On October 25th, 2009, my church did a “cardboard testimony” thing. (Watch some on Youtube!) It’s basically a thing where people write their testimony in a few words on a piece of cardboard. One side is what you were/have been through, and the other side is how God used it, redeemed you, saved you, etc.
On one side of mine, I wrote this:
On the other, I wrote this:
God’s plan is BEAUTIFUL
God’s plan is BEAUTIFUL
I was thinking about that the other night, wincing at my naivety. My innocence. My stupidity. (And now my offended pride.) Even after the struggles I faced – and I did struggle – I was sure that from that point on, everything would be great. The struggles of the future would pale to the struggles I’d come through.
God’s plan is not always beautiful. Sometimes it hurts. Hurts like all manners of hell. (Yes, I just wrote that.)
Sometimes God’s plan takes everything you think and love and allows it to be ripped apart in an instant.
Sometimes God’s plan is so petrifying that instead of trusting him, you revert back to all of those things you thought you’d escaped from.
Sometimes God’s plan to build a beautiful city starts with him razing the city you built on your own.
Sometimes his plan to create a garden starts with him ripping out the weeds and roots and altogether destroying the place.
Sometimes you ask God to take you out upon the waters, but when he gets you to the edge of the ocean, you freak out, flop down, and refuse to take another step. So he stands there waiting for you to finish your tantrum, let go of your pride and panic, and look at him again.
That’s where I am. That’s where I’ve been. At the edge of the water, butt in the sand, arms crossed, and jaw clenched. Refusing to look up because I don’t want to see where I am, or where I’m going.
“I am not doing this, God. No. No freaking way. You cannot make me. You do this to me, and I am done. You hear me? DONE.”
See, the thing is, even as I did that cardboard testimony, I didn’t know what to write. I didn’t feel changed; I never really have. I wrote “distrusted God,” but I couldn’t bring myself to write “trusting God” on the other side. I wanted to, but I didn’t want to lie.
So I wrote something else.
Over four years later and distrusting God, for me, is still not a thing of the past.
It is daily. Constant. Even more so now. Or, rather, this whole trial has revealed what is really in me.
These past many months, I have dissolved into fear. Not in it, but into it. It has taken over, become me.
Do I know what God is getting at? Not really, because I haven’t asked. I’ve been so angry with him, so angry with myself, so certain he’s going to screw me over that I can’t think straight. Can’t trust him enough to think I could hear him clearly. Don’t know how to not read into everything, so I read nothing. Can’t bring myself to surrender – even though I know it’s the answer – because I fear what that surrender will look like. I’ve just panicked. Clung to a groundless fear and waited it out.
Well, the waiting is out. It’s past.
I’m still alive.
But I’m also still standing on the shoreline, refusing to follow him out on the waves. The distrust in my heart hasn’t dimmed, it’s just accompanied by the condemning thoughts of, “Well, if you surrender now, it doesn’t really count. You should have done it before. Your love is sooo conditional.”
And it’s true. My love for God is conditional. Just like I believe his is toward me.
I live under shame, condemnation, regret, and fear. The worst part? I know this – and I still continue to live there. It’s not right or good, but it’s familiar. It’s not safe, but it feels safer than sticking my head out in faith. I don’t have a good track record for not getting pulverized when I do that. So, in effort to, you know, not get pulverized like that again, I stay in the darkness of myself where I’m comfortable.
It’s deadly. Suffocating. But it’s the only way I know to protect myself: withdraw, hide, bury. Rinse and repeat.
See, my biggest fears aren’t bees, or heights, or breaking my nose and having it crooked for the rest of my life. (That was supposed to be slightly funny. Though I do fear something happening to make me physically ugly.)
My biggest fear is losing control/not being in control.
This shows up so clearly, so insanely, when it comes to heights.
I’m afraid of the big swing at camp, the zip-line also at camp, and of roller coasters. I stood at the top of our clubhouse thingy the other day (the platform is maybe ten feet up) and looked down – my stomach churned and my head swam. I’m paralyzed by the thought of going out on a skywalk thing over the Grand Canyon. (Seriously, do people have a death wish or what?!?! Just – why? What are you thinking? Why would you ev–)
So I fear standing on something high-ish. Or sitting. Yet I don’t fear the thought of climbing a wall, or a tree. The thought of the high ropes course at camp? Yes please! Those three things don’t strike me with terror, but with delight. Why? Well, because I’m in control of course. I’m holding on, not strapped in by someone else. (The skywalk thing is just stupid.) It’s my strength that holds me to the little nubs on the wall, my strength that carries me through the tree. If I fall, it’s because I failed. But if I die because a roller coaster flies off the track, then I’m pretty powerless to do anything. (Granted, the ropes course and wall might not be well-constructed, but therein lies the insanity.)
This is getting off topic. Sort of.
I’m afraid to follow Jesus out upon the waters. (After all, water as a liquid is not known as something you can easily walk on. Few people have done it. Fewer have done it well.) I’m afraid of him leaving me there and of drowning. I’m afraid because there isn’t anything to cling to in the middle of the ocean. Waves can be pretty big. I just watched this documentary, and it talked about rogue waves? Yeah.
But I kind of wonder if maybe I am more afraid that I will not drown/be abandoned, but that I will be able to stand. Because that territory right there is utterly unknown – and will lead to only more unknown things/places.
I long for the great unknown.
I fear it with every fiber of my being.
No, God’s plan is not always beautiful.
But someday I will finally understand that HE is beautiful.
He is everything beautiful, everything my heart loves.
And he makes everything beautiful in its time.
That was the verse that came to mind as tears welled in my eyes the other night (Ecclesiastes 3:11). No, his plan is not always beautiful. The roads it travels are paved with pain, blood, sweat, and burning anguish.
Sometimes the path to life looks a lot like dying.
But he makes things beautiful.
He makes all things new.
He raises what is dead, resuscitates hearts frozen in blackness.
The theme of my life lately? The theme I keep seeing on facebook, hearing on the radio?
“Forgive. Let go. It’s in the past. God is doing a new thing.”
And mostly, “Press on.”