Sometimes You Cry (And so does God)

rain_drops_ Something happened recently that made me wonder for the first time in my life whether God is cruel. Rather than a loving Father, was he actually more like Zeus, that tempestuous Greek god who sometimes entertained himself by hurling lightning bolts toward earth?

Our pastor’s teen-aged son Thomas had been on dialysis and in need of a kidney for some time. Finally, the perfect donor was found, a family friend. We all rejoiced, called it a miracle, an answer to prayer. Our pastor’s wife, Sarah, was enduring her own health crisis. She had just been through chemo and was facing radiation, but thankfully a break in the treatment afforded her the strength to be with their son when he received his new kidney.

The day of surgery was girded by prayer. By mid-afternoon, an email was sent out: All went very well. Both Thomas and donor were doing fine. When Thomas awoke, he whispered to his mother, “I’m so thankful it’s done.” And everywhere, you can be sure, God’s people rejoiced.

Early the next morning, the second message came. Thomas had undergone emergency surgery. The kidney had somehow developed blood clots and couldn’t be saved. The transplant had failed.

~~~

I stared at the flashing cursor on the screen, feeling stunned. And that’s when the thought came to me that maybe God is cruel. Had this been some sort of joke, a Zeus-like lightning bolt aimed at good people who had trusted him?

I was angry. I was scared. In that moment, and for the next few hours, I doubted the very foundation of my life. And I did something I hardly ever do: I cried.

~~~

Once upon a time, a ship got caught up in a deadly storm at sea. The storm lasted not just for a night, or for several days, but for two full weeks. Wind and rain pounded the ship so violently and relentlessly that finally, as one man later wrote, “All hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.”

That man was Luke, the author of the book of Acts. He was traveling with the Apostle Paul, who was a prisoner being taken to Rome. Finally, the ship ran aground near the island of Malta, and while the ship was lost, all the men survived. They were welcomed by the inhabitants of the island. A fire was built for them, and they were fed.

And then some wonderful things began to happen. Paul prayed over a sick man, a man of some prominence on Malta, and he became well. When the news spread, others who were sick came to Paul, and he prayed for them, and they too were healed. The islanders marveled as they witnessed the power of God. In turn, for three months, they generously provided for all of the needs of the shipwrecked crew (see Acts 27 & 28).

Once upon a time, a raging tempest left a ship’s crew devoid of all hope. But in spite of what they felt and how it looked, there was hope. Paul and Luke and the others were brought by that very storm to a place they never expected to be, a place of healing, and rejoicing, and hospitality and camaraderie. A place where good things happened.

~~~

A basic tenet of Christianity, a message every evangelical Christian has heard: God works all things together for good—all the storms, the shipwrecks, the trials and tragedies, the failed kidneys.

Something else to consider as well: Sometimes while he is working all things together for good, God cries.

Certainly he did when he was here on earth. You see, when I was angry about the failed surgery, I ranted at God, telling him he has no idea what it’s like to live in this world, to face the daily struggles, the heartache, the loss. But he stopped me with the words: Yes, I do. Don’t you know that by now?

 Jesus, God in the flesh, experienced everything we experience. While on earth, he was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He knew temptation, hunger, disappointment, loss. When one of his closest friends died, Jesus wept—even while he was walking toward the grave to raise Lazarus back to life. Even though he knew the ending, he still suffered the grief.

Even though he knows the ending to each of our stories, I believe he grieves with us today in all our sorrows, because we belong to him and he loves us.

~~~

When the surgery failed, our pastor wrote: “God is no less faithful today than he was yesterday. God is no less loving today than he was yesterday. Our faith is unshaken even if our understanding is reeling.”

God’s goodness is unlimited. It’s our understanding of his goodness that’s limited. We simply can’t always know what he is doing, what island the storm is taking us to for our own sake and for the sake of others. But God knows.

Just as Jesus told Peter, “You do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7).

Until we do understand, we trust. And we believe in and hold on to God’s love, because it’s the one thing that sustains us through all our trials, and brings us to the good places we are meant to be.

 

Meeting God on the Horizon

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

~ Del Tackett, The Truth Project

Child's drawing When I was a child drawing nature scenes, I—like most children—harbored a strange perception when it came to the meeting of earth and sky. In truth, they didn’t meet at all. The sky was always a blue strip across the top of the page while the earth was a corresponding ribbon of green across the bottom.

