Category Archives: Daily Writings

The Old, Old Story (revisited)

Yesterday I posted something that I had been asked to write in one of my classes (the Old, Old Story). We were given two pieces of paper and ten minutes to write our retelling of the narrative of Scripture. While colored beads and the Roman Road crossed my mind, I ended up telling the story that I posted on Wednesday night – the story of the Bible as the story of love, as I’ve experienced it. I posted that first because it’s what I wrote first, what moved my heart first. But the significance of the assignment didn’t end there; the next week, to our surprise, the professor handed out two more pieces of paper and slowly, methodically, and gut-wrenchingly took us through the narrative of Scripture again. This time, it was through the lens of suffering. Story after story left a bitter and painful taste in my mouth. “Why does no one ever tell the story this way?” I wondered. And now that I had begun wrestling with it, in conviction and distress, I found myself crying out like the Israelites: “where the heck were you in all of this, God?” As he finished his presentation and left us in a room with our blank papers, I wrote the story again. I told it a little differently this time:

In the beginning God created

. . . everything.

He created beauty, nature, time, and space. It was so very good.

Then God created man and woman. He loved them; He loved them so very much. He loved them so much that He walked with them and talked with them, in perfect, unbroken communion. That was good too.

Then sin was introduced to the story and the Enemy of God, this fallen angel, convinced the man and woman to doubt their God. As this relationship with God is ripped apart, as God in His perfection can’t live among their sin. The world fell under a blanket of darkness. The story continues, however, it is full of much pain.

Man and woman worked the land with toil, while siblings began murdering one another. Languages are confused and the earth is flooded. There is death around every corner. The people of God wander in the desert, now dying because of famine, and the ones that live are sold into slavery. It is generation after generation of hardship and of suffering. It is the cries and tears of a people who wonder where their God is and why it seems as if He’s abandoned them.

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Yet, God allows it. He cries along, as the story continues to challenge, oppress, and hurt the ones He loves. The thing is, there is no easy answer for why He allows it. It’s not the kind of story you put in a children’s book because, for all the moments that God is faithful and pours out His love on people who continually reject Him, there are an equal number of moments where it’s just hard.

However, for all the suffering, God’s sovereignty is present in it all. He mourns, laments, and cares for His people, until, in His perfect timing, He physically enters into the scene. God – the triune, relational, omnipotent, omniscient God – takes on the form of a servant, takes on flesh, and walks as one of us.

He walks as one acquainted with all suffering. He feels for us, with us, and as one of us. He grieves the loss of loved ones, lives in poverty, flees his home, faces abandonment, rejection, and false accusations. Until ultimately, His love for us brings Him to the uttermost suffering. Physical torture, emotional strife, as the weight of every sin is placed upon Him. Bearing every punishment that we, the sinful, broken, unfaithful people deserved. He suffers not only with us, but for us. For the sake of repairing what we broke, what we deny, and what we could not atone for.

He doesn’t stay defeated, however, but rises from the dead. His power breaks death and hell. He ascends to the place of perfection – where there are no tears, pains, or suffering. He repairs the relationship so that we can enter into holistic communion with our all-loving, all-holy God. . .

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. . .and that’s where we are going to end the story for now.

It feels trivial and almost sacrilegious or inappropriate to move onto some glorious explanation of heaven, Jesus’s second coming, and the eternal hope of the world in God’s ultimate victory. Because, while that is a very important part of the story – a beautiful, integral, necessary part – it doesn’t feel fair to move on just yet. Because the whole beginning isn’t fair and there’s no way to overlook that now (although, I didn’t seem to have a problem often doing it up until this point). It’s not fair that David lived as a King while the Israelites were enslaved for 400 years. It’s not fair that everything, except Noah and the animals, were destroyed in a flood or that Abraham and Sarah couldn’t conceive a baby for 100 years. It’s not fair that Job lost everything or that Naomi’s husband and sons all died. It’s not fair that today there are 6.3 million people who have fled everything and often everyone they know. It’s not fair that Allie’s dad died of cancer or that Ezra had a brain tumor that took his little seven year old life. None of it is fair.

It’s also not fair that Jesus died on the cross for the sins that we deserved to pay an eternal price for. It’s not fair that Jesus repaired the relationship that we broke – that we continually break. It’s not fair that God Himself would be acquainted with suffering, suffering that He didn’t deserve. He didn’t owe us anything and yet He felt for us, with us, and because of us. It may not be fair, but it’s just, and His sovereignty overarches it all – whether it makes sense to us or not. It’s not fair, but it’s love. And love seldom makes sense.

