A friend wrote me a few days ago. Her heart hurts. She loves something that seems impossible. And she just wants to stop. Her’s is an unrequited love. There seems no hope in continuing in her affection. But she can’t just shut off her feelings. And it hurts. The only comfort I could offer her is that I believe she is honoring God as she wrestles with her feelings–trying to be who He created her to be. And I told her that she is lovesick, just as her True Husband is lovesick for her. She is getting a clear picture of His heart for her. This love that never stops, never gives up. A love that fights and conquers sin and death so that we can have the relationship with God we are meant to have. And even as I shared these words with her I found that I was the one being comforted. I long for my daughter. My heart aches for her. I am heartsick because she is an ocean away. And that is my Jesus’s heart for me. He longs for me. As much as I long to be with my daughter He longs for me. And so I share alongside my friend the aching for love. And instead of running from it, we embrace the ache–relishing that we are getting a very small picture of the great love with which we are loved–a love that is returned, a love that is filled with hope. A love that will never stop and never give up.
And in that light I bought this for my daughter today*. Something for her to hold at night when she can’t sleep. To hold and look at when she is at the clinic. Something that speaks truth over her when she can’t yet hear us. A reminder that she is no longer an orphan but has been set in a family. A memento of our love for her–and a reminder that our hope is in God.
I bought a matching one. Something to unite us. Something we share. And a reminder for me that my hope is in God and his ability to rescue.
*from Junk Posse: amazing jewelry for a great cause!
I watched my niece Riley Elizabeth enter this world. What’s crazy is that her birth means the world to a handful of people, but most of the world was processing the royal wedding or the death of Osama Bin Laden when she was fighting for life. I watched my sister’s body as it was stretched to the breaking point, sacrificing herself for the purpose of something greater. It was probably one of the most amazing moments of my life–to be there with them at such an intimate moment.
I drove up to the birthing center just a few hours before her birth and spent the time praying for Lisa, Matthew and for Riley. I did not ask God to make it a painless birth. I mean, it’s gonna hurt. But I asked for endurance and strength for Lisa. The verse that kept coming to mind is Hebrews 12:2 “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” That was the picture and the image I had for Lisa–that for the joy set before her she would endure this momentary suffering. And as the time wore on and she pushed and pushed and pushed, it was the knowledge she was fighting for this precious child that gave her the strength to endure. And in one crazy, awe-inspiring moment the suffering abated and Riley was placed in her mother’s arms for the very first time.
God gives us pictures and images. He knows that we can’t know him unless he reaches down to us and relates to us in ways that we can understand. He makes himself knowable to us. He uses language and experiences we can understand that are pictures of a heavenly reality. So I watched my sister give birth; but I was exhorted to remember that this world is momentary and fleeting. And the suffering I might experience is only for a time–and there is greater joy waiting. How do I persevere? I copy my sister–I fix my eyes on what is waiting for me. For her, at that moment, it was Riley. For me, and for all my days, I fix my eyes on Jesus–he is the one who founded and the one who will perfect my faith. I copy him, as he endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. So I will endure, by his grace, and wait for the joy that is waiting for me.
I am not a beggar. I am a daughter of the king. So why do I always approach God with such uncertainty? I pray but without any thought that it makes a difference. When there are things that I really want–say, like to adopt–I start begging God to let me do it. My prayers are uncertain, repetitive and sound a lot like someone begging for scraps. And I believe I’ll only get whatever it is only if God is feeling especially magnanimous that particular day. So I pray. But from the place of a beggar, unworthy of time and attention, and without any claim to the presence of God.
On our first morning in Uganda, my sister taught on God’s desire to bring healing to the slums. She said we don’t have to beg God to heal because that is his heart. All throughout Scripture we read about his desire to bring healing, to set the captive free, to defend the orphan and the widow. We don’t have to beg him to do these things because that is who he is! So, rather than begging God to bring healing over the lives of people in Banda, Kasubi, and Kina, we are to declare healing over their lives.*
Now it might be obvious to you, but it took two days for that truth to settle into the fiber of my being and the ramifications to take root. God’s heart is adoption. He adopted us. He calls us sons and daughters, not just “those people I set free from sin and death.” He defends the orphan! He sets the solitary in families. He is a father to the fatherless. He created adoption. He started it. Just as our earthly marriages are a symbol of the heavenly reality of our relationship to Christ as his bride, so adoption is an earthly picture of what God did for us on the cross. We become his sons and daughters. He brought us into his family. And now we get to go and adopt–showing the world a picture of God’s love for his people. He lifted us out of places of despair and darkness and gave us a hope and a future. There is almost no better picture of salvation than to love someone seemingly unworthy, but more than that, to call them son or daughter.
So my whole begging God to let me adopt thing? Kind of silly. It’s his heart! The timing looks different for us than for others. And it may still be awhile (though I’m hoping not). But it will happen. And I feel such freedom to wait and pray and enjoy this season of anticipation. To wait in peace for the fulfillment of the dream God birthed in me 15 years ago. I thought it ended there. And then this morning, God showed me how I viewed myself as a beggar. So the reason I begged is because I just wanted the scraps and believed that’s all I deserved–and to a certain extent that might be true. But that’s not the power of the cross. The cross declares that I am a daughter of the king. And God met me here to remind me to pray from that place. So beseeching, persevering, seeking, and knocking are not begging when I know who I am in Christ.
*The Rev Life team is dreaming impossible dreams for these places, and one of those dreams is that these slums would be Aids free zones.
This week has been one of the rougher ones. It started with a tree falling on our car and ended with some crazy infection around my eye that keeps spreading. Kyler has resistant staph on her skin that means any scrape, scratch or bug bite equals crazy swelling of that body part. My sister living across the world was in a motorcycle accident. Physically she’s fine, but it did take it’s toll. I haven’t had time to slow down and dwell in self-pity. And today it hit me that I am assured in Scripture that God will not test me beyond what I can bear. And my heart broke. I have seen tragedies this past year. We have friends who have been to hell and back, babies have died who never had a chance to live. I am immensely humbled by a God who knows me so intimately that He knows what will cause me to break. He bends and stretches me, He beckons me to follow Him down the path of suffering and to continue to praise His name. My friends lend me strength. Their stories, their trials, seeing what God has asked of them, it humbles me to know that my faith is small compared to theirs. But still good.
I don’t claim to have suffered yet. Especially not for the sake of the gospel. But seeing how this past week wore on me, how at the end when my health (and beauty) are being taken, I know how long the road I have to travel is before my faith is perfected. Lead me Lord Jesus. Lead me.