I used to know things. I mean really know them. As a child, I knew dads got ready for work while kids watched The Lone Ranger at 6:00am. I knew moms always bought girls new outfits for picture day. I knew homework would be returned with a star and a smiley face from the teacher.
I also had a solid grasp on marriage and parenting, but that was way before I had a husband and kids.
Then, as an adult, there were other things I became so sure about:
-the best school choice
-the correct political party
-the correct denomination
-what effective ministry looks like
-what “biblical” motherhood looks like
-what sexual abusers look like
-what homeless, addicted, depressed, and gay people need to do
-how to make people like me
-how God works
As you can imagine, many of my sweet childhood assurances were dismantled by the time I met kids who didn’t have dads, new clothes, or a love of school. It shook me up, but my world and my gratitude grew with me.
My listed assurances of adulthood were harder to shake. Over the years, I confidently hung these certainties in the closet of my soul. I often judged and criticized from near and far. But God is faithful in his transformative work. Time after time, he pulls my convictions into the light and challenges them. Are you sure this is so simple?
And then we had to stop homeschooling. I met brilliant friends who voted the other way. I saw God at work in very different churches, a variety of ministry models, and in all kinds of moms …way different from me and mine.
And for deeper cleaning… God has allowed me to walk with folks who diligently pursued health, but still suffered mental illness. I met gay people who love Jesus just as much as I do. A trusted leader was discovered as a sexual predator. Now what are you sure of, Daughter?
I have often wept over the “death” of my precious certainties. One after another, they fell – taking a piece of my pride with them. In those moments, I’m overcome with the chaos of life, the messiness of my circumstance, my lack of control, and my shame.
So now, as I near the end of my 50th trip around the sun, the only thing I know is: I don’t know.
Oh, and life is messy.Lately, I’ve been revisiting the story of when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Of course, I love the victorious moment when Jesus is reunited with his friend and the whole community witnesses Christ’s resurrection power. What a scene!
But over the years, another part of this story brings life to my very human heart. Remember this?
Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
– John 11: 34-35
As a weeper, I love this. But not just because Jesus gives me permission to cry.
Just before this miracle, Jesus was in Jerusalem’s temple courts, talking with the religious leaders. It was a stressful scene:
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”
Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
-John 10:28-32, 39
Jesus willingly entered a convoluted world where confusion reigns, questions linger, and hard work doesn’t always pay off. Adults throw stones, disciples betray, and friends die.
Sometimes it’s just too much. So we weep.
With his actions, Jesus assures us that it’s the proper response. In the middle of a miracle, he paused to sob with his friends. I think he still does.
Life is complicated. God often leaves room for interpretation of his word, and we can’t handle the freedom. He works in mysterious ways, and we’re convinced we need to know.
“Child, said the Lion, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.” – from The Horse and His Boy, Narnia series
We don’t have to read very far in the Bible or live very long to find accounts of how God works to prune away human lists of certainties until he is the only one on it. I am the Lord your God…
God is faithful to remind us that he’s the only assurance we have, and he’s more than enough. Emmanuel.
From time to time, my soul will become cluttered with pride and narrow-mindedness, but God will continue to challenge and change me so I can love like he does.
And every human will weep until all wrong things are made right, but God will continue to work in every wrong thing until our confidence is in him alone.
Until the whole world knows. Really knows.
I’m finally old enough to recognize a sure thing. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
What are you sure of?
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9