Updated: Jan 11, 2022
"Sometimes the future is scary. You peer around the curtain of your heart and look out at the world... So many things seem to be plotting against you. You want to go hide in your closet to pray, to shelter yourself from the outside world, but God says no. Open your window wide towards Jerusalem, throw caution to the wind, trust me, and pray. And so you do. You obey God. You trust and throw your heart wide open. And the next morning your enemies are there. Smiling smugly as they carry you off to the lions den. You catch a glimpse of the lions below you... Horrible beasts... Your greatest fears looking you in the eye. You are stripped... naked before your enemies, and thrown in. You fall... And fall... You can hear their breath in the silence, and see them looking up at you. After all this, this is where trusting God got you. Face to face with your greatest fears, self hatred, bitterness, regrets... The ugliest parts of what makes you yourself. At the top, the last sliver of daylight disappears, you hear a clunk, the stone slides into place. There is no escape. You're alone with the lions... No way to defend yourself. You scream up at the closed opening, shaking your fist at the God who tricked you, who allowed this to happen. You yell and cry until you are hoarse. Then suddenly, you are quiet. There is an erie stillness. You turn slowly around to see the lions sitting in a circle, staring at you. They are ugly and mangy. Their teeth are showing and their eyes are evil, staring you in the face. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The lions look hungry. What invisible force is holding them back? You should have been ripped to shreds before you hit the floor. You’re first thought is one of hope. Maybe this is the hand of God. But why would he do that? Why would he have let you be thrown down here if he meant to save you? It must be another trick. You yell at God again. Just get this over with! Why are you prolonging this? Just get it over with… let me die and escape this misery..."
This is me. In a tough time several years ago, questioning why life seems to keep bringing me face to face with the lions. You can see it's not finished. Four years later that particular situation is over, but I have not been able to make sense of this concept.
We look at the Bible and see the miracles. Happy endings. Here is what we don't see...
Sara and Abraham growing old, watching their friends raise children and then welcome grandchildren. Can you imagine enduring baby showers for 90 years, while trying to believe a voice in the night really told your husband that your family would be like the stars in the sky?
Gideon's dismay as his army disapates to 300 men, and his men's reaction when he gave them pitchers to take to battle.
The 20 year old soldier muttering under his breath as his enemies shout insults over the Jericho wall... "All of this useless MARCHING. We look like idiots. We've been doing this six days already.
David, looking Goliath in the eye, the moment after his stone left the sling... The agony of not knowing if he would hit or miss.
Samson, leaning against the pillars, wondering if God was speaking to him, or if he was just a crazy fool... Low down skum like the Philistines said... Trash that God would never use to do a miracle.
Paul and Silas' conversation before they found their courage and got the pitch to sing that first song in jail.
The feeling of betrayal in the hearts of Mary and Martha, each holding one of their brother Lazarus's hands as they turned cold.
The emotional exhaustion of the Israelites... The plagues ending in that eerie countrywide howl of mothers finding their firstborn dead, the adrenaline rush of fleeing the country, praising God and following his amazing cloud and pillar... But... the route was a little strange. It ended at the ocean. And then... The knot in their stomachs at the rising cloud of dust and the distant sound of Egyptian chariot wheels...
Why doesn't God doesn't use "common sense?" I don't know. But he didn't back then and he doesn't now. While he is a God of order, he arranges stars into dippers and hunters instead of rows, plants into rainforests instead of vegatable gardens, and gives one planet rings and another moons.
Our world seems like it's in a mess right now. Men are trying to stop a powerful disease, and while we respect their knowledge and efforts, this disease probably cannot be totally stopped with masks and quarantines, temperature checks and curfews. Right now we are in the den staring out at mangy lions, by the Red Sea listening to the rumble of chariot wheels. Maybe we think we are the faithful soldiers, marching dutifully around Jericho, washing our hands and keeping 6 feet away from everyone... But it's Tuesday, April 7 and how long will we have to keep this up? I don't know the answer. But God did not create this world for us to hole up in our toilet paper stocked houses watching cat videos on our phones. Social distancing is not his long term plan, nor will he make it our "new normal"... the only way for the world to survive. Panic is definitely not even his short term plan. We need to stay calm and believe that once again we will shake hands and give hugs. We will have youth rallys where the stage is packed with people and music swells out to a church building packed with people. We will be able to comfort those who have lost loved ones, and meet a friend at a coffee shop. There will be weddings and bridal showers and baby showers, and nursing homes will be full of visitors. Airports will be teeming with dressed-up, excited people... The air of adventure back, and Walmart will be sold out of aloe vera gel, not because people are making hand sanitizer, but because they are all sunburned from a weekend at the beach. God will make this happen. Everything we know about what he loves and considers beautiful tells us this. So march around your house with the Clorax bottle one more day, and try to ignore the rumblings and dust created by crazy stories, politics, and dire predictions. Hang on to our creative God instead.
There is a song... I Choose to Trust. I have always thought of it as a pious parrot voice at my shoulder, trying to tell me just how I should feel about the uncertainty in my life... An idealistic, unrealistic voice. A friend told me once that when she got really stressed out, that song went around in her head faster and faster, matching the speed of her spinning thoughts. I have not learned to choose the "feeling" of trust in God, but, Mr. Parrot on my shoulder, here are a few things I have learned to choose. Maybe I don't do all of them perfectly everyday, but the more I do, the more my heart is calm.
I choose to cook and enjoy it even if I'm not cooking for the person I want to. (Sorry to my family for the honesty!)
I choose to stay off the news.
I choose to go outside... To take walks and listen to the neighbor's lawnmower, to notice the brilliant blue sky and the sharp shadows of the leaves on the ground, to lay in my hammock and listen to the frogs and feel the grass on my toes.
I choose yoga... To make my muscles burn in the morning, and my body relax into sleep at night.
I choose to have real conversations with friends and not pass on "coronastories." Thank you to every one who has reached out for a real conversation.
I choose to wear the sandals that Zèzè sent me every day.
I choose to believe that my engagement was planned by God, and that the church and our families are behind it, and the voice telling me that I'm stuck in the US forever is from the devil.
I choose to stay packed up and ready to leave.
I choose to sew beautiful little things for my kitchen across the ocean.
Most importantly, I choose to pray. On my knees. Out loud. For God to heal the world, instruct the people in places of responsibility, and protect the day that he has for us to get married and the people he wants to share that day with us. I feel the power when we listen to church services and know that minister's prayer is going out throughout the whole North American Church, and I want that power. I want to pray like Daniel, not hidden in the closet, but with my window and my heart wide open and vulnerable, embracing God's plan and his solution.