My orange tabby is curled up on the fleece throw wrapped around my lap, as I cuddle on a chair at the kitchen table – Bible, Hazelnut Chai and computer set before me. It’s been one of those mornings that has been wiled away by many things I didn’t plan on doing – checking email, becoming mesmerized by Facebook, uploading photographs, washing dishes, simply staring out the window. Snowflakes whip around the front porch, piling high on pregnant tree limbs, solid railings, and chilly windowsills. The icy diamonds of last night’s frost have been transformed into drifts of cotton candy white.
As I drain my oversized Valentine’s Day mug, the book of James beckons to me, and I obediently begin to read from The Message. My bookmark rests in 2 Corinthians, but this morning another passage was prepared for me. It’s simplicity speaks with profound pointedness. Conviction and confirmation fill my soul with the words of James 1 . . . perhaps you too can relate . . .
“2-4Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
How many times do we beg to escape trials prematurely, heedless to the fullness of God’s glory that we fail to taste? “Consider it sheer gift,” the writer James exhorts, “when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” Why? Because being hemmed in by trouble gives faith a chance to blaze a path of victory. Not a hurried path. Not a wide, even journey. Rather, a path birthed out of vulnerability and pain. A path curved and filled with rocks and stones. A path leading to the miraculous empowering of the Presence of Christ.
” 5-8If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”
Several days ago, I asked God to help me forget my longing for a baby, to focus simply on what fills my life in the here and now. Yesterday morning, I was petitioning again for that same miracle that I had been trying to forget. Late yesterday afternoon, a friend and I were discussing whether or not we could change God’s mind by repeatedly asking for the same thing. I’m not sure. We didn’t arrive at a certain conclusion. What I do know, however, is that the tone of my petitions is changing. I am not demanding a miracle anymore. My hands and heart are open in surrender. Yet, surrendering hurts more than demanding. Surrendering means that I might not receive exactly what I want when I want it. Surrendering means that I am vulnerable before God. Surrendering means that I turn my back on fear. Recently, I read a poignant quote by Ann Voskamp to the effect that fear is the belief that God does not have enough love for our problems. Fear assumes that God does not care enough to orchestrate the details of our lives. How true . . .
“12Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. “
Life and more life. Did you know that God was a poet? Did you know that the ebb and flow of scripture is more powerful than any rhyme or metered verse? Promises pour off the page to those who loyally commit themselves heart and soul to Christ. I am reminded of wedding vows: “I promise to be true to you / in sickness and in health / for richer or poorer / until death do us part.” How many of us could actually repeat these assurances to our Heavenly Lover? How many of us aren’t just in “Christianity” until life stops making sense? My mom recently reminded me that the root word of “WHY” is chaos. Imagine. Chaos. Confusion. Restlessness. Indecision. When I pound away at the “WHY” questions.
” 16-18So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.”
Why? Let Christ tell us “why” down the paths of pain. Let the Holy Spirit whisper “why” into our hearts like gentle snow drifts piling up on the porch. Allow the snowflakes of promise to lie heavy on bowed down tree branches. Tree branches surrendered to the weight of winter storm.
He wants to whisper to us . . .
I have loved You before Creation ever was.
You are beautiful and precious, the child of my love.
I am not fickle. I do not tease you with dangling promises.
I will fill your soul with cascades of light, shimmers of rainbows, prisms of glory.
I am near the broken-hearted.
It is enough. He is enough. He will be enough. I want to believe this morning, even when I am crushed again by the disappointment of physical hopes dashed by early morning test. He’s still writing me love notes. Slipping them into the wonder outside my windows. Filling my cup with their sweet whispers.