Timing Is Everything

For the month of May and a week into June, I will be pressing pause on my online writing and this space will become a series of testimonies of what He births in the midst of delay, perplexity and pain. Author friends from around the world who love words on a page, and Him even more, will share, here, how they have seen Him make the bitter, sweet.

Today we get to hear from Randy BohlenderNate and I are blessed to share a prayer room and a community with this family, who have said “yes” to Him, despite the stretching that their “yes” has meant. Randy and his wife, Kelsey, went from 3 to 9 children in five and a half years. Four of those “additions” were two sets of twins, both adopted shotgun-style. I don’t want to tell you too much of their story, just enough to tease you into seeing for yourself God’s hand in this family. 

Here’s (a piece of) his story:

We are a part of a community that maintains a 24/7 prayer meeting. For thirteen years, night and day, singers, instrumentalists and intercessors have played, sung, and prayed the scripture. It’s hard to explain the value of cumulative prayer, but it makes for a sacred space.

Our family tries to spend a portion of Christmas Eve there every year. It’s a wonderful place on that holy evening. Unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of attending in body but not in spirit.

Most years between Christmas and New Year, I dip into a mild depression.

It’s not the dark night of the soul. It’s more like the frustrated spot of the middle-aged guy. The spot would take a few variations from year to year but it revolved around this thought: “Am I happy with what I’ve accomplished this year?” And invariably, year after year, I wasn’t. Traditionally, I approach the end of the year with a jumble of unrealized expectations and the knowledge that they were unrealized largely because I had fallen short of my own goals. I’d start staring off into space around Thanksgiving and by the time I hit late December I was overwhelmed with a hodgepodge of would’ve, should’ve, could’ve thoughts weighing on me. Whatever I’d done, it was never enough.

The needle of the soul-o-meter dipped left that evening as I faced the ending of another year that didn’t turn out like I’d hoped. The book that I’d heard so much about writing was not yet started. We were selling our house but the house we were buying was in unlivable condition, having been empty for years. I had transitioned from a significant role in a ministry to what felt like a hanger-on, the team member who would not go away but didn’t really have any authority or duties either.

A good bit of my identity had been stripped away that year and while I felt I knew who I was, I also believed I the only person on earth who did. I felt dislocated, unknown, tired and more than a little sorry for myself.I stood to the side of the room, holding my three-month old daughter, my back against the wall in more ways than one, and got gut level honest with God. Whispering my confession in prayer, I told Him everything. “I’m not happy with what I’ve done this year … I’m so disappointed. I’m so disappointed.”

I looked down at Anna, asleep in my arm, completely unaware of the wrenching of my soul. She was perfectly content.In a moment, I heard the Whisper. I’ve heard it before. It’s not an audible voice, though I’d love it to be. Though technically silent, it echoed within me.

I know you’re not happy with what you’ve done this year.I confessed. I was crushed.

The Whisper reiterated. I know you’re not happy with what you’ve done this year … but what do you think about what I’ve done?

What followed was a palpable, awkward silence. I was troubled by this statement, but too smart to answer quickly. The Voice no compulsion to say any more. He could say more with silence than I could with all the words in the world. What did I think about what He had done this year? He had enjoyed a very good year.

I glanced down at my gorgeous daughter, a perfect Japanese, Thai, Caucasian blend, and then across the room at her twin sister in her mother’s arms. Hot tears dropped off my checks on to her blanket. Memories of adopting the twins began to swirl through my head, followed by a myriad of things that His hand had done in the past year. Babies born. Friendships formed. Vision dropping like stars into our dreams at night.

Then it hit me. We didn’t do everything we wanted to this year, but He certainly did everything He wanted.

We often measure the seasons in our life by what we hoped for, what we did, what we failed to do, and whether or not our plan worked. This sort of thinking strips away the sovereignty of God and places every hope for success and blame for failure on what we could not possibly accomplish. It also misses the point that God is always at work, even in our shortcomings. Even in our supposed failures. Our failings are the rich seedbed of opportunity for His greatness to be revealed.

That fateful Christmas Eve, standing in the prayer room holding my daughter, I was so consumed with what I wanted to do and didn’t that I was looking past His rich leadership and provision in my life. A book had not been written, but I had two daughters that were not on my radar the previous January. We adopted them in a whirlwind 36 hour adventure. It was a miracle – everyone said so, and we knew to be true, nevertheless I stumbled through a year thinking I was missing the mark while God was at work revealing His true purpose for this season. I was grousing about missing a writing deadline and God had granted my authority and responsibility for two human souls that would never die. I’d missed more than a writing deadline — I’d missed what God was doing entirely.

I vowed then that I wouldn’t live another year like the last. If the hand of God was at work in all things, then I wanted to learn to see the hand day by day. I wanted to train myself to perceive Him in realtime, even when things didn’t go as I planned. I wanted to live with a grateful heart, knowing that the summary of my life will not be what I did but rather what He did in my proximity, which I could neither cause nor thwart.

Excerpted from his new book, Jesus Killed My Church. Randy Bohlender and his wife, Kelsey, live in Kansas City, Missouri with their nine children. He has blogged since Al Gore invented the internet.