A God whose timing is not my timing

Advent is a season of waiting, of anticipating, of expecting. It’s a time when we prepare ourselves to celebrate the first coming of Jesus and acknowledge in our hearts the desire to see the second coming, when all will be set right, when every tear will be wiped away, when there will be no more sorrow or shame.

DSC05549In Isaiah 9:2, the prophet speaks of a great light shining upon the people who are walking in darkness, a long-awaited hope finally coming to pass. As Christians, we believe that it is in the person of Jesus that we find this hope — the one who will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This is the vision, the dream, the future-to-come, that we long for: when Christ comes again, when God is in charge; this is the kingdom of God here on earth in all its glory; this is the hope of the world, the desire of nations, the longing of all creation.

But we are not yet fully there. And in recognizing that we are not yet there, wherever “there” may be for us — full healing and restoration in our bodies, reconciliation with a friend or a loved one, freedom from addictions and self-destructive habits, the end of racism and other systemic injustices — we acknowledge the darkness in which we walk. And sometimes that truth feels just as, if not more, tangible than the hope we claim to have.

Advent, Christmas, the end of the calendar year. These are all interesting times, full of conflicting emotions and thoughts and feelings — joy mixed with sorrow, resolution clashing with regret, memories of happiness wrestling with those of sadness. And it’s okay to be in that place; it’s okay to sit in that uncertainty.

TealightsIt’s okay to realize that you cannot rescue yourself from the situation you’re in; you cannot change the person who refuses to change him- or herself; you cannot make everything neat and tidy and organized into little boxes, as much as you may try. Because it often takes being in that place for us to cry out to God for deliverance, for us to realize how much we needed Jesus to come the first time, how much we need Jesus to come again, and how much we need Jesus in the in-between.

Over ten years ago, back when I was in college, I wrote this psalm of lament; and I found it recently and thought it’d be appropriate to share during this season of Advent.

God of silence, hear me;

hear my cry and speak.

Just as you heard the cries of the Israelites in Egypt

and rescued them, hear my cry and rescue me;

Just as you heard the cries of humanity for a savior

and dwelled among them, dwell with me.

You are God, maker of heaven and earth,

the One who speaks in the whirlwind and the whisper,

in the fire and the flood,

in the desert and the city.

 

Yet I cannot hear you. Are you speaking? Am I not listening?

I strain my ears to hear your voice. And all I hear is noise.

Have you gone away, left me to fend for myself?

You promised to be with us always.

You spoke before, and I heard; I listened, and I heard, and I rejoiced.

 

So I will wait again, for you are a God whose timing is not my timing,

whose ways are higher than mine, whose patience outstretches mine.

I will trust in your faithfulness, in your commitment to me,

for you have proved true time and again.

I will trust in your presence with me, even when I cannot feel you;

even when I cannot hear you, I will follow you.

 

And you will prove true once more;

I will hear you speak again.

My Most Important Question

It’s become tradition in our church (at least as much as toddler-aged churches can establish traditions) to have a summer series entitled, “My Most Important Question,” where we have people in our community share about the questions and struggles that they’ve gone through–or are going through.

We don’t believe that you have to leave your doubts at the door in order to be accepted; you don’t have to reach a certain level of accomplishment or certainty to find a place with us; just as Jesus welcomes all, regardless of where they might be on their journey, so we welcome all, too.

I’m always encouraged to hear people’s stories–it reminds me that our God is a great big God and he works in amazing and mysterious ways.

Last week:

Yesterday:

 

Angela asks, “Where’s my joint?”

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm a Christian

Sometimes I stray real far from where I want to be, from where I know I ought to be. Some days, I don’t look like a Christian at all. Sometimes I wonder whether I really have changed. Life, every day, is a series of decisions that lead me toward or away from God; sometimes I make wise decisions and sometimes I make stupid, sinful ones. But each time, I know God’s mercy and his grace.

And I know that he still loves me.

I was so sure …

“Maybe you’ll get married before you graduate,” my friend joked. I laughed, my mind going back to two years ago …

***

On August 7, 2005, Ally and I got back together for the last time. Of course, we thought it was the last time because we’d be getting married—that was the basis on which we got back together. We’d dated on and off for three years, we’d known each other for four; and we’d exhausted the other options, it seemed—there was no more time for ‘let’s just see what happens’.

Of course, in retrospect, this is not the best reason to get back together with a view to getting married. But retrospectively, I know that it didn’t work out. Looking back on my thoughts that week, though, I found myself alarmed at how sure I was about our decision. The conviction and confidence I had that nothing could sway my decision is shown up by the fact that we didn’t last two more months. I had a sense of peace about committing the rest of my life to this person that, two months later, became: “[we] broke up (again) tonight. It felt clear. It was right. We both knew it.”

I wasn’t in the right place at the time; I learned the hard way about the fickleness of emotions.

I’m still learning. And probably will be for many, many years …

***

P.S. I was reading 1 Chronicles this morning. In 26:32, it reads, “Jeriah had two thousand seven hundred relatives …” (and that’s just the men!). For those of you know how small the Christian world is, I’m employing this verse as proof that we might just be the new Israel. ☺