It’s a good thing Easter is a season, because Lent was loath to let go. The week before Easter, my brother-in-law died. Before the suitcase was unpacked after his funeral, a very dear friend died in the early morning of Holy Thursday. And Good Friday was cold and dark and a little scarier than usual this year.
Easter bloomed with sunshine and the promise of hope, but my very tired eyes squinted in the glare of the brightness, and all I really wanted was to sleep a deep and untroubled sleep. It would be yet another week before that sleep came.
“Dig deep,” she said, as I drove the familiar expanse of Route 29 to the hospital two hours away for another consultation with an injured child and an expert doctor. It was the second time I’d done the drive in three days. These appointments, so necessary and so important, were wedged between travel and funerals and the biggest holiday of the Christian year.
“Dig deep and soldier on; you can do it.”
She meant well. She really did. What I needed, though, was not to dig deep. My strength couldn’t come from inside of me. My strength — if I was to indeed soldier on — could only come from a deep and abiding trust that God has a plan and that plan is good — even for me, even in a season of sorrow. But how? How to draw upon His grace and His promise in order to have strength for the battle raging around me?
Somewhere in the haze of those intense weeks, two of my grown children had a sticky situation with a third person. It was a sad misunderstanding that left all three of us searching for answers and trying to make sense. I turned it all over in my weary brain for a couple of days, and then I pulled out my Bible and began to read and write. And write and write. The words spilled fluidly onto the page, making sense of the mess as they appeared in black and white. God’s Word, wrapping itself around my words, shoring me up, parenting for me. This was the way things should work. All the time.
I am a word person. I encounter God in His words. His Word. When I put pen to paper and interact with the Word, I make it my own and I can carry it around with me throughout the day, taking infusions of grace from it as I need them.
So, I took up the habit of carrying Him around with me — my Creator in the Word. I figured if I can’t make sense of it all, the Lord of the universe can. Mornings found me in Isaiah, grabbing hold of a verse and making it mine. I've long had a quiet time habit that I still really love a lot, but this was different. First I’d write the verse in a journal. Then I’d write it back to myself, telling myself who God was and what He said. Then, I’d carry the journal with me everywhere and allow God to remind me as needed. It is real and tangible and personal. It is a habit that I have made mine forever.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine” (Is 43:1).
You are God. You are the God who hung on the cross and chose to die for me. You have done the hard work. For me. You know my name and you call to me, using it. Even though this world seems to be arbitrarily spinning in every which direction, you are personal and intentional. You are calling my name. I really can hear you.
“When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm you” (Is 43:2).
I see what you did there, God. You came right out and wrote the word “overwhelm” into your message to me. I trust you. When I feel overwhelmed, I will remember that you are with me and that you promise this raging water will not overwhelm. I’m not going to drown, even if it feels like it right now.
“Fear not, for I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you” (Is 43: 5).
I’m actually driving from the east to the west to take care of my offspring today, Jesus. But since you know no boundaries of time or space, I suppose I understand your point. You keep telling me not to be afraid. These dear, precious children I love so much are yours first, and you know my heart. You have me. And you have them, too.
“You are my witnesses,” says the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He” (Is 43:10).
You are working in my life, God. In these extremely stressful days, you are alive and well, showing yourself to me. To me. So that I may know you better, believe you more, understand how much you love me and tell the world that really, truly God’s got this.
(Many thanks to Sara Hagerty, author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, for teaching me to pray this way. I've read this book four times in the last month. I truly cannot recommend it enough. A truly personal story, written with eloquence and exquisite grace, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet begs the reader to deeply ponder how she really sees God and then to contemplate how God sees her. While it is a story of infertility and delayed dreams and adoption, it's more than that. It's the story of leaning hard into God and being surprised to find Him enveloping and intimately knowing and loving each of us. it's about finding out that God is good to me. Everyone should read it.)
Oh, and I'm heading back to Charlottesville again. Prayers most definitely appreciated.