When the fire in your life is the hottest, Stand still, for later on…it produces a harvest of blessings. Sainthood finds it’s source in suffering.
These days are harvesting days.
“Can I ask you a question?” My student raises her hand to ask me this in the midst of our discussion on “how could a good God allow so much suffering.” They know about Sam, they know she had cancer. So many of their lives are affected by cancer as well. Parents have suffered, some have died. Younger cousins and loved ones are suffering still. At 15, many of them are angry at God about this. “If He is in control, like we’ve been taught all our lives, why can’t he step in and stop this?” they say.
Sometimes I feel like they blame me too. I must be a conspirer in God’s party. After all I represent Him. I stand up each week and tell them He loves them, that He is good and they roll their eyes as if I existed in the last century, that I haven’t got up to date on this suffering gig.
“God is to blame for everything!” one of them tells me, fixing her eyes on mine, like a dare.
She wants a response even though it’s a statement not a question. The other students stop still to see what I’ll say.
My heart is split down the middle.
One side remembers my 15 year old self. Angry with church, with rules, with the formality and expectations of Christian life. The frustrations of being a passionate female in a man’s world. How desperately I wanted someone to throw their arms around my angry, risk-taking self and tell me to be still. To tell me one day it would all make sense.
The other side of my heart is tender and sore. It senses God’s presence in the corner of the room. He reminds me that this is about Him, not me. To choose my words carefully. I want to spring to His defence. I want to find the intellectual statement in my mind that proves God’s existence but in this moment I do not really think this is what needs to be said.
I did not come to God through facts, or an argument laid out clear and logical. I wasn’t convinced by theology in the educational sense. I came to Him through searching and just like He promised in His word, when I sought, I found. How do I articulate this to a room full of curious teens who may not even seriously want to know. I was 15 once. I remember that sometimes the questions were asked for attention rather than response.
But rise and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for a purpose, to make thee a witness both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things in which I will appear unto thee. Acts 26:16
I make eye contact with the invisible man who hovers by my desk.
Gentle is His presence. He is Love, never angry or boastful or rude.
So I tell the listeners, who wait for my answer to the girl with the raven eyes, to take out their phones. This is not what they expect. Phones are banned. Or so they think.
Then I show them the new App and tell them to join my class online and anonymously enter their questions.
While they do this I wonder. How do I articulate what it is to know God personally? How do I tell them how my life was transformed?
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.
The girl who respectfully raised her hand smiles. “I just want to know how you manage to be a Christian when you’ve suffered so much.”
My heart swells. I have no words but technology has given me time.
And as they type and compare notes and delight in using their phones in class I am mindful of this morning…how I got up early enough to see the most incredible sky.
The sun was not visible as a single glowing ball. It was not visible as a strip of light on the horizon. The sky was a soft grey and the clouds were luminous pink. The sun was only visible in the clouds. Dissected and scattered. A flowing art work. As I drove up the hill the bench on the headland, where people can wait to catch the bus, was silhouetted against this back drop like a still life. The ordinary backed by the extraordinary. As I turned the corner a cyclist made his way up the hill toward the horizon…slow motion…like the scene from a film. As I passed the lake the waves of the sea were visible in the distance, lapping their foam on the concrete structure of the ocean pool. Closer to the bridge a lone fisherman.
This is my life. The ordinary and extraordinary colliding. Imperfectly perfect. No day the same as the last. Even the sun as it rises and sets does not have a predictable pattern. Slowly He comes, revealing His love to me in all the ways I understand Him, through light, water and words. I steal time for the things I love before the frantic pace of work begins; I drink coffee, I read, and today the novelist captured the things I feel better than I could record them myself. So I take my pen and scrawl his words in my journal.
He says my daughter and all the love he has is wrapped up in the tone of his voice when he says those two words. He says my daughter you must always look with both of your eyes. He says this is a very big world and their are many things you could miss if you are not careful. He says there are remarkable things all the time right in front of us, but our eyes like the clouds over the sun and are lives are paler and poorer if we do not se them for what they are. He says if nobody speaks of incredible things, how can they be called remarkable. Jon McGregor
The bell goes, they stand and push in their chairs. “Thanks miss,” they say and I remind myself, there will be time for harvest.