As Simple as it Gets

I can’t embellish or add anything flowery to this morning’s understanding and post. I was so crushed yesterday, and I recognize my deepest grief is the contradiction between what I know and read of God from the Word and what I see in my circumstances – which is nothing of God’s promises at all for over 18 months. A grand and hideous silence and contradiction. This morning it even hurt too much to let God’s word in and listen to any of my favorite Bible teachers. That contradiction slapped in my face again was more than I could bear.

“When your words came to me, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. . . . Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive (intermittent) brook, like a spring that fails?” (Jeremiah 15:16, 18)

So, the question to me on my morning dog walk was simply which side of this razor’s edge I’m going to fall on. Do I believe my circumstances reveal the character of God, or do I believe somehow, against all the grief within me, that God’s character gives meaning to my circumstances? Oh, believe me, I want with every fiber of my being for God to change my circumstances, BUT . . .

I love, I hope, I’m crushed – I rise in love, I hope, I’m crushed – I crawl back up to my feet in love . . . . Death would be easier than this life. BUT . . . it all comes down to the cross, that cross from which some days I hear a mocking laugh. Real, raw honesty here today, friends, but I don’t doubt for a minute that there is someone who will read this and identify exactly with my feelings. Keep reading!

It all comes down to the cross. For love, Jesus emptied himself of all his majesty and rights as Deity and took our betrayal and rejection of him, even my imploring questions now. He loved, he hoped, he was crushed, he rose up in love. What could it have meant to Jesus to be stripped – willingly, but stripped nonetheless – from all that incomprehensible union with pure joy and love and oneness? Whatever it meant, it meant winning me.

No, I’m not at all equating myself and my suffering with Jesus. It’s just that now I begin to understand the ferocious depth of his love for me. He IS love. I don’t BEGIN to grasp how much, but I desperately want to soak myself in him.

Sorry – words water down the impact of this truth.

Aaugh . . . as much as this still – hurts isn’t strong enough a word – grinds me to dust emotionally, I will not let my circumstances and the horrifying choices someone else is making inform me about the nature and love of my Jesus. Whatever meaning comes out of this in the end, it will be the meaning LOVE incarnate gives to me.

BUT “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . . . . If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also graciously give us all things? . . . For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 28, 31, 38-39)

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God of My Steps and Missteps

(entering the cave before descending to Mooney Falls, Havasu Canyon)

“Who would have thought,” I mused, “that parking at the wrong end of the mall would turn out to be so much fun?” What a morning of mistakes and missteps! They started when I read the wrong appointment card for my hand surgeon and missed a day of work, cutting our dogs’ walk short by 20 minutes so I could fly out the door, leap into the car, and speed to what I thought was a 9:00 am appointment. The puzzled look in the receptionist’s eyes morphed into a bemused grin of “Oh, this poor confused old lady” as she sadly informed me that my appointment wasn’t until four that afternoon. Wrinkles from too many hiking trips move younger people to see senility instead of a love for the outdoors in my appearance!

“Oh, crumb!” I chided myself. “I must have read the ‘4’ I wrote as a ‘9’!” Quickly shrugging off the $72 I had just lost in missed pay, I opted to make the best of the situation and save gas by popping over to the quick-fix jeweler in the nearby mall to get two bent prongs on my engagement ring repaired.

June in Arizona marks the beginning of the season when one is willing to walk from the farthest spot in the parking lot as long as it’s under a tree or even a healthy bush offering a spotty patch of shade, so I rejoiced in finding a parking space not only close to a mall entrance, but also beneath a leafy canopy of shade. Imagine my consternation to discover that the store whose entrance I parked near didn’t open for another hour! Grumbling at misstep number 2, I tramped back to my car and drove around to the northeast side of the mall, where surely the generic mall entrance MUST be open at 9:00 a.m. And true enough, it was.

Misjudgment number 3: the jewelry repair shop was in the northwest corner of the mall, so I had to walk the entire length of the mall!

“I needed the exercise anyway,” I philosophized, still leaning into optimism – or at least leaning away from mounting frustration. That meant I had to hike the length of the mall again at 10:00 when my ring was fixed, running the gauntlet of the now-open kiosks that flanked the food court.

“Have you heard of Dead Sea Minerals?” a young man called as I attempted to zip by.

“Yes- are you Ahava?” I shot back breezily, hoping to brush him off.

“No, we aren’t . . . ,” he replied.

“Oh, what the heck?” I thought, “I might as well get the nails on one hand buffed.” That’s fully what, and all, I expected to happen. Twenty minutes later, though, I wonderingly waved good-bye to Avi and Elan after chatting with them a bit, sharing what I recently learned of the meaning of the Hebrew letters Yud, Heh, Vav, Heh (the hand of grace nailed in grace), Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions . . . ,” and praying for the success of their little stand and for peace in Israel.

Elan was genuinely touched that I would pray for them. Yes, I walked away with a nail care kit, too, but I walked away with an awed joy that Jesus continues to use me, even in my brokenness, to touch other people’s lives with his love. After the person you’ve trusted the most tells you that you are worthless, hearing from Jesus that you are precious enough for him to speak through absolutely rains down worth, dignity, value and a joy that sets your heart dancing!

Oh, those blessed missteps that led me to a God encounter! Abba, can I dare to believe that even this trek through a valley of shadows deeper than death is, in fact, a pilgrimage under light I simply can’t see – a journey to a victory more beautiful than I can imagine?

Some days – days of mistakes and missteps – my heart dares to trust this is, in fact, the truth I can hang my heart on!