Sometimes God meets us in strange places. Maybe not strange, but not definitively holy places. At least, not in the obvious kind of way.
Three weeks ago Friday He met me in my car. I was driving the long stretch of I25 after having dropped off the kids with my parents for the weekend. I was at that part of the road where the radio signals are fuzzy between stations, so I had turned on one of my favorite Switchfoot albums, Where the Light Shines through. The last track on the album is a song called “Hope is the Anthem”, the first two verses go like this,
Sometimes what you need is what you fight
Like a wounded man out on the run
Like shadows hiding from the light
But your love is what I was running from
Hope’s a seed you have to sow
When you let it go it comes to life
So you stretch your arrows on the bow
And you pull them back and watch them fly
-Switchfoot, “Hope is the Anthem”
Halfway through the second verse I found myself in tears. And I could feel the Lord whispering to my soul, “You’ve stopped hoping…”
And I knew it was true, on so many levels. It’s been hard, especially this past year, to keep my heart from becoming jaded. It’s hard to choose to hope, when it seems like the more “practical” thing would be to just look at things, “as they are”. The notion of becoming more practical, of becoming a “realist” in some sense, is appealing. It looks safer. Like it we could just predict those likely negative outcomes of all these hard situations, maybe that would some how lesson the pain of them when they come true. It’s so tempting to want protecting myself with a hardened and harsh version of “truth”.
The problem is, that truth has no place for God, for the supernatural, for miracles. And so I am realizing, I cannot be a Christian and be a cynic. I cannot be a Christian and a realist. I must be a desperate, crazy, lover, believer, and dreamer. And I must plant Hope in my own heart and in the hearts of others like its my job.
Sometimes people see me and think I’m innocent. They see me and think I’m naive, or maybe weak, for hoping. Even as a young person I was seen as that “nice girl” that people wanted to corrupt. (They told me so.) But innocent and naive is not something I have been for a very long time.
If you’ve been around the blog long you may already know that I was sexually abused at the tender age of 7. Another person’s sin, and its consequences took a toll on me. In many ways, my childhood was over. Demolished by the careless selfishness of one person.
But I remember my choice; I remember sitting criss-cross apple sauce on my basement bedroom floor, feeling the weight of things I could’t even full understand sitting like an elephant on my chest. And I reached for a book on the bottom shelf of my bookcase, and I opened to Romans 8:28.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28 ESV
The thing that saved me; that changed me, that preserved my innocence was the Hope that God graciously planted in my heart that day. Hope, that even the death of my childhood and life as I knew it could somehow be for my good.
Did you know: Our God is so Powerful, that He can take even bad things, and turn them into good things.
He turns brokenness into beauty and abundance. And if that is true, how could I give up Hoping?
I think it happens when I neglect the remembering. I don’t always categorize things in my brain the way I should. I don’t always tally up the wins and losses correctly. I am a poor score keeper when it comes to keeping track of what God is doing in my life and in the lives of those around me. I have to go back, and fight the jaded score keeper sitting in the booth and set the record straight.
We can never know exactly where we are headed in this life, but somehow we’re going to make it. As Corrie Ten-Boom reminded me last week,
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Perhaps my lack of Hope is based in my mis-remembering. I need to remember like the Israelites; remember the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of manna in the wilderness, the water from the rock; instead of complaining about the 400 years of enslavement before hand. I need to focus on the everyday miracles that are surrounding me, and let them fuel my Hope for the future, even though it is unknown. And even though it will doubtless include suffering this side of heaven. This is a resilient Hope. A Hope that I must cultivate. A Hope that is not a wish, but a way of thinking and being regardless of life circumstances or the way situations may seem at the outset.
Looking back on this past year, I kept focusing on what I went through or what my friends were going through, instead of focusing on the countless ways that God displayed His LAVISH GRACE AND FAITHFULNESS.
