures and the holy divine liturgy as personal messages to each one of us. It is important for me to hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow like a sheep. I have just begun. There is more to learn. I want more.
Copyright © 2011 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.
Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.