In between was a whole lot of nothing. Just a huge patch of non-color in which hung the sun and into which the trees shot up their branches and the flowers their blooms. It was in this place of nothingness that the people made their homes and walked their dogs and had their picnics and lived their lives.

At that young age, I didn’t understand that there was something called a horizon, a place where the human eye perceives a meeting of sky and earth, a point at which blue touches green and all the gaps are closed and the picture is complete.

~~~

I wonder how many of us wander around in that place of non-color all our lives because we think that God’s heaven—with all of its accompanying mercy, goodness and joy—is up there while earth is down here and somehow, for some reason, “never the twain shall meet”?

How many of us live as though there is no horizon, no place where God’s Spirit leans down and touches the human soul?

~~~

I have lived that way myself. I have lived as though God only watches from a distance while I am tempted to despair, that he looks on in indifference while I have unmet needs, that he makes no move in my direction when I feel crushed by loneliness or feelings of isolation.

I’ve lived in this place of non-color and nothingness, though thankfully God allowed me only to pitch a tent in this desert rather than to build a permanent place of residence. He has helped me pull up stakes and has walked with me, pointing all the time toward the horizon, saying, “Meet me there.”

~~~

Heaven and earth do meet, and that’s the whole point of our existence. A maturing of faith, a growing in our knowledge of God, assures us that God is not up there but down here, right here with us, around us, in us, touching us, closing up all the empty spaces, making us complete.

In our despair, we find within our hearts a glowing nugget of hope that can’t be denied. In our need, we receive provision—an unexpected check, a loaf of bread, an anonymous gift. In our loneliness, we sense a love that wraps itself undeniably around our soul and, even in the darkest hour and sometimes even in spite of ourselves, never lets us go.

~~~

We have to allow God to be more than a pleasant thought or wishful thinking. He has to be more than an idea, a theology or a vague concept. We have to allow him to be what he is: Lord of creation, God of all mercy, a Father who through the death of his own Son Jesus tore open the curtain to the Holy of Holies and allowed us to enter into his presence.

We have to let his heaven touch our earth, every moment of every day. We have to live our lives on the horizon.

And we can. Because he himself brings us there. He created us to dwell with him there. On the horizon, he fills our lives with his love.

~~~

The joy of Jesus must rush through all the corridors of your mind. The heart must know He has come to guide, comfort, and help in the hour of need. There must be no doubt, no question that God has chosen to come and commune with His servant….I want God’s total presence. I want to flow in His river of love.

                                                                                             ~ David Wilkerson*

*From David Wilkerson, Have You Felt Like Giving Up Lately (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1980), pp. 55, 56.

Scattered Thoughts on Flying Blind

seagull_flight My friend Jamie Britt is completely blind and has been since birth. She has never seen sunlight, rose petals, mountains, the colors of a rainbow. She has never seen colors at all, and tells me she has no idea what they are. She has never seen her mother’s face, nor even her own face in a mirror.

Being a visual person, I can’t imagine going through life without working eyes. I’d sooner surrender any of my other senses than go through life without sight. Sight is what most strongly connects me to the world, what grounds me in place and time.

And that’s why, for me, the most challenging part of being a Christian is putting all my hope in what I can’t see. Believers walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). For that reason, we’re told not to bother putting too much stock in what we see around us because it’s temporal. Only what can’t be seen is eternal, and that’s where we’re to place our hope. (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Thank God for working eyes, but apparently they’re no help at all when it comes to what really matters. When it comes to the eternal, I’m flying blind.

~~~

I can’t see my Father’s face. I can’t see the branches on the Tree of Life, nor the water in the river that flows from the throne of God. I can’t so much as see a distant light in the window of one of the mansions Jesus spoke about, even though my heart’s navigational system is carrying me there.

And it’s not just the place that’s beyond my view. I can’t even catch a glimpse of what I’m destined to become, because what we as believers are destined to become doesn’t yet exist in this world.

~~~

I read many biographies and autobiographies, mostly of historical figures. The title might be something like “The Life of So-and-so” or “So-and-so: A Life,” as though the book is the summation of what that person has done and the final account of what that person became.

But any completed biography is only the prelude to one’s real life. That’s it. At the time of death, the person has only reached Chapter 1 of the real story. Because we can’t fully become in this world what we were created to be. We can only make a start here. The Apostle John, who walked with Jesus in the flesh, tells us that “what we will be has not yet been revealed.” We won’t be our true, complete, real selves until Jesus returns, and then, “we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

~~~

Walking by faith until that time isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a real struggle. My human eyes tell me that I’m getting old, that I haven’t accomplished much in this world, that some of my dreams will go unrealized, that in the end I will slip away unnoticed. As I go through the day-to-day routine of my existence, I sometimes find myself wondering, what’s it all for?

