In Every Season

All of my life

In every season

You are still God

I have a reason to sing

I have a reason to worship

“Desert Song” (Hillsong)

 

Yes. Gospel truth there. No matter what season we are in, God is still God. And we do have a reason to sing and worship Him.

This is not a season I am happy about or content with. My heart is crying after the absence of God. He is distant and far off. It is a struggle to maintain a relationship with someone this far away. Many evenings I want to just give up and give in to the doubts that are bigger than my shards of hope. I want to just believe the questions in my head and forget the facts in my heart. It’s easier.

But I have not been called to an easy life. Ugh. Far from it. This season is no different. In fact, it feels like a replay from about 3 ½ years ago when all of life fell in around me. That was a time when death and loss seemed to be as near as my breath on the cold window pane. Close enough to touch, close enough to feel.

The darkness in my soul screams for the light of Christ to break into the empty caverns and fill the hollow spaces. I am desperate to feel something—anything. Anything but this sorrow, fear, and loss.

Today marks the day that five months ago James went to be with Jesus. And today is 25 short days from when Stephen went to be with Jesus. One friend gone because of the darkness in another, and the other gone from the darkness in his own soul. Oh, God, where are You when our hopeless hearts decide we are done living, breathing, being here? Where are You, when we can’t see You anymore? Where are You when the deep darkness of our souls drowns us? Where, God, where?

I understand the darkness, the fear, the questions, the sorrow that weighs us down. But I wonder if the perceived absence of God isn’t far worse than all of these put together. Could it be that this very space in our lives is what causes us to try to end it all? When the great chasm in our lives is devoid of God, do we attempt to fill it with other things, relationships? And when the gaping hole still screams at us to fill it up with something, we can’t take it anymore and forever silence the cries in our head and the tears on our faces?

My heart is dying for Jesus to show up just in time to bring life from death in our souls. For the deepest aches to hear words of hope and salvation from our Savior King. For all the people whose cavern is missing something—Someone, to find Jesus the great Treasure that fits the hole and fills it up. Just in time.

And for all of us who are attempting to live our lives with this great felt absence of Jesus, I pray He shows up. Eventually. Just in time for us too. I hope that as we continue to live lives like He is present, He will again make an appearance. May we believe in the bottom of our hearts this promise from The Chronicles of Narnia, “When the King comes, he will set everything right again.” Though all around us whispers how gone Jesus is, my prayer for all of us is that we will hear the voice of Jesus who said He is with us for all time, will never leave us, and loves us with an everlasting love. That is reality compared to the felt perception that He has left us.

And, God, I hope we can be real. Real enough to get help, see hope, and live. Choose to be present in what feels like Your absence. Choose to love You through the questions and the darkness. Choose to live.

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Who{se} Am I?

Sometimes, I liken my brothers to Pa Ingles in the Little House on the Prairie books—always restless, always searching for something else, something different. Never content to both plant trees and stay long enough to enjoy their shade.

But the same trait is also present in me. I have an insatiable desire to see more, do more, be more, know more. While I love constants, rhythm, and ordinary days; there is a piece of my soul that longs to be where I’m not, can’t be, or never will be. I dream of the sea—an overwhelming bowl of blue, a liquid salt shaker, and endless back floats looking into the sky but seeing heaven. I also long for Lake Michigan in chilly autumn—rough, loud waves ever pressing into rocks with determination on their faces as they seek to go higher on the shore every time. And I miss my secluded farm along the Interstate—tall, gentle grass nodding in greeting as I pass, a pond of stillness at my feet, and the squeaky windmill with the broken blade.

At night I wake up but I’m not in any of these places. Many times I wake up looking for something but I never find it. The crying of the owls in the trees outside my window echoes the question of my heart: Who? Who? Who? Who am I?

The deep places of my soul know the answer to this longing. It’s not so much a question of who am I? Rather it is wrapped up in who{se} am I.

It’s the little trailer on this word that makes the difference.

There are many things that “have” us—relationships, finances, career, stress. These things and so many others like them can consume us. These things can lead to the restless, desperate crying of our hearts to go somewhere else, be someone else, do something else.

Whose seems to be far more accurate than who. For me who seeks to answer things I may or may not know. It contains descriptors like: personality, preferences, work—things I know about myself; but it also carries lists of things I don’t know about myself—strengths, giftings, why I do and don’t do the things I do, etc. This latter list always leads to more questions and less answers. For the life of me I don’t know who I am. Most days I don’t even know why I’m here in this exact space of time, in this definite place of the entire universe.

The who of my being is what makes me long for something more, something else. But I get it all wrong when I start with this premise. It was never meant to be the opening question.

Instead the real answer is found in whose I am. Whether we like it or not, something has us—even owns us, if you will. Who I am is hidden in whose I am.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a beautiful poem from his prison cell in Nazi-controlled Germany titled “Who Am I?” Throughout the poem, we feel the tension of restless longing to be somewhere else, mixed with the questions about who he really is and who people think he is. And do the two even match? Or is he two people?

By the closing lines, you can sense a noticeable shift to peaceful resignation of knowing the answer to the biggest question:

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

No matter who I really am, I know so well Whose I am.

Whoever I really am, Jesus, you know, I am Yours.

All is Grace

Tonight’s post is a little different from my usual posts. This is not a post I wanted to write but the topic is near to my heart and something I feel passionately about. It is also something I have both struggled with and something I understand. Finally, it is something that Jesus died for. And in the end, all is grace.

Suicide. The word is scary and painful. We don’t know what to make of it or how to feel it. It is deeply bitter and ties our stomachs in knots. It is my guess that most of us know something about it—far more about it than we wish we did.

Tonight, I want to remember the life of a young man I did ministry with. I first met him one glistening winter day, and he had beautiful blue eyes and a sparkling smile to match. Though it was such a short season that our paths crossed, I was blessed by his presence on Sundays. He loved Jesus and his excitement and joy in him was so evident. We had many good conversations, as I frequently got to be the team leader for my nursery room, so did check-in, while he ran the check-in kiosk for all the nursery rooms.

We had similar faith stories and congruent purposes in life. Though neither one of us had outgoing personalities, something resonated with us and we talked like we’d known each other long before meeting at church. The half-hour or so of time we had on Sundays always went far too fast and before we knew it, I went into the nursery room and he went back upstairs. The weeks we did check-in together were some of my best, as I both loved the joy that poured from his heart and face in all his conversations and interactions and his deep commitment to following Christ.

But I have regrets with our friendship. I didn’t get to know him beyond church and didn’t keep in touch with him after we went our separate ways that spring. With situations like this, one always wonders, “should I have noticed something?” or “what if I’d played a more active role in his life?” or “what if life had gone differently for him? What then?”

Only God really knows. Only God fully knows the excruciating pain that drives us to desperate extremes. Only God.

I have no answers for this, but I fully trust in the sovereignty and goodness of God in these terrible circumstances. All I know is that Jesus died for everything. His death nailed depression, worthlessness, and suicide to the cross. There is freedom from death in the death and life of Jesus; but not everyone experiences that freedom in this life.

We take our eyes off Jesus and get consumed with the horribleness of this life. When life is a tragedy, nothing looks or feels right anymore. And just like Peter, we sink. We cannot walk on water without Jesus. And we can’t row our own boats in the storms without Him. Nor can we fight the deep, dark waves of depression and death by ourselves. We were made to do life with Him. We were made for Him.

I know nothing, but in the end, all is grace. Jesus is grace. And that is enough.