I have some big news and for those who read my last newsletter (The God of Lost Things) you’ll really get why. If you haven’t and want to subscribe or read the last one in the archives you can do that here–>
I may have been a child, traipsing about with the Himalayas as my backdrop.
I sang worship songs in a circle, my crisscrossed chicken legs splayed out in every direction. God was both nebulous and near. A common Holy thing. As ordinary and mysterious as anything. Spirit was something I understood could move people and be felt, something that whispered up against me with the calling of hope but not something I understood to belong to me or I to it.
I don’t know if all children have faith, I have a son who’s six and he questions every bible story. No flannel graph and Sunday school story is going to be robust enough to wrap up the loose ends and in all honesty, I’m thankful for my doubter. I didn’t ask enough questions as a child, I held them up in my frame, tucked down like a dirty secret. I never voiced my unbelief, my hard questions, my risky asks. I kept peace and kept quiet, and eventually found that I had neither peace nor quiet. The questions haunted me.
And doubt followed the unanswerable. In dark corners of shame and questions and how could my God be good when I hurt? So maybe it started there somewhere.
My story is long and complicated, as I’m sure are yours when you really get down to your truths and lies. Your deceptions uncovered and your years brushed off and rummaged through.
I came to Christ on a cracked and peeling linoleum floor, when in all my 16 years I couldn’t fathom a reason to go on. I questioned how to end my life without making a mess. I didn’t want to break my mom. She’d already been broken enough. Oblivion was really what I desired. An end to the pain. Or maybe it was finding my way back to the place where I didn’t doubt, a place where God seemed clearer. A place where I could belong to Him.
I write about beauty in brokenness because that has been my story. Every point redeemed, every pain ransomed, but it’s not a fast process. I’ll be 37 in September and I still doubt and hold questions in my chest just under my ribs, pushing them away from my lips into the darkest parts of my soul. I still try to hide from God, ashamed He’s shown me again and again that He is good and yet still I struggle to trust Him to care for me in abundance.
And here’s the strange thing. I know God will prvoide in some way or another.
But oh how I fear the desires of my heart. I have been trained to die to myself. I have been trained to look for every blessing in the midst of suffering, squeeze out every ounce of gratitude when my body or my mind is broken. I cock an eyebrow and sit back detached when people espouse to know that God will give them the house, the child, the dream job, the miraculous healing. I believe God can and does do all those things, but He’s not under obligation to me to make my dreams come true.
He is still good when the house burns to the ground, the child never comes, the job is tedious and demanding, and the body diminishes and fails.
And so I pray wide vague prayers that have more to do with my own heart and contentment than any move of God’s hand upon my circumstances or desires. I don’t ask for things often. I pray as if I don’t know Him at all.
A few weeks ago I was walking along with my friend, Amber and we were chatting about my childhood. I don’t remember how it came up but I told her we left the mission in Nepal and flew to Holland because I had been diagnosed with leukemia. And here’s where it got interesting. Because somewhere between leaving Nepal and the time in the hospital being treated for Leukemia, my tests came back with abnormalities inconsistent with leukemia and my blood counts were normalizing and while they didn’t say I was healed, they all scratched their heads and wondered if I had been misdiagnosed this whole time because that doesn’t happen.
“God healed you,” she replied in that easy southern drawl.
The words just slid off her tongue as if she had been put there to prophesy, to preach truth.
And then I went on to mumble something about how I didn’t know but maybe and I don’t have medical records from then and I was churning over the fact that she just named this miracle so easily as if you could pull down the heavens and claim your space among God’s most blessed and cherished and loved.
I realized I have never really claimed that God healed me. I have always explained it away in vague terms. I was diagnosed, they said I wasn’t doing well and prepared my parents for the probable loss of their child, and then I was getting better and nothing had been done but prayer.
I have never claimed that miracle. It seems too grand an experience to accept on my behalf.
I can claim God healed me from much of the shame I carry about being sexually abused and assaulted. I can claim God provided when He used tragic circumstances to bring me to know His love. I can claim God sees me when a peony blooms next to my hospital bed when I’m in agonizing pain.
I see God in the suffering but do I see Him in the miraculous?
I have learned to seek God when hope is planted and deep and crushed under earth unfurling with potential, I have learned to say my God is good even when I hurt, but do I see the bud blooming and still with no work left to be done but bask in light?
During our time in Holland, they wheeled me under the glare of hospital lights and turned my limp and fragile body sideways and my father held me curled as a hollow shell as they did the spinal tap. I hurt and cried and looked up at him and his eyes flooded with tears as I struggled against his restrain. He told me years later it was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do because I was so little and didn’t understand how her daddy could allow these people to hurt me. At one point I cried out, “Daddy, make them stop!” He wished a thousand times he could have lifted me up and taken me home right then and there but it was for my own good.
I often still see God this way in my life. When I’m struggling against the trials, the pain that comes, the questions. I see God as my father who’s weeping for the pain, but holding me down to endure, for my good and His glory. Somewhere along the line I’ve relented to that. And only that. I’ve lost sight of the fullness of God.
We signed on the house this morning and if you don’t understand why it’s such a huge deal, here’s some of the backstory. Josh left work in his painter’s whites and signed the papers, eggshell beige splattered on his hand. He scribbled his name on the line that says to me, God will provide.
He has seen me and heard my prayers. I’m learning to ask.
God is that father, concerned about my good. But today God was something new to me. A side that’s always been there but I’ve failed to recognize. He is the God who healed me.
I’m learning God is the kind of father who brings home a brand new 10 speed bike in Cerulean blue for no other reason than it will bring his child such joy and happiness to circle the block with the wind in her hair, her face unfolding in a radiant smile. To hear her squeal when she hoists herself onto the seat and gets her legs pumping picking up speed. A God who not only sees our desires but places them there and longs to provide for them. The father who doesn’t shoo away his children’s dreams and prayers and hopes. The bike doesn’t make the child love her father.
The bike shows how the Father loves his daughter in one more way.