Blogging about your personal life can be a little weird.
See, I’m hovering around the six-month mark of our move back to the U.S. from Africa. And when I’m truthful, this last month in particular has been a low point I haven’t hit in a long time. I wonder sometimes about what’s appropriate to share. I believe it’s Brene Brown who says she thinks it’s okay to be vulnerable on a larger scale if first she’s been vulnerable with those close to her. Yet there was also a point last year where I was like, All of this cyber-honesty is making my blog a real downer. All I need is a few posts about puppy mills and cancer and we’ll be all set!
But a common thread through all of these ideas on practical spirituality and relationships is, yes, the story God’s writing around me. Hence the classification “blog”. So I thought I’d let you peek in on my curious occupation this past week.
It’s very possible I’m showing my age with this. But remember One Fine Day with George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer? He’s Jack, popular reporter and ladies’ man; she’s Melanie, overprotective single mother. Of course, they’re starting to fall in love. At one point:
It needs to be said: I am a teeny bit of a freak show right now.
Yesterday, we moved out of our house, which was (after months of supreme effort) stripped and echoing, like a rumbling empty stomach. A half an hour before we left, we said goodbye to our dogs, who wagged their tails obliviously down the dirt road on their leashes with their new owners. (My children were in tears.) We said goodbye to our closest Ugandan friends. (My husband and I were in tears.) We prayed in a tight circle on the front lawn.
It was at least a month ago when my husband looked at me, my face pink and slimy again from tears that seemed to squeeze out at all the wrong times for months on end. He said, “I’m not frustrated you’re crying. I’m just remembering that you’re grieving, and that takes a long time.”
We lounged in the lamp lit half-dark: my husband and I, and our college friend. We’ve been friends for about two decades now, which makes us feel impossibly old. We still easily bend over in outright laughter over hilarious references to our college days and their mishaps. Now, though, we have things like minivans and tax returns, and my friend and I swap tips on how cast iron is really the best way to cook fish, or omelets, she says.
But years aren’t the only thing under the bridge. That night, I marveled sadly how out of our six parents, we wouldn’t have guessed we’d have lost two of them by this point. My husband and I have moved to Africa, caught malaria, gotten robbed, etc. My friend has dealt with multiple nightmarish diagnoses of those she loves.
I think perhaps a reader phrased it best a few weeks ago:
[My husband] and I have wrestled with our “calling” to adopt years ago. We clearly felt it, and we have second guessed it almost every day since then, wondering what were we thinking? Did God really call us to this or were we just emotionally carried away, or as [this post] put it, is it an act of worship? I think in my naïveté, I assume that if I obey what I think God is clearly placing on my heart, he will “reward” me somehow with happiness and not trouble. My very wise husband points out that this is very bad theology!
A friend of mine who eventually lost his wife, and the mother of his four children, to Lou Gehrig’s disease once recalled to me a profound moment with God. While he still cared for her as her body spiraled downward, he had lain on his bed, overcome by loss.
But God seemed to be pointing him toward thanks. Not able to immediately turn to full-on gratitude, my friend simply started small. He thanked God for the ability to breathe; for the bed he wept on; for the air conditioning. From there, his gratitude snowballed, steering him into praise.
My friend’s attitude has revolutionized my approach to my bad days; to my pain.
Last Sunday afternoon, while on his bicycle, my eleven-year-old was hit by a motorcycle.
While he was applying his brakes, sliding on rust-colored mud into the intersection, I was at home, deciding I would take a Sunday nap. I’d barely closed my eyes when one of my children called my name. This happens quite frequently, as one might imagine, and my husband has lightly chided me on contributing to our children’s entitlement with my jumpiness to their needs. So I waited to see if they’d come get me. I don’t remember what finally tipped me off that this was not the typical, “She won’t share the biiiike!”
I didn’t expect the stranger at the gate, or my weeping son, clutching his shoulder, a small tear in the new shirt his grandma had brought over from the U.S. The sight of his mangled front tire unsettled me; somehow torqued metal seems to accentuate the gravity of an accident, alluding that our limping bodies don’t tell the whole story.
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.