I was walking around the pond that is near our house, praying. I often find myself wandering around this pond praying. In all honesty it’s an interesting place to pray. It’s beautiful. There are willow trees, flowers, an old church, and an old barn. They stock the pond with fish in the summer and many neighbors come to do catch and release fishing. It’s beautiful and relaxing. But it also has a darker side. It is known that witchcraft is practiced in the graveyard that shares a fence with the park that houses the pond. I’m told there are sacrifices that have been thrown into the pond on occasion. And while there is much light and beauty, there are times when the spiritual darkness feels heavy. Which just reminds me to pray all the more. And in doing so, every so often I find myself having conversations with God, wrestling through the things that weigh heavy on my heart at this park.
At different times these past months I have felt discouraged, or maybe just beaten down. Where I’m just moving forward because I know I need to. At times, I’m just going through the motions. I didn’t want to have any hard conversations with God. I didn’t want to do any more wrestling over the hard questions that deep down were still nagging.
I would rally around who I know God to be and who I am in Christ. “You are God. I will trust you, I will move forward.” But still the rallying cry of my soul would toggle between trust and disappointment.
I had done so much wrestling already. I was feeling weary and just wanted to not keep dredging up emotions, questions and thoughts.
And while I mean all the words that I have written in the past about hope, trust and joy, for me there have been so many emotions, questions and thoughts to work through during this process. I will feel good and at peace about one thing, and then another question or emotion floats to the surface and here I am again with something else to ponder, pray about, and work through.
Two years ago, I thought we were done growing our family. Through a series of events God was firmly telling me otherwise. Then I seriously wrestled, “5 boys are a lot God! People can’t stop commenting on how crazy we are already, and sometimes I don’t blame them!” (this is another story) But I eventually yielded to God, and his call in that. Sure enough, not long after that I became pregnant with Ava. Beautiful Ava. I knew she was a part of God’s plan and I had made peace with the fact that I would have another child. I was excited.
And then Ava died.
God didn’t hold up His end of the bargain.
Or so that’s what it felt like.
But He is God and I am not. He has full view of my story and of Ava’s story. I knew this. I knew that I served a good God that loved me. Even still, the next thought of my wrestling journey surfaced. “God You got it wrong this time, You let me down. I made good on my end of the deal. What happened?”
There I sat at the pond. Finally, ready to talk. Willing to start opening those doors of conversation, hashing out my frustration. I wasn’t even sure where my frustration was rooted at first. Just that it was there.
I realized two things.
I was struggling again with how deep God’s love is for me. He had let me down in my expectations of what I thought things were going to look like.
And I had forgotten how amazing the grace of God is. While, yielding, and trusting God in growing my family may be an act of worship pleasing to God through Christ,I had strings attached to my yielding. I had expectations on how God was going to work here.
There is a reason we need to hear the gospel over and over again. There is a reason we so often need to preach forgiveness and grace over one another. We need to keep telling each other how great God’s love is for each one of us. Hearing how much God loves us, isn’t just for children, it’s for all of us.
The gospel changes not just our eternal home. It infiltrates every aspect of how we live our lives. It changes the lens of how we view just about everything.
And yet, so often we put the lens down. We set it aside so that we can view things from our preferred perspective. And we forget the wholeness of the gospel and its message of hope and reconciliation.
And so, I needed to hear it again. I needed the lens of the gospel put over my eyes again. I needed God to remind me how deep His love is for me once again. For he does not change. The truth of the gospel does not change.
He is God, and he loved me when he carried me through the dark days of my teenage years and overwhelmed me with his love. He was God, and he loved me when he took my little baby home. And he is God, and he loves me, even though I question his plan.
And he is God, and he loves me, even when I sit on that park bench and think: “God you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain.”
That thought, even though I am loath to admit it, is steeped in my pride, in my works, in what I can do for God.
When that thought is exposed at its base level, my pride is undeniable. I realize that I have cheapened God’s grace. And once again need to be reminded of the work that was already done on the cross.
It’s not about me doing the right thing so God can do what I believe, what I want, His plan to be. There is no ‘resting in who God is’ there. I can’t barter with God. No matter how many good decisions I throw at him, or how many times I’ve submitted to his call in my life, it doesn’t convince God to suddenly see things my way and cause things to work out the way that I had pictured. My works do not earn my desires.
For on their own, my works are nothing but sin-soaked rags. My pride a magnifying glass on the darkness of my heart. My attempts at manipulation pointing out that the sin in the world is just a reflection of the sin in me.
There is no way to make beautiful the effects of sin. Living in a broken world just, plain sucks sometimes. I’m not going to give you any platitude’s like “everything happens for a reason” or “this will just make you stronger.” There is a long list of platitudes. Some have truth, some will just hurt. Because the effects of sin are many, and some of it far too ugly to ever understand. And I won’t know why God chose to intervene miraculously in Elijah’s birth and allowed Ava to have T18 which most often means a very short life.
There was nothing I can claim that I offered up in Elijah’s birth. I didn’t have any great wrestling and then yielding to God in having Elijah, we just didn’t feel done. I didn’t pour over him in prayers marked with tears and anguish. I complained at the end of my pregnancy, I was so ready for him to make an appearance. I did nothing on my own merit to warrant the miracle God did that day.
With Ava I can point to what I did! I said yes God! I prayed and prayed and prayed. My family and friends, my Christian community rallied around us in prayer and support. I trusted you God! And yet no miracle this time, that resulted in a healthy life this side of heaven.
I cannot manipulate my God. I cannot have enough faith to bend Him to my will. It is only through Christ that anything I do is pleasing to God. And with that realization I remember that famous prayer in the garden of gethsemane, Matthew 26:39 “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus went before me, He knows. I cannot put forth work with strings attached no matter the situation. Not my will, but your will Lord. And with His yielding His will to the Heavenly Father Christ defeated sin and death once and for all. He made these conversations of wrestling with God possible. He made it possible to yearn for our heavenly home and have a hope and a purpose for this world.
God does not need to explain to me why He took Ava home. I can rest in Christ and His plan. He will continue to keep me grounded as I walk forward in this crazy journey called life.
So here I sit, going to His word once again. To those familiar and worn pages. And I drink from the well that never runs dry. I am reminded, and I remember. I remember who I am in Christ. I remember what He has done for me. I remember His hand pulling me out of the pit. I remember the rock that I’m standing on. The one who went before me. There is not a situation He doesn’t understand or have great compassion for. Oh, how He loves me. And there is nothing, nothing I can put forward on my own. There is only rest at the foot of the cross for the work that has been done already.
He most assuredly has held up His end of the deal. I only need look to the cross.