In one month I celebrate one year from the day that God preserved my life in the midst of an unknown illness. I celebrate that I learned the valuable lesson that He is the giver of every breath that I take, and in Him I live and move and have my being. I celebrate that during that season of illness and trial and testing, not for one second did He leave me alone. He continually comforted and assured me by His Spirit, that I was exactly where He wanted me to be, and that resting in Him was enough. I celebrate that after that season, He saw fit to restore my health to me.
I celebrate with a dear friend the ways that the Lord is at work in her marriage. I celebrate with another dear friend that the Lord is continuing to heal her daughter from her cancer through modern day medicine. I celebrate with a friend who lost their daughter two years ago, that they now have a foster daughter to love and hold in her time of need. I celebrate the healing taking place in the broken heart of one of my family members. The ability to continue living and growing in this city we call home. I celebrate my ability to work alongside my husband in ministry, and the opportunities I am gaining to humble myself in the presence of other women, so they will know it is okay to come just as they are. I celebrate the Lord’s provision, and the ways he has enabled us to be generous.
I celebrate what He is teaching me, but most of all, for who He is growing me up to be. Not a girl defined by an innocence lost, but a woman defined by a ruthless trust in the good creator God of the Universe. A woman who doesn’t believe that darkness prevails, not because she’s never seen darkness, but because she has and she knows that it is not stronger than the light.
This re-remembering reminds me that Hope is not a lie. That Hope is the path to Joy. This Hope lets me rest. This Hope tells me that mercies are new in the morning, no matter how dark the night has been. This Hope teaches me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It teaches me to believe in miracles, because miracles happen everywhere you look, if you just have your eyes open to see them.
I cannot be a Christian cynic, or even a Christian Realist. But that’s okay, because this world does not belong to the cynics, or the realists. It belongs to the Believers in the Supernatural Truth.
Because the Truest thing that can be said about this world, is that it is desperately broken, but a Savior has come. Man is sinful and fallen, but God did everything necessary to make a way back to us. We don’t at all deserve it, and we could never earn it, but God is, as Brennan Manning called Him, “The Divine Madman”, so in love with us, that He willingly went to death and back again. That, as author Lisa-Jo Baker reminds me, “He’s been coming for you since the beginning of time. And He’s not about to stop now.”
The truest thing that can be said about you, me, and about this world we live in, is that we are living in the very center of the Greatest Love Story ever told. The winter will thaw to a glorious spring. And nothing can stop it. For “Who can stop the LORD Almighty?” (Big Daddy Weave, “The Lion and the Lamb”
Last fall I planted cilantro seeds. And for weeks I watered them faithfully. I weeded the bed. A month went by, and nothing was happening. I figured I did something wrong. And life was discouraging at that time, so I gave up.
And the weeds took over that garden bed, and when I went back out there to clear it as I had the others, I was pulling them all up. One by one, I yanked, only to realize shortly after pulling up one plant, that it smelled exactly like cilantro.
It had come up after all, after I had given up. After I had written it off, and declared it a lost cause.
Minus the one I unintentionally destroyed, I had three healthy cilantro plants. And those suckers grew and grew all that fall, and the first frost couldn’t kill them. Nor the second. Or the third. They just kept coming back tenacious and delicious as ever. It was the last plant left standing in the remnants of my first summer garden.
And maybe this is the hard and holy reminder that you need today.
That resilient Hope is just around the corner. That sometimes the things we most long for come and surprise us when we least expect them. That sometimes we give up too soon, and we don’t allow Hope to do it’s full work in us. We need to let it make us strong and faithful. Even when it looks like all you are tending is a bed of weeds, God is at work beneath the surface. And soon enough, we will see the fruit.
Whatever season you are in right now Dear Reader, whether it is a season of suffering or rejoicing; I encourage you not to fear in either. Don’t fear the pain of the suffering that you are in; you are not alone and God will faithfully bring you to the other side. If you are rejoicing right now, but fearing that at any moment it all will end, rest in the Hope that God is at work in our brightest days just as He is in our darkest nights.
Happy Valentine’s Day Friends. May you rest in the peace that only the Love of the “Divine Madman” can bring.