I don’t know. And that’s the thing: I don’t know because I can’t know. At least not fully. I do know in part, because Jesus said those who have ears to hear should listen to his words, because they hold the key to life. I have heard the words of Jesus and they point my heart to that place I cannot see but that I know is there because his words are true. His words are Truth. He has told me that he is preparing a place for me and that when he comes for me, I will see him as he is, and when I see him as he is, I will be like him.

That’s when the real story begins. That’s when my eyes will be opened.

~~~

I try to imagine what it would be like for Jamie if suddenly she could see. What would it be like after a lifetime of darkness to see a color, a face, a ray of sunlight? Everything would at last take on shape and brilliance and form, appearing for the first time as it really is. Wouldn’t you and I—if this were us—spend long hours just looking at everything, gazing in amazement at what had been around us all along?

What a day that will be, the very first day we walk by sight, taking in the fulfillment of what God has prepared for those who love him.

The Gay Man who Met Jesus in a Pub

A War of Loves 2 David Bennett was a young man vehemently opposed to the Christian God, the Christian Bible, and to Christians themselves. So no one was more surprised than David Bennett himself when he became a Christian—and a Christian apologist at that!

In his memoir, A War of Loves, he tells the story of how he realized at a young age that he was gay. He came out to his family at the age of 14, and became radically involved in the gay rights movement in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. What he wanted for his life is what we all want: simply to love and be loved. He wanted to love someone, to have the right to marry him, and to raise a family with him.

But all his hopes and plans for himself were unexpectedly changed when, at 19, he met the love of Jesus in a pub in the gay quarter of Sydney. One might hardly expect Jesus to be in a pub anywhere, let alone in a gay section of town, though in truth such a place is exactly where Jesus reveals his love most powerfully. Certainly he did in David’s life.

~~~

That God would reach out to a gay man isn’t what amazes me. God loves those who are same-sex attracted as much as he loves anyone. This is a given, not a point to be argued.

But that God reached out to man who was radically opposed to him, that he would break through the barriers of erroneous thinking, of intellectual doubt, of the anger and bitterness that came from David’s encounters with God’s own followers—this is what amazes me. David’s mother, a new believer herself at the time of David’s conversion, put it well: “David, I prayed that if he was truly the God of the impossible, God would save you, because you were so impossible to save! Now I know he can do anything!”

~~~

Three things became evident to me as I read David’s story. First, he rejected God because he didn’t know who God really was. He envisioned God only as an “angry, distant deity,” a supreme being who created David as a gay man and then rejected him for being gay.

If this were true of God, then of course atheism would seem preferable. But when God broke in, he showed himself to David as he really is. As David wrestled to understand this unseen but overwhelmingly real Presence, he writes of a moment when “I realized…how tender and loving God the Father was! …He was close. He was kind. He was good and tender-hearted.” God, David discovered, was love. And his Word, the Bible, wasn’t an epistle of condemnation—especially for those who are gay, as David thought—but was instead a love letter, from a Father to His precious children.

~~~

Second, David saw God as condemning because he was condemned by Christians. In this, the church has been very, very wrong. What can be more shameful than allowing our judgments to stand between God and the people He is trying to reach?

The task of the body of Christ is not to condemn but to love. Only love can point to Love, and only God, once He has captured a human heart, can begin the work of holiness. We can no more cleanse another person’s heart than we can cleanse our own. To try is at best a waste of time, at worst a tragedy in the making.

As David himself put it: “Homosexuality is not an evangelistic issue. It is a discipleship issue.” No one will ever revere and be changed by God’s holiness until he first experiences God’s love.

~~~

When David Bennett encountered Christ, he became a new creation, but he did not become heterosexual. He remained same-sex attracted. As he studied the Bible, he came to the conclusion that he needed to live his life as a celibate gay Christian.

Those who think God should have made him heterosexual as part of the deal of salvation will be disappointed. To me, David’s choice is the triumph. And this is the third thing I took away from this book: In our humanness, so long as we are in this world, we are all broken in some way. Salvation brings forgiveness, but not perfection. Not yet. Our journey on this planet will always be a stumbling along on feet of clay. But God’s grace gives us the strength to choose sacredness over sin.

David will always be tempted by homosexual desires, just as the alcoholic might always be tempted to drink, the gambler to place a bet, the womanizer to cheat, the proud man to boast. We are all of us tempted to love this world more than we love God and to find our fulfillment in something other than him.

But David has chosen—with God’s help—to give up his greatest desire, earthly love and sexual fulfillment, in order to be in right relationship with God. And this is to me the height and the essence of living one’s life as a love story with God: choosing to love him above all things, no matter what it is we are tempted to love more.

