I had barely stepped into the room, little brother in my arms, when Joel looks up from his animals and barn, crossed his arms defiantly and said, “No, baby Travis! MY living room!”
“See! Look how beautiful that is! God did that! God makes the sky beautiful like that for us! And God gives us our house and all the nice things we have, doesn’t He?” He nods and then points at the truck that drives by, “Black truck!” Lesson presented. Learned? Maybe next time. And the time after.
We have to keep learning to let go. To hold loose.
There is beauty and benefit here. Undeniable. God's love pours onto our undeserving, messy little heads, all day, every day, year after year. And then? And then home to Him. It's almost more than my mind can wrap around. All of this... and still. "...ten thousand years and then forevermore!"
There is loss and death here. Unbelievable. And God's love continues to dump, His mercies new, His comfort real, His patience long, His ways beyond seeking out, understanding. Sometimes the lesson is clear after the tears dry and we can glance over our shoulder and nod and smile with peace and know that this happened so this could happen and so we could know, always, that He is God and we are not.
And other times it all just stabs and our cries feel ever-lasting, redundant... unanswered.
That's when we go back to the very start. Go back to the classroom. Back to the threshing floor. Back to the mercy seat. Back to owning that we are in the earth and all of the earth is God's footstool (Isaiah 66:1). His footstool! Can you imagine the greatness, the power, the owning? The earth is God's and everything in it (Psalm 24:1).
In the things I can't explain, I take such comfort in knowing it is all God's to begin with. When my Aunt Joyce passed away, the stunning ache led me to learn, deeply, that God owns all the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-11) and that before she was ours, she was His. And He has all the power and all the right to have His daughter home when He wants. He sets the curfew for all of us. When I miscarried, even though it was so early we could barely discern I had been pregnant at all, I sat in church, bawling, and singing with tight-fisted larynx that God was mighty to save. And I believed with all of me that He was. That He is. If He wanted that to last, it would.
Even when our dog was hit and killed after we had barely moved into this new, forever space, in tears I talked to Joel about Ruger and how he was never really ours to begin with. I blinked fast, willing the walls to rise so I could share truth with my toddler, who understandably didn't understand what was going on - only that "Ruger-doggy" wasn't outside the patio doors anymore. At first, I didn't know what I would say. How do you tell a child, or anyone, that what they loved is gone for good? And the questions stumble over wads of Kleenex: "But where did they go? When will they come back? Doesn't God know I love them and want them here?"
What I told Joel, "Ruger was God's before he was ours. God gave him to us. And now God knows where he is." It sounds all clean and washed and done. And it wasn't. Just the other day he asked about Ruger, completely out of the blue and we had to remind him again, "We don't have Ruger here with us anymore. God has him." We continually have amnesia when it comes to loss and love. It should go on forever. I shouldn't feel sad. I must accept, must accept, must accept...
Maybe this is why it is so good, so needful, to reflect on God's character, His many vibrant and fulfilling names, His past faithfulness, His Word. We forget and get wrapped up in what is no more and we just get mad. We get mad and fill with feeling cheated. Left behind. Dealt too harshly with. The book of Job is a little unnerving to read, because it's clear God allowed the loss and the pain and the disease and the harping friends and the not-so-stick-by-your-side wife.
And still Job... oh Job... His faith stayed and his perspective on the matter? When he surveyed the loss of his livelihood - the livestock, gone. The bounty, gone. The healthy skin, gone. The joy, gone. The seemingly steadfast marriage, gone. The children... all gone. How did Job, with the weeping sores and the bludgeoned heart and the list of loss as long as your arm and everyone else's? How did he still find it unbelievable that we would accept good from the Lord but not bad?
"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away... "
I don't want to contemplate the depth of that kind of loss. It makes the undercurrent in me nervous. What if... me? What if my kids, my house, my husband, my family? What if it's the next storm or the next time we're on the road or the next time I get a late night phone call? I don't want it. Any of it. Lord, I just don't.
On the day of my wedding, we exited the chapel with the triumphant, joyful notes of, "This is the Day!" following us. Is it only the day that the Lord has made when it's good? When I'm skinny and tan and wearing the dress and he's handsome and we're ecstatic and hopeful? Are those only the days that the Lord has made and are those the only days we are happy in? The mornings we had our sons. The first day in our new home. Heading home from Sunday worship, high and convicted. Those are the days the Lord has made. And we are happy and rejoice in them. We're glad in it all.
But God makes and owns everything. It's all His. (Ecclesiastes 7:14) What He creates, what He allows, what He uses for us, what He ordains for His glory...
His love goes on and on. For generations. For me. One day I will be scraped clean of this life. Hollowed out and done, but it's not over. That's when the rest begins. When the rest unfolds. This is now. And I will be glad and rejoice in it. And be thankful for it. And take pictures and have coffee with friends and go a little crazy in the home decor section of Target. But this is not forever. And everything I have has been given. I have no claim, no right. This is not my house, my room, my barstool, my MacBook. I bite my lip and recognize that all I have is given.
This, right now? It's gorgeous and too much. But later?
Later I won't even have words.
"I see a star; You see the Milky Way
I see one man counting sand
but You see generations.
Who but You, would ever choose
to dream Your dream in me?
Tell me who, but You, would dare
me to believe in what I can't see?
Who, but You?"
~ Music Inspired by The Story