Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet Graphic

I never wanted to be you.

All those years that my womb was hollow and when friends were shifting clothes in and out of their closets – moving out pilled maternity shirts (well-worn), and moving in those post-maternity jeans (worn much longer than planned) and pre-maternity sizes that never quite fit again but remained on the hanger as a “one-day, maybe again” reward – the hardest months for me were the ones when I was a few days late.

A few days expectant.

A few days, planning. Dreaming.

A few days hopeful.

The ones that ended in what I then labeled to be a few days foolish.

I inadvertently had given permission to this part of our life in God, that great mystery – one that I had patterned my life around boxing out: hope.

So, here’s why I didn’t want to be you – mama whose womb was filled, only to be emptied again, early. Those few days of expectancy were days when my hope could be mostly dismissed as girlish – even foolish – fantasy. I was wide-eyed with a hope that didn’t fit my measured personality and my careful walk with God. When those days were over, this hope made me uncomfortable, but I could at least make earnest attempts to dismiss it.

But you? You were expecting. You had reason to hope. You had a date, circled on the calendar and the nausea to support it. You ate pickles at midnight and whispered the secret to your friends. You unfastened your jeans and watched life grow round underneath your nose.

But one day that child who was filling your insides emptied right out of you. Your body had become a casket and you didn’t know it.

What do you do with a hope that came from two real little lines – and not a girlish fantasy?

I didn’t want to be you, having to wrestle with hope when you had real reason to hope. I’d rather have hope in God mysteriously elude me – to shake it off like an annoying buzz in my ear every few months – than have it settle into my frame and bleed out of me.

But this December, I became one of you.

I walked away from a static screen past women in the waiting room whose bellies carried heartbeats. And the question I’ve danced with for a decade entered again.

Why would a measured, careful follower of God ever give in to the whims of hope? Even with reason behind it, couldn’t hope leave us terribly betrayed?

The question, though cold, shows up all over my everyday decisions. I live in the seen world, praying prayers to the unseen God. But I’m afraid of what that unseen reality of His might do to my fragile heart.

So I talk myself out of hope and I call it wisdom. Often.

I hedge my bets and pray easy prayers and plan lots of “just in case” scenarios. I don’t tell anyone the big things I’m asking because what if I put myself out there only to be shorn, again.

We play it safe because safety only requires us to know a small version of God. Safety leaves us thinking that we’re in charge of the consequences. Who picks up those pieces when our hope is deferred, anyways?

So instead, we just don’t hope. We plant our feet in the seen reality and before we know it, Jesus has become the tooth fairy. A foolish dream haunting our measured Western Christianity.

Could it be that our responses to the uncertainties in our lives – the ones that are beckoning us to dream like a little girl, bordering on foolishness – are like a mirror, showing us the truth of how we see God?

Is He grand and full of impossibilities or a mere extension of our limited selves, but somehow older and grey (and kinder)?

When I choose hope, when I choose to engage in that awkward intimacy of believing that He might say no while asking expectantly that He say yes, my heart opens in a way it never does when I’m careful. I’m forced to search Him out, to wrestle with Him. And in so doing He gets the most beautiful part of me.

Hope is my precious oil. It’s an offering to Him that says “God, I’m willing. Vulnerable, before you.”

Hope, and the vulnerability it brings, is what moves His heart (yes, I can move the heart of God). It brings me into a raw exchange that awakens long-sleeping parts of me.

That baby that slipped through my body and all the hope I carried in the days and weeks when her heart was still beating, are beautifully purposed.

They made me the alabaster jar.

Hope cracks me open.

To Him and for Him.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 2.10.42 PM Who doesn’t want to be cracked open, alone? The team at Zondervan has created a free Book Club guide for Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet. Check out details for downloading the guide at www.everybitterthingissweet.com/book. There’s no better time than now to link arms with others and invite Him in, in a fresh way.

 

Sara and her team at Zondervan are giving five of you a free copy of Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet PLUS a free digital version of the brand new discussion guide to encourage you as you seek hope. To be entered to win, simply share with us in the comments (US residents only):

Why do you need an extra dose of hope today?

We’ll choose winners on Friday, January 23rd!

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