~~~

Quoted material taken from: David Bennett, A War of Loves (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), pp. 83, 80, 193, 165.

3 Words out of 16,000

20181119_061805    I was curious, so I googled how many words a person speaks in the course of an average day. I found varying answers, with most sites suggesting that whatever the number is, women undoubtedly speak thousands of more words a day than men do. One study coming out of the University of Arizona, though, concluded that both genders speak roughly the same number of words daily: 16,215 for women and 15,669 for men.*

Of course, it’s going to depend on the individual, but the bottom line is, a whole lot of words roll off our tongues in the course of a day. Can any of us imagine living our lives without words?

~~~

Helen Keller did. Because she was blind, deaf and mute from the time she was 19 months old, she had no real concept of language, and her thoughts were only wordless sensations. Instinctively, she knew she wasn’t meant to live like this, and her frustration led to many outbursts of anger. Isolated from the people around her, she felt within herself the deep desire to communicate, and yet she couldn’t; she didn’t know how.

Until Annie Sullivan came into her life, and began to teach her the connection between objects and words using sign language. The story of Annie holding Helen’s hand under the water pump is well known. As the water flowed into Helen’s hand, Annie spelled the word for water in Helen’s other hand. She spelled it over and over until Helen understood and as she put it, “the mystery of language was revealed to me….That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”**

Helen Keller said that when she could begin to communicate with other people, “I was restored to my human heritage.”***

~~~

What makes us different from every other part of creation? Some might say nothing does, that we are all part of the one great divine whole that includes earth, water, wind, willow trees, dogs, cats, grasshoppers—everything. But this isn’t true. Human beings are different because only men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

There are undoubtedly many layers to what that means—to be made in God’s image—but I’m convinced that one of the things that makes us different is our ability to use words. We have language. We can communicate.

~~~

We all talk to our pets, don’t we? I have to smile when my daughter talks to her rabbit: “I love you, Opie!” Opie lies sprawled on the floor of his cage, his big bunny feet stretched out behind him, indifferent to Laura’s words of affection. Even when she says it again, he offers no response. Laura turns to me and says jokingly, “Do you think he likes me?” Who knows? The only time he seems excited is when we offer him lettuce and carrots.

~~~

One day I sat down at my computer and found a message from Laura on a sticky note: I love you! Smiling, I wrote, I love you too! on another sticky note and left it beside the mirror in her bathroom. Her note is still on my desk. My note is still beside her mirror. In fact, we tell each other several times a day those same words: I love you! That’s just who we are; it’s intrinsic to our relationship. One says it first and, without fail, the other says it back.

~~~

I’m not much of a talker, but whether I say 600 words a day or 16,000, I have to wonder how many of them are directed to God? And of those that are spoken to God, how many are used not to ask for him something, but simply to tell him that I love him? God gave us the ability to communicate so that we can be in communion with him. And yet after God began to speak to me about my life being a love story with him, I realized I was a dumb bunny accepting the gifts of his love but seldom telling him I loved him in return.

Of all the words I’m going to speak today, I believe God deserves these three: I love you. And so now, that’s how I start my morning prayers, how I begin my day. Knowing how much it means to me to hear those words from my daughter, I realize my Heavenly Father deserves nothing less. In fact, he deserves so much more. As he continues to pour his messages of love into my life, may more and more of my speech be words of love to him in response.

We love him, because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19, KJV

 *https://ubrp.arizona.edu/study-finds-no-difference-in-the-amount-men-and-women-talk/

**Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, p. 27.

** *Ibid, p. 19.

I Wonder If It Hurts to Live

I wonder if it hurts to live,

And if they have to try,

And whether, could they choose between,

They would not rather die.

~ Emily Dickinson

 

The fall my daughter Laura started college, a sophomore student climbed to the seventh floor of one of the classroom buildings and leapt from a balcony to his death. Laura went to the impromptu student-led candlelight vigil held in the university’s Brickyard that night. Prayers were said, Psalms read. Students, teachers, and staff alike wondered, Why? Nobody saw it coming, not even his suite mates.

