I like it... how good God is at the stories. I like how I don't feel foolish with my little lessons, because He taught of how to be a good neighbor and how to return to the arms of God in those little stories. He showed us what He really meant by talking about a sower and a handful of seeds.
Sometimes I think Satan likes us to lessen the lessons, to feel silly about the small notes we feel God is leaving behind for us, because he doesn't want those stories told. He wants our day to day living to be tangled up with impatience and red lights, with bills and people who need us that we resent. He doesn't want us to sit at the Lord's feet and learn and listen. To recognize lessons in life... to recognize that Jesus is in this life. It's not just a Sunday morning, listen to your preacher kind of thing. We honor God by paying attention. He's in it all.
"You have to want to see the well
before you can drink from it.
You have to want to see joy,
God in the moment."
~ A n n V o s k a m p
A day or so ago, I believe it was Saturday morning, I felt desperate for my coffee. Not in a wake me up kind of way, but just that routine. Just that comfort in beginning another day when things are maybe not exactly how I would have dreamt them up to be. I would have written the story differently. I spooned out the instant coffee into my favorite mug, filled with clear tap water and microwaved for 1 minute and 20 seconds. I swished my favorite Belgian Toffee Nut creamer within the bottle and once the coffee was the perfect temperature, I plopped a dollop of creamer in.
I felt time slow and I watched as the cream cooled and swirled into the darkness, changing it forever. It was still coffee, but it was changed. It was drinkable, now. I can't drink my coffee black, no way, no how, but add some sugar to lighten the load and it's tolerable. It's strangely comforting. The bitterness gives way to something I end up giving thanks for.
We all have cups of brew that we would rather not have to drink. If it were up to us, we would push far that mug of abandonment and divorce, that mug of infertility and miscarriage, that china cup of cancer, that ceramic handled mug of tumors the size of small fruits in the small brains of children. We would do away with it all. We would never make that. We would never drink that. We would throw it out before it could stain the rim.
When we say that God gives all things... that He is all knowing, all controlling, all seeing eye on us and within... what does it mean that we are doing when we grimace and push back the bitter gall and say, "No thank you. This is not what I asked for." God is not Starbucks. He doesn't give us a Venti just because we want it. Sometimes things aren't made to order. But we get to choose how we respond. And how we respond is vital to how we live in communion with God.
At any time, if He wants, He can take that warmed glass from our hands and dump it down the drain. But if He doesn't... if He doesn't... what do we do with that? When children stomp and throw tantrums in the toy aisles, do they end up getting what they want? Don't we tell them they are being selfish, ungrateful;... brats. Our complaints against God's will for us are blasphemies. Our refusal to trust, to give thanks, to believe in the promises... it makes us blasphemers. When we do that, we are giving power back to Satan and saying that we believe in the power of his darkness. That we believe he's stronger after all.
"It is suffering that has the realest
possibility to bear down
and deliver grace."
~ A n n V o s k a m p
Even Jesus knew what it was like to be handed a cup that was hard to swallow. Even Jesus knelt and prayed and cried for it to be dumped down the drain. Taken away. But even in His desires to not have to go through what He knew was ahead, He submitted. He trusted and brought it to His lips: "... And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Matthew 14:35-36, ESV)
The more bitter the brew, the harder to swallow. The more strong the aftertaste. But strong coffee is strong for a reason. It has the most power to shake us awake, to animate the blood. Sometimes things have to be swallowed down so that we can go forward. There is joy in that. I feel God sweetens circumstances for us with His presence and His Word. With His people to comfort and encourage. He hasn't left us alone, to sit in a dark corner and drink in the hard.
Whether we see the sugar swirl in the midst of the dark velvet is up to us. We choose what we see and how we respond to it. We can take what we are handed, give thanks, trust that He knows what will best suit our tongues, our hearts. We can risk having that story, that meeting, that parable of our own, with Almighty God. As believers, we have hope and we have assurance. We have the comfort of our Savior. He hasn't left us to swallow it down alone. He doesn't leave us when the results come in or when the diagnosis stops our breath or when the dreams just don't happen.
But He has everything. And that means we have more than all we need.
"You may suffer loss but in Me
is anything ever lost, really?
Isn't everything that belongs to Christ
also yours? Loved ones lost
still belong to Him -
then aren't they still yours?
Do I not own the cattle on a thousand hills;
e v e r y t h i n g?
Aren't then all provisions, in Christ
also yours? If you haven't lost Christ,
child, nothing is ever lost.
Remember, 'through many tribulations
we must enter the
kingdom of God.' (Acts 14:22)."
~ A n n V o s k a m p