I remember sitting in my bed at our old moving box filled apartment when my “word” for the year dawned on me. It was a really subtle and still moment. Kind of the way a memory creeps up on you slowly. And it felt so quiet and so serene and so peaceful, the way it came to me. I wrote all about that here.
It was actually the last time I blogged, partly because I hold that moment in my heart as the last quiet and still and serene moment of this year, and partly because it’s hard to write when so much of my own story is unwritten. Every month since then, there has been a new circumstance, a new challenge, a new lens through which I have beheld the steadfastness of God.
I have still been writing, yes. But I have mostly been living. And the writing has been my (often haphazard and hurried) way of setting up little altars—little piles of stones, remembrances. This is where we saw the Lord. This is what it looked like to see him in February, and this is how the circumstances in March make his face just a little clearer to us.
I feel like I can almost call this the birth story of steadfastness in my life, or, perhaps more accurately what actually happened after that January day I sat in my bed and, looking back on it now, a little naïvely, wrote the word “Steadfast” with a careful hand and a full heart. This year has been anything but steadfast.
Our circumstances have followed an arc which makes little sense to me and is difficult to even explain, the way that it has been and is unfolding. But the Lord has been steadfast. His steadfast love has supported me. Often when I pick up a book of fiction, I am so eager to get to the end that I will do little else with my precious free time but sit and read. I just want to know what happens. It is an eagerness and an impatience and a desire for control all wrapped and tangled and very difficult to sort.
My fingers have itched to tell this story, but I don’t know how. It can be difficult to illustrate just what happened and why it has been so meaningful, why I have carried all these things in my heart instead of in written words for the last seven months.
The Lord opened my eyes to see the way that I needed, so desperately, the knowledge of his steadfastness to change my heart. I sat on a plastic chair in a circle of women I have come to love and trust and confessed, “I don’t see the Lord like this.” When we read about the bold proclamation of Daniels’ friends. “Our God will deliver us!” The pressure of years and unfulfilled longings, the death of dreams and the reality of injustice and heartache led me to shed the belief that if I do good things for God, God will do good things for me quite a few years ago. But it left an empty place. My heart—filled with love for God—was also simultaneously filled with mistrust for him. That somehow, he both loved me and delighted in my suffering. That the thing God most frequently will want me to do will be the thing I least hope to do, and that it is dangerous to hope that my story could be different than it has been. I didn’t know a way to hope in God’s sovereignty and all-sufficiency without also expecting that his will would bend to mine always, that obedience to him would always mean good gifts for me. I didn’t understand how to balance the knowledge that the way of Jesus is a way of suffering—but that it is all within the gaze of the God who sees, that it is all being redeemed by the God who makes all things new. That the beauty of the gospel is that our stories are not our stories anymore. They are God’s story.
I have heard and read that often when something like this happens to people, they either walk away from faith or they find it again—all over again. This idea is called the second naïveté, and Sarah Bessey sums it up by calling it “the life after the death of what was once so alive.” By God’s grace, the second has been my path, and it is my delight that now, I have begun the journey to standing in the tension of these things—the suffering and the heartache and the death of the way of Jesus with the trust and security of his unfailing, steadfast love.
And so, that is why, I am not surprised, that when I look back at myself just six short (and yet so very long) months ago, sitting in my bed writing down a word that I had hoped and longed and prayed for, a hint of a grin crosses my face, and I think to myself, I had no idea what I was talking about—and what a gift that is.
The circumstances of 2016 have been far from steady and stable—for our little family personally, for some of the communities in which we participate, and for our aching and broken world. And it is perhaps precisely because of this chaos and instability that the steadfastness of the Lord has grown in clarity and beauty to me each day.
It seemed that each month brought with it a new set of circumstances that, read outside of the context of the gospel, of God’s larger story of redemption and reconciliation, were bleak at best. And yet with every month, another invitation to see Jesus in the difficult moments and in the suffering and in the joy. Another chance to offer the story of my circumstances with open hands and watch in awe as the Lord rewrites it into a story of redemption about him and for his glory. To see how my circumstances settle, shrink, and change as I see them for what they really are.
And I think that this is the way we begin to really see. To be present, alive abundantly, right here in the midst of our right now stories and circumstances and still cling to the hope of the gospel. This is the way we can say, with Daniel’s friends “Our God will deliver us!” This is the gospel—our God has saved us. He is saving us. He will save us. We behold tiny resurrections over and over again day after day after day as we wait for the coming kingdom. The gospel frees us, enlightens us, helps us to rightly read the story we are actually living in. The gospel releases us from the notion that our stories are just about finding out what happens, and invites us to behold our God in the pages of our stories, to see Jesus where we are certain he must be absent, to recognize that even the very circumstances of our lives are being rewritten into a story of God’s redemption, ultimately for our good and for his glory. When we see our lives and our circumstances for what they really are—a lens through which we see and experience and behold the God who makes all things new, how can we not say “Our God will deliver us?” For when our eyes are set on the God who sees, we begin to see more clearly that the story wasn’t even really about us in the first place—it doesn’t begin with us and it will not end with us—and that is something to celebrate.
And this is why I’m going to just go ahead and try, with imperfect words and blurry pictures. I’m going to try to tell some of the stories of the last six months in a way that does justice to what happened while also settling them in their rightful place in the bigger story, the story of the steadfast God who is making all things new. I’m going to try to share these places where circumstances and situations rip wide open and the dazzling beauty of the steadfast God of the universe overwhelms it all. I write because I want myself to see. This place is an altar and these words are my stones. I am setting up places of remembrance so that I can look back, so that maybe my children can look back and say even here, especially here, we have seen the Lord.
But for those of you who are like me—who just want to know what happens? For the sake of time and as a reward for reading for this long, I’ll tell you this much: Our story will begin with the purchase of a house and it will end, for now, (but what a silly word, because it is really just the beginning of another story) with packing all our stuff right back up and moving again.
We are so very excited (along with about 100 other emotions) to share that, at the end of August, David is going to begin serving as a teacher and headmaster at a new university-model classical school in Wisconsin. Though we’ve been aware of this as a possibility for a few months now, we just found all of this out about a week ago, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the Lord continues to reveal and glorify himself in what we are sure will be an amazing story of his steadfast love and faithfulness that we are excited to tell.
Logistically, as I’m sure you can imagine, a job change, relocation, and welcoming a new baby all at roughly the same time can seem near impossible and doesn’t really make much sense. But we feel compelled to go, and we’re excited to take this new adventure, making our home in the steadfastness of Christ. As Ellie said to me tonight, “It will be fine if we leave this house alone. Someone else will buy it… hopefully. (long pause) We can pray for that.” Please pray with us.