~~~

Every time I go to work at the university food court, I walk through the Brickyard where the vigil was held. From the front windows of the dining area, I can look across the yard and see the building from which the young student fell. I didn’t know him but, after three years, I still feel the loss.

The reasons for suicide are many and complicated. Often a suicide is prompted by mental illness or substance abuse, twin demons that first kidnap the mind and then kill the body. Other people are overwhelmed by perceived failures, lost love, financial ruin. Each individual has his own tangled web of motives for choosing death. And yet if you boil the reasons down to their lowest common denominator, you always find despair.

~~~

It hurts to live. We live in a world of hurt, a place where pain often seems to outweigh pleasure and where all the shades of sadness—everything from small disappointments to unthinkable tragedies—paint the backdrop to our existence. I’ve often thought that even the easiest of lives is hard.

~~~

When the students line up at my cash register, we exchange smiles and a few words of greeting. They appear happy, most of them. But sometimes I wonder what’s really going on in their heads, behind those youthful eyes.

Even as they prepare for the future, I have no doubt the usual existential questions tug at their minds: Why am I here? What’s it all about? I shudder to think of the answers offered to them by the world. Do their professors insist that we are all cosmic accidents, free-floating agents of biology and fate with nothing to tether us to a meaningful purpose? Do their parents goad them to succeed at all costs, because short of success, a person is nothing? Do the media tell them they must be famous, beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and—God forbid—a rock star, when they know instinctively—most of them, anyway—they were born to be common, and that what should be celebrated as a grand thing—living a common life—is met instead with derision and contempt? Do they sense somehow that there is a God, but are these nascent longings crushed by those who mock any mention of the Divine, who view religious faith as, at best, a superstition, at worst, the source of all evil? Do all the world’s messages create such turmoil in the human psyche that finally the only seemingly sensible thing to do is to climb seven flights of stairs with no intention of walking back down?

~~~

Even if you don’t jump, you can be dead while you’re still breathing. Because if you don’t know what you’re living for, you aren’t living.

~~~

There’s the story about the man who found an eagle’s egg and put it into the nest of a prairie chicken. When it hatched, naturally the eagle thought it was a chicken. It didn’t notice that it was different, and no one told him. Once he saw an eagle flying high on a current of wind, and something inside of him identified; he longed to be like that. But one of his chicken-brothers told him to forget it; he was a chicken and that was all he’d ever be. For years he scratched in the dirt for seed and insects like the other chickens. When he flew, he never got more than a few feet off the ground, because that’s how all the other chickens flew. The eagle didn’t know he had wings that were built to take him to great heights. He died without knowing that he could soar.

~~~

I wonder whether it might have made a difference to that young man if he had known he was created in the image of God and born to be in a love relationship with him. That his wings weren’t those of a prairie chicken, so stunted that he couldn’t rise above failures, fears, broken relationships—whatever it was that weighed him down as his feet carried him up the stairwell. I wonder whether it might have changed everything if he had known he was here because God wanted him here, that God loved him desperately and had plans for him far beyond the years that he would wander through this crazy world. That there was a whole eternity of love waiting for him beyond this life, the very love that makes this journey bearable, and at times almost unbearably beautiful.

~~~

Each one of us is here because God wants us here. We sprang from the loving heart of a Father who knew us individually before he laid the foundations of the world. God love us. He wants us to spend our lives loving him.

~~~

And, just to make this perfectly clear, I’m talking to you. The one who is reading this. God loves you. God loves you. He loves you. There are no exceptions. Spread your eagle-wings and live your life as the love story it was created to be. Even in a world of hurt, you were made to soar.

