We laid, nose-to-nose, on my bed and I stared into eyes that weren’t hazel like mine and I saw myself in them. She asked me why? Why all this pain?
She’s inherited her mama’s life-question.
The stories that surreptitiously escaped her guard that morning were like echoes in a cave. In a tomb. I couldn’t absorb them as she spoke them — they were too weighty; their noise reverberated within me. Slivers into her everyday life felt like horror to my western existence. Her American counterparts were learning to ride bikes in summer heat while she lived under the sun’s burn.
This particular morning, I felt especially unprepared to field her questions — though, moments before, the quiet haze that rested on my neighborhood streets heard me asking Him for her heart. I still had on my sweat-stained workout clothes and sneakers when her interruption became that day’s new agenda.
At times His swift-move breaks the surface.
I prayed while she spoke. Help. How do you teach a child who’s been robbed of her innocence before she lost her baby teeth a whole new way of seeing life and God?
But her story eerily parallels mine. The dressing is different, but the message the same. Life’s external circumstances allure me. They call out to me from morning to night, saying, define your life by my highs and fight with all you have against my lows. I wear them like a badge or tuck them deeply in my pocket, for hiding. They want to be my god, telling me that once I finally achieve a state of ease, I’ll soar. Or I’ll finally rest.
Until the Truth of His Word becomes louder than any other paradigm we’ve erected in our minds, circumstances will be both our forever-backdrop and our filter. Their tenuous nature brands us, if we let it.
Life’s externals are meant to be His grounds for growing, not to define us. I live foundational discomfort until they find their place.
“They said adopting that child just wrecked their family,” she said with a weight that felt ten pounds heavier on my chest as I received her words. “Their biological children were just scarred.”
This anecdote, their story, was one of many I’d heard over the years. Real people, real pain, encapsulated into a two sentence vial that went down like poison. This particular brand of pain was one that perked my ears because I’d spent so much time fearing this family’s outcome. It was familiar.
Change the venue, keep the language, and you have a story that seeks to rise up like gall in every one of us, across many seasons. Her husband started dabbling in pornography and, before you know it, he was addicted. It ruined their marriage. His son bucked the discipline he’d known as a child and rebelled when he hit his teens. It wrecked their relationship. His business flatlined — the one they’d sold everything to start. They went bankrupt. It destroyed him.
We watch it, front row, or live it first-hand and it’s hard not to believe that suffering is an end, not a means. Our language betrays us. We call Him good, but use words like ruined, wrecked, destroyed to add weight to our fear of what might happen and our interpretation of what has already happened. We sing songs like “I give you my all” but recoil when He threatens our ease.
Even in life’s little hiccups — when her countenance goes flat or his outward love for his sister grows cold, when I pop the tire on the car or my fancy camera breaks — my response reveals what I really believe. Without daily — hourly — drags on His goodness, I speak words about Him but live another truth.
He came to mold me, to make my heart alive.
And when I cross the threshold of year seven carrying an empty, but expectant, womb alongside my friends nursing babies, I have what seems like a small choice, but one that leaves a large footprint on my heart.
Will I believe, in the big and the small — in the flat tire and the years she lost — that God molds every single moment for His good?
This pursuit of a perspective so other requires my moment-by-moment thoughts and my large, circumstantial evaluations to come under His leadership. It isn’t passive. It can’t be. This is an all-out war against my flesh.
If a decade from now I want her to see her pain, poured out in the hands I’ve cupped to catch it, through the lens of a God who used even that horror for His beauty, I have to win my own minutes over to His thinking. Now.
And it may be that I’ve seen words like wrecked, ruined, and destroyed drop from my vocabulary but they still haunt my unguarded thoughts. In Him, is anything ever really wrecked or ruined? Permanently damaged? Can we both hold to His Truth and lose hope?
But God’s thoughts are not ones to which we just casually acquiesce.
We need Him to breathe Him. We need Him to speak Him. We need Him to know Him.
And this knowing — this intimate knowing — trumps any circumstance we might crave.
Tiny phrases. Tiny prayers. Two terms I’ve stolen that are shaping my life. I am learning that my life is won over to Him in minutes. After spending years falling asleep at night, defeated by the day, I’m latching on to incremental heart-movement. Like a babe who needs milk, I feed on small bites of Him before I can expect my day to be His meat.
I write a few verses in my moleskin journal that I repeat throughout my day. And, after my wee-hour mornings are interrupted by little brown feet that scamper down the hall and into my room, I don’t wait for large chunks of time to pray big prayers. I breathe tiny whispers. Those verses and then my own requests. God have mercy, when my sin surges. Help, when my flesh surfaces in the face of their childishness. Meet me here, now, when I’m facing another mundane mommy moment.
I adore in phrases. You search me and You know me, was what I whispered over my day, yesterday.
If I add one more minute of my day — in adoration, in prayer, or in making His Word my vernacular — each day, this habit can slowly consume that which has otherwise allured me. His thoughts become my thoughts, minute by minute. It’s palatable.
He is palatable for our childish hearts.
I lean, weak, and His strength undergirds these weak efforts, gently.
First photo compliments of Kate. Second, third and fourth photos compliments of Mandie Joy.
And a note: as you’ve gathered, the season of guest posts here has come to a close. Didn’t you love these stories of bitter turned sweet, by His hand? (If you haven’t yet had a chance to read them, you can start here and read forward. This would be beautiful summer reading.)
Meanwhile, summer days in the Hagerty home are for slowing down. Schooling takes on a different rhythm, as do our lives. I’m resuming writing here, but with no set schedule. And since our summer-Mondays don’t feel like Fall, Winter, or Spring Mondays, I’ll be pressing pause on Monday Morning Chais. Adoration is still very much my bedrock. I’ll resume adoring over here, just not on schedule :). You can sign-up by using this RSS feed link: http://www.EveryBitterThingisSweet.com/posts/chai/feed or by entering your email address in the second box on the right-hand side.