This is a story of incomprehensible love and suffering. Both love and suffering contain some level of meaning and philosophical reasoning (the class I’m taking this semester on Suffering proves that). But it doesn’t mean that we need to move on from the affective just yet. Because when I look into the eyes of a refugee who has just lost their home, family, and freedom, I can’t just jump to the glory. The narrative of Scripture itself doesn’t just jump to the glory. The point is that glory has come at an incredible price – sometimes the price of our sin, the sins of others, or the price of a world that groans because this is not the way it was created to be. We need to be okay with sitting in that, lamenting in that, for a minute. That was the whole point of what I learned at the Home of Hope and wrote about in “because I’m with you.

It’s okay that we can’t move on to, “but glory!” just yet.  It’s actually necessary. Not only would that diminish painful experiences, but it also neglects a view of the Gospel that highlights the empathy and embodiment of Jesus. The incarnation was not simply about Christ becoming Love and redeeming our sins unto Himself; it was also about walking as one of us, suffering and being tempted as we are (Hebrews 2:18, Philippians 2:8).

It is a sad reality, one that I have clearly, albeit non-consciously, fallen into. The reality that we only see the Gospel via the lens of beauty. While it is a true and necessary lens, it is incomplete if it ignores the pain of millions of people (if I allow it to ignore my own pain), including our Lord, past, present, and future. There is a necessity in lament that we, as American evangelicals, or perhaps as humans, are often uncomfortable with. It is why we prefer movies that have resolution, move on quickly from news articles that end in depression, or get squirmy when people cry in front of us. This narrative, this old old story, has the most glorious, pervasive, incredible ending and victory that we would imagine. However, that does not mean we need to jump there just yet. To overlook or brush past suffering is to discredit and delegitimize so much of our human experience, including the experience of our Lord. Lament is heavy, but it’s beautiful and it’s an important lens that we need to look through. It allows us to see ourselves and the world with a heartbreaking reality, to cry out for God with the same kind of gut-wrenching cries He used, and it ultimately frames hope in its magnificent, brilliant, eternal light.

The Old, Old Story

In the beginning, God created . . .

. . . and He created everything.

Every star, every blade of grass, every rock that has eroded into the sea. Night and day, every animal, every insect, every wave, He created. It was all beautiful and very good. Then, He created man and woman. He loved them and He was in relationship with them. God walked with them, talked with them. He loved them so very, very much.

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But, then sin is introduced to the story, as the Enemy of God, this former fallen angel, distracts man and woman away from their First Love. God, in his perfection, can’t tolerate this sin. Yet He loves His people, so thousands of years pass as He constantly draws His people back to Himself. It makes Him sad and angry, but He loves these people so much. Sin keeps getting in the way, but story after story God faithfully and relentlessly draws near to the ones that He created, sustains, and loves.

Then we reach the climax of that love – God the Father, in His mysterious, triune, relational nature, sends His Son, and extension of Himself, to walk among us. To be like us. To serve us. To be tempted in every way. To model the heart of God for us. Ultimately this Son gives up His own life and perfection to die a humiliating, horrific death, as the blameless sacrifice, as we could never atone, to repair the relationship. He brings us into the fullness of God’s infinite love for us. Jesus took the punishment we deserved, because of His great love for us.

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Yet it wasn’t merely His death that is significant, for three days later He rose from the dead, defeating both death and sin, repairing the breech, and drawing us into communion with God. He left His very Spirit, His Holy Spirit, to indwell us, that we might know and remain in fellowship with God, even on earth. The perfection of this fellowship that we will ultimately come into, as we step across eternity and live in eternal relationship with God in Heaven (or when Jesus returns to completely heal the earth).

It is the grandest story of love – of a God who created everything in love, who drew an unfaithful people to Himself in love, who chose to walk as one of us in love, who paid the price for the sin that we deserved, in love.

Love who rose again, defeating death and sin, who sent His Spirit to testify to our souls of that love.

This is our God, who daily, minute by minute, is displaying, speaking, and proclaiming His great love for us.

We confess that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We repent of the ways in which we reject Him and His love. We believe in who He says He is and all that He’s done for us. We go out and continue to tell people of this great love of our great God!

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When God says Wait

Wait.

How about now, I mutter.

Wait.

Now.

There’s demand in my voice.

I can hear the whine of a two year old

In my prayer

But sometimes I feel obligated

To use a more mature voice when I pray

As if I can hide

All the vulnerable pulses of my heart.

