I toppled into it this morning without a clue. Actually, it was before that: The electricity had snapped off sometime in the middle of the night, my husband and I groaning as the fan’s blades slowed and quieted, leaving a stuffy heat beneath our mosquito net that I knew would make it challenging for him to sleep well.
In the morning, I cooked pancakes and eggs by candlelight; by 9 AM the lack of electricity to the water pump at the bottom of our hill meant we were without water in the kitchen sink, too—after nearly a week of alternating lack of power and water. Grr. The kids had forgotten to plug in the “school” laptop last night, so mine was the option for homeschool, i.e. getting my own work done in the afternoon did not seem in the cards. I scrambled through phone calls before my phone battery died. The power company wasn’t picking up.
Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was walking against the wind so much of the day: straining uphill, my too-thin sweater tugged around me as I grimaced, head down. As my husband and I lifted down plates for dinner, I recounted the parts that made me want to tear my hair out. (Or maybe a small tuft of my children’s. …Joking.) In the course of things, I did remember some good points. Somehow, as I relayed them, they grew a little. I tucked my head with a smile.
He put his hands on my shoulder, leveled his hazel eyes with my blue ones. “I want you to know,” he said, “that you are incredibly blessed.”
Somehow, those words triggered that out-of-body sort of viewpoint I needed, to survey my life not from the perspective of loss, but of gain. Of beauty. Incredibly blessed?
I’ve been grieving some losses lately. The other day on my jog, they seemed to bottleneck inside, trickling out my eyes as my feet kept pounding, step after step. I’m not sure what God’s doing, but as I described in the last post, grief seemed… appropriate.
Though God’s given me glimpses of hope I can’t ignore–it also seems to deny Him access to all of me when I’m ignoring I feel anything, and jumping right to “It’ll be okay.”
It was one night several years ago when a couple of good friends were helping me sort action figures, Legos, and other kid-detritus into bins in my boys’ room following dinner together while our husbands were out of town. During the meal, they had asked candidly about how I was doing with our adoption—which is to say, the adoption we painfully decided not to complete.
Truthfully, my heart felt raw, as if it were beating outside of my body. My grief felt so vulnerable, so scraped and skinned and gaping, that privacy was all I could fathom to deal with it. I felt oddly embarrassed that we’d taken steps out of obedience to pursue this, and told people about it–and then, also out of obedience, backed out.
I stood in her guest room, head tilted. Framed snapshots and professional photos surrounded a sizeable, well-framed headshot of her mother when she had still been healthy. Such a lovely, kind smile.
A three-year battle with a rare cancer took her four years ago now. A godly, loving woman, a pillar in her community and family, whose power of her absence belies of the quality of her presence.
My friend has four young children now, some who never got to bask in that smile. In a vulnerable moment, my friend’s voice thick with emotion, she confessed her confusion. Not a faithless one; more like the Psalms—all those that wind through despair but conclude with expressions of trust more profound because of it. She gestured at her home, littered with sippy cups and kid-detritus. She spoke of God’s sovereignty, then shook her head.
“I just don’t understand…how this is better without her.”
Looking back on those cloudy moments, I sometimes watch a few of the vague pieces of the puzzle pressed into place with a soft click. Ah, yes. I see it now. But many of them lay scattered, their intention fragmented.
Romans 8:28 is unquestionably a bedrock of our theology. I hang my life on it. No doubt, I had many willing to readily offer me this Scripture when I stood confused that God would use me in Uganda to take life that night; that He would choose the taxi I had hired. (Christians, myself included, can occasionally feel uncomfortable with ambiguity.)
Yet perhaps the exquisite poetry of the Psalms reiterates that those who mourn—who say, this world isn’t how it’s meant to be—are indeed blessed. Are indeed comforted, as they feel out the edges of their sorrow in its breadth and depth. As they understand just how much is mystery; how much they cannot control.
I’m in the midst of a life decision right now; those forks in the road. One seems preferable to all the rest for me. My reason says, Why, of course that’s the best choice.
To be honest, occasionally I find myself attempting to leverage my reasoning in God’s direction. There’s a bit of biblical precedent for this; Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus all presented God with well-considered arguments centered around His character, His people. God’s the author of rationalism and truth. He listens compassionately.
Still—sometimes my reasoning can lack reverence; can lack faith. It’s offered argumentatively rather than humbly. I hear Job’s words:
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know… (Job 42)
When I was eight, I broke my tibia in a nasty fall off the monkey bars at family camp. (I know, I know. Hey, I’ve already warned you that I possess notably limited amounts of coordination. My six-year-old niece utterly surpasses my monkey bar capacity.) Once we arrived at the doctor’s office, I knew they planned to intravenously anesthetize me. And I was terrified. I remember that I kept trying to convince the PA I was falling asleep. I didn’t need that silly injection!
My reasoning was limited to my eight-year-old brain, my eight-year-old understanding of the world.
Paul David Tripp writes,
We must not forget that we will never experience inner peace simply because all our questions have been answered. Biblical faith is not irrational, but it takes us beyond our ability to reason….
It is important to study, to learn, to examine, to evaluate, and to know. But we are not rationalists. We do not trust our reason more than we trust God. We do not reject what God says is true when it doesn’t make sense to us. (emphasis added; New Morning Mercies: A Gospel Devotional)
Keller notes elsewhere that this doesn’t make suffering good. He points to John 11, when Jesus, at the tomb of His close friend—whom He is knowledgeably about to raise (see His prior words to Martha)—still weeps. God overcomes the horror wrought on this world by sin and its consequences, its unbearable curse. But He still confirms that suffering isn’t the way He originally crafted this world to be.
And yet…I find unshakable confidence that those same reasons I can’t wrap my mind around God’s reasoning—the reasons that He is not me-sized—are the exact reasons He’s worthy of my worship.
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Really glad you're here. Welcome to a lingering conversation--about a head-turning, undeserved kindness that's turned my life on its head. This site's about Jesus in a pair of well-worn Levi's: faith walking around in our sneakers, scuffing up against real life and real people.
I hope you'll find some questions worth asking, conversations worth engaging, compassion that's compelling, and practical ideas to knead genuine love into relationships. (...With a side of slightly irreverent humor.)
After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have recently returned to the U.S., where we continue to work on behalf of the poor. I write and love on my family from Colorado.