The process of being searched is generally not one that we anticipate with delight. It’s inconvenient, time consuming, and frankly- it makes us uncomfortably vulnerable.
Our family is somewhat used to being searched due to living in another country for so long. Every time we rolled up to the border, we knew there was the potential to have our entire vehicle searched. Even if it wasn’t, the experience would be just a bit different each time we crossed. Ironically, when we moved to Canada in 2005, we weren’t searched at all. The back of the truck was opened, and a satisfying nod was given. And on we went.
Not so fast, though….other times when we expected to whip right through security, we were pulled over and searched. One time, we were asked how we knew the college girl who was riding with us (since it was obvious she couldn’t be our child). My husband, flustered from the searching and the intimidating officer, turned to me and said what one should never say when crossing a border with someone who isn’t your child.
“How do we know Laura?” His mind had gone completely blank and he could not remember how we knew this girl who had practically lived with us off and on for the past 4 years.
I still can’t believe we got through that crossing without someone being isolated and interrogated. But I gave him a pep talk before we returned to the border. Say “friend of family.” Practice with me- “friend of family.” We joked about the possibility of the officer asking us the amount of goods we were bringing over, and us blurting out our well practiced “FRIEND OF FAMILY!” at the completely wrong time.
Recently, during our trip overseas, we had an extended layover in London. We started working our way through security to catch our next plane to Cape Town. Some people were walking through with their bags untouched. But not us. Our 3 carry ons were completely unpacked and every item was laid out. I could have cried. They had no idea how carefully I had packed my excessive number of snacks so that everything would fit and keep our weight limit within one ounce of being too heavy. And suddenly we had exactly 3 seconds to stuff everything back into the suitcases because other people and their still intact bags were bearing down hard upon us.
Then there’s the invasiveness of paperwork. Paperwork hath no fury like the stack she generates for immigration. If it’s there, she’ll dig it up. And if it’s not there, she’ll dig it up. And create more paperwork to clarify or correct the original paperwork.
And just when we thought we were finished with all this questioning and interviewing (because by some miracle we did successfully become dual citizens), we decided to begin our dream of adopting internationally. Enter the paperwork machine again…. and every detail of our childhood, marriage, children, home, and work was pored over and analyzed. By another one of those miracles, we passed our home study with flying colors and completed our dossier for Bulgaria- despite the fact that my 5 year old told our social worker that I give her coffee every morning.
We hate to be searched, don’t we?! It’s just plain nerve wracking. Giving someone that level of control is downright scary, even when we know there is nothing to be uncovered.
This must be why David’s prayer in Psalm 139: 23-24 just leaves me in awe. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” First, I think of the absolute holiness of God and the fact that David trusted Him so deeply to open the crevices of his heart. He essentially said, “Search me. Please. Show me what you find.” He wasn’t asking God to reveal his good qualities, but rather his flaws and sins.
We typically don’t even dare let another flawed human do that to us, much less a holy God Who sees everything.
So why was David so willing to be vulnerable?
David knew that if God was doing the searching, it would be done with the grace, mercy, truth, and love that He knew was God’s character. Such a thing cannot always be said of humans, as especially we pastors’ wives can attest to.
Some of my most painful ministry memories are the times of searching. When it’s not done in truth or love, the searching process has devastating effects. Rarely does someone search with evil intent, and then admit to coming up with nothing. Instead they turn to accusations and often ambush. In many ways, this type of search with malicious intent is an emotional rape. It causes shame- not from sin- but from imposed guilt.
I remember my husband and I coming home from one such meeting after having been ripped apart for several hours. We felt destroyed, ugly, shamed, even guilty- even though there was no real blame to be laid on us. Were we perfect? No. But the list of assumptions and accusations was almost laughable if it hadn’t been handled in such an ungodly way.
Humans often search to tear down. They search to destroy. They search to hurt, to criticize, and to hinder. They search to make themselves look better. Turns out, having even perceived flaws rooted out is painful.
But not when God does the searching. Yes, it’s painful to realize our own sin and imperfections. But the mercy and grace that He pours into the searching and revealing process soothes even the hardest of admissions.
He searches to reveal truth. He searches to restore. He searches to redeem. He searches to heal and to set free. He searches to prepare and to sanctify.
He bathes it all in His magnificent grace.
I find it interesting that David opened Psalm 139 with these words: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me.” He goes on to explain just how intricately God has searched and known Him. Undaunted by the process, David ends the Psalm by begging God to do it again.
Was he hurt in the process? Maybe, but not harmed. Was he ashamed? Maybe, but quickly forgiven. Was he exposed and vulnerable? Maybe, but gazed upon with a personal and intimate love by the One Who created him.
He certainly didn’t have anything to lose. And neither do we, when we open our hearts to be searched by our Father Who loves us so perfectly and graciously that we will never be able to fully wrap our heads and hearts around it.
You an I….we can, without fear, raise our hands in the airport to be searched. We can smile when our 500 snacks are unearthed and the people behind us walk on with their bags untouched.
We can also, without fear, raise our hands and open our hearts in worship and invite God to do his beautiful, redeeming work of searching. There’s a precious work being done in the hearts of those who are wiling to be searched.
A Kindred Spirit