~~~

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.   1 John 4:9, NRSV

Dropping out of the Human Race

Where I am now, almost six years after my father’s final words to me. A continuation of the story begun in my first post, “My Father’s Final Words,” (posted Sept. 22), and further thoughts on loving God over loving success…

Sometimes, when I’m sweeping the floor at the university’s food court, I wonder whether any of the students know that, like them, I went to college once upon a time. That I have both a college degree and a master’s degree. That I worked as a journalist and a novelist and taught creative writing on a university level.  They probably think I barely made it through high school, if they think of me at all. Aren’t most cashiers invisible? Secretly, I’m simply amused. I’m content to be there among them, if not as a professor of literature, then as a sweeper of floors.

~~~

I was 20-something and working as an editor for “Decision” magazine when I first met Brother Lawrence. He was a long-dead Carmelite monk who had spent much of his life toiling in the monastery’s kitchen, but whose letters posthumously ended up in a book titled The Practice of the Presence of God. He was an author but didn’t know it, which would have suited him just fine.

What Brother Lawrence really wanted was to live every moment of his life as a love affair with God. When I read his book I was most struck by these words: “I turn over my little omelet in the frying pan for the love of God…. When I cannot do anything else, it is enough for me to have picked up a straw from the ground for the love of God.”*

His seemed to me a noble lifestyle, and I wanted to live like that. But as I looked around I didn’t see many people picking up straw for the love of God. Instead, I saw a massive stampede toward achievement, attainment and success.

~~~

And so one starts running too because everyone else is, and apparently this is what life is all about. Soon, though, one discovers that even doing her best isn’t good enough. A person has to do her best plus be better than everyone else. I may be wrong, but as I looked around, it seemed to me that the human race was indeed in something of a race, with everyone pitted against everyone else, clamoring not toward some finish line but upward to the top of the heap. It was a race to out-smart, out-perform, out-do, and out-wit everyone else to become number one, the winner, the champion of champions.

~~~

I wanted to be a novelist and, after 13 years of effort, I finally did get published. I released 11 novels, got some good reviews, won a few awards. I ran and ran, but I didn’t fully understand why I was running and I always felt a little lost. Somehow I had started out believing that the purpose of literature was to share ideas, to help others make sense of life, to create something beautiful and offer it as a gift. And to a certain extent, it is. But to a greater extent, it’s something else.

~~~

It took me years to understand that the publishing industry is not so much about words as it is about numbers. It has to be. I entered the industry a naïve romanticist (not in the sense of a romance writer, but as one who is a lover of beauty, poetry, art, ideas), and took not a single thought to the fact that the industry has to make money to survive. It is a business for profit before it is a place for the exchange of ideas and the offering of beauty. Because—as much as it hurts my artistic sensibilities—money makes the world go ’round and beauty is a luxury that is secondary to survival.

(And God knows that we all have to be financially successful to a certain extent simply to stay alive. Sadly, though, no matter one’s profession, all human industry bows down to the Almighty Dollar, as opposed to Heaven, where everything bows down to the Almighty Himself.)

So instead of “What words of hope do you have to offer?” and “What ideas do you have to share?” the primary questions in publishing are “How many books have you sold?” and “What’s your ranking on Amazon?”

~~~

Though I was good with words, I was never very good with numbers, and so by industry standards I was not successful. Sales of my books were low, translating into very little money for my publisher, my agent, and myself. After several years of coasting, this lover of words was at length defeated by numbers, and I was at the end of the road.

~~~

But God didn’t leave me there, and maybe it wasn’t so much the end of the road as a shift to a different path. Because right about the time I realized I had fallen hopelessly behind in this human race, God began telling me that the story I’m living is far more important that any story I had written or could ever hope to write because my story was never meant to be a success story in the first place, it was meant to be a love story with him.

That changed everything, and what might have been a soul-crushing encounter with despair became a life-giving encounter with the Lover of my soul.

~~~

In 2016, to help pay our bills, I took the only work I could find at my age which, believe me, is no longer 20-something. Though I tried for professional positions, I was offered only one job: as a cashier. I now work seven hours a day at a university food court—oddly enough, a job not all that different from what Brother Lawrence did in the monastery kitchen—so that even while my mornings are spent freelance editing for a small publishing house, the majority of my day is devoted to ringing up food sales, stocking cups and lids, and sweeping up waffle fries.

And yet, for the first time in my life, I’m at peace about my life. And that’s the amazing thing because joy and peace were largely elusive during those treadmill years of chasing after numbers. But that’s the difference between living for success and living for the love of God.  I finally understand Brother Lawrence and can make his words my own: “I run my little cash register for the love of God…. When I cannot do anything else, it is enough to sweep up waffle fries from the floor for the love of God.”

~~~

I’m dropping out of the human race not because I’m giving up on life, on myself, or my dreams, but because I’m giving in to God’s call to make my life not a success story, but a love story with him.

 

* Brother Lawrence. The Practice of the Presence of God. Orleans MA: Paraclete Press, 1985, p. 146.