I trust you, Lord

I’ll surrender everything

I only want what You want

I’m being honest, but…

But it’s just this waiting,

It’s hard.

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Daughter, beloved,

Wait.

There’s a such tension

In this thing we call waiting,

Because the Holy Spirit is still moving

Exciting places, unexpected ways.

Through open doors and illuminated circumstances

Except not in this.

Why not this, I cry

If this isn’t your dream, Lord

Then let it die.

I don’t want it if it’s not Jesus.

 

Not yet, He whispers

Except I don’t want not yet

I want now,

I’d even prefer never, I think.

I’d rather have to surrender the dream completely

Then give up my timetable for it

Then to wait,

Continuing a daily surrender of my perceptions,

A liturgy with a grinding, uninvited, glorious trust.

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Was it as hard for Abraham and Sarah

To wait for one hundred years

Without a child?

To live their lives

Pursuing God,

Embracing other answered prayers,

As the clock ticked on?

Waiting.

As hard as it was to carrying him up to that altar?

I wonder.

 

I sigh,

Today, that’s my surrender.

Whatever you want, Lord

I trust you.

Wait, He says again.

So I’ll wait.

22 drafts.

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My mom calls out as she heads up to bed, “don’t forget your devo for tomorrow!”

Believe me, we’ve been here before. One of the many perks of being Lori MacMath‘s daughter is that she gives me a little leniency when it comes to turning these articles in. Thanks, mom. Except, per usual, I’m staring blankly at my screen. This time, twenty-two drafts stare back at me.

Twenty-two. That’s a whole lot of unfinished pieces of writing, if you ask me.

Here we are, sitting on my bed, listening to a nighttime worship playlist on Spotify, pounding away at my keys. It’s as if I expect my fingers to untangle with words what my mind can’t. And yet, sentence after sentence, I just keep hitting save draft.

You could call it 22 ideas, 22 beginnings, 22 glimpses into something that feels much bigger than myself, 22 pieces of my heart, 22 stories, memories, and lessons of walking with the Lord. But for as beautiful and poetic and all of those things sound, at the end of the day they are simply drafts. Unfinished. Incomplete. Fragmented. Less than whole. Something I can’t post. So I sit here disappointed with the drafts.

Yet, what constitutes this difference between post and draft? Resolution. Answers. Summary. The pastoral “3 step take-home” climax at the end of a sermon. It’s the bow that gets tied around the present or having a 30-second elevator pitch. It’s what compels us to put puzzles together and why it bothers us when a piece is missing. We want completion, fullness, finality, and understanding. We know that all good writing has a thesis that ties the whole piece together. So what do you do when you can’t seen to find the thesis? When conclusions are elusive, summaries seem far, and life is full of more cliff-hangers than epilogues…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

I don’t have any good three-point devos right now. I can’t seem to wrap up any of the 22 drafts I’ve started. I don’t have answers when my sister comes home from work and tells me about the cards she addressed for thousands of parents who have lost a child. I don’t have a clear way to articulate everything that’s happened with my body, health, and heart these past ten years or what it means that things seem to be changing. I can’t put into words all that I’ve cried, felt, seen, and ultimately can’t begin to understand as I watched one of my best friend’s watch her dad pass away. There isn’t a blog post big enough for everything that my recent work with refugees has shown me. Yet, I think that is all more okay than we allow it to be. 

I think that it’s okay to feel like my life is still in draft mode. To have thoughts without a thesis, hopes that are unwritten, circumstances that seemed tangled, and questions that are unanswered. More often than not I don’t have answers, summaries, 3 take-home points, or bows to tie on everything the Lord is doing. And that’s okay.

I sit here trying to write the post that should’ve been due a month ago but I don’t have words. Because there aren’t words. When I look at where I am, what I’m thinking, feeling, and doing, it doesn’t comprise an article, but rather a draft. Unfulfilled longings. Unmet expectations. Waiting. Growing. Learning. Questioning. Growing. More waiting.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

It’s in our nature to want resolution because ultimately that is what we will have. Completion and wholeness, dressed fully and perfectly in the righteousness of Christ before the throne. Our lives are stuck in the editing department until the day we see Him face to face. Piece by piece our story is being written – unfinished and fragmented as it may feel until that day.

So I’ll hit publish tonight. Because as unfinished as we may feel, we must learn to live, with fullness, in the tension and the drafts. Living with the hope of an ending that will be more whole, beautiful, and complete than the greatest “happily ever after, the end.”

surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?

will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?

will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall?

will I sing hallelujah? will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine…when all I will do is forever worship You.

(Bart Millard // Mercy Me)