My daughter was in her crib napping and I was on my bed wrestling. Weeping, wrestling, clutching my Bible and searching. Searching for answers, searching for relief, searching for a way out of the wilderness. I felt like Israel, wandering in the desert, forsaken by God. But how had I gotten there? What fatal mistake had I made? In what ways was I a worse wife than the others in my young marrieds class? One of them had an affair. Why was she still married and not me? I asked God, “Am I Israel?”
He nudged my thoughts to the New Testament and to verses that spoke of His love for me. Forget those, I thought, because clearly He doesn’t. I kept turning my attention back to the Old Testament wilderness passages trying to find the way out.
My defining moment.
Finally He said, “You are going to have to make a choice. You can believe what your circumstances say about my love for you, or you can believe what I say about my love for you.” I chose to believe Him. Months of wrestling came to an end in that one defining moment and, with a deep and cleansing sigh, I curled up and fell asleep. He knew how my marriage was going to end the day I said I do. He knew I did not believe in divorce and yet He allowed it anyway. He loved me and He allowed it. There were no cracks in His fingers through which I had fallen. I hadn’t made a fatal mistake.
His defining moment.
I had been a Christian for eight years, and the divorce was my first faith-testing experience. I wouldn’t have another for seventeen years. My daughter had just gone off to college, when a sudden fall set off a string of strange neurological symptoms that baffled a string of doctors. I sat on my sofa day after day trying to distract my fearful thoughts by watching movies as I waited to die. It occurred to me that maybe God didn’t care about me as much as I thought He did. Perhaps I had been foolish to think He cared about me at all. I teetered between hope and despair until He finally reminded me of His defining moment. The question of whether or not He loves us, whether or not He cares about us, was answered once and for all the minute He said yes to the cross.
One step further.
“Okay,” I thought a few weeks later as I was washing my tear-streaked face, “He loves us. But does He love me?” I had always felt special to Him because I loved Him so much, but maybe I wasn’t.
As I grabbed the hand towel He reminded me of the day He called my name. He reminded me of the following night when He revealed Himself to me. It was a glorious revealing. He made me His own. Knowing that I would let Him down, knowing that I would let myself and others down, knowing every bit of my past, present and future, He chose me. “Why would I call you into a relationship with Me and show Myself to you, only to abandon you?”, He asked. I love it when He reasons with me. He reminded me of everything I love about His character, His plans, His stick-to-itiveness. He wouldn’t adopt me as His child and then turn His back on me. He isn’t a bad parent. He finishes the good work He begins in us. He accomplishes His purposes. He isn’t lazy or distracted.
“But Christians sometimes die in their prime, when their ministries are thriving and there is still work to be done,” I countered. “So there is no guarantee I will recover.”
“If you do not recover, it won’t be because I don’t care or because I am not paying attention or because I am unable. It will be because it is time to come home. And if it is your time and my will, you will have peace.”
I thought of the peace He gave my sister – still gives her – as she battles cancer. And that is when I realized that it wasn’t God who was trying to kill me, it was the author of fear. If there is fear, then God’s hand is not in it. And since the presence of fear proved the strange illness was from the devil’s hand, I was going to be okay because God is stronger. God loves us. God loves me. I rested in that and I recovered.
More defining moments.
Job’s defining moments came when he resolved, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” and when he realized that “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”
Peter’s greatest moment came not with words, but with action. After he denied Christ thrice, after he threw his best friend under the bus to save his own skin, he got back up and walked with Him. Not as one who was just barely forgiven, but as one who was amazing. (Acts 2:14-41)
Those are the moments the Holy Spirit illuminates when I am struggling.
I wrote this post to say, “Of course He loves you, sweet Shazzameena.”
He sees the ministry that happens at your table, your hospitality. He gave you gifts and He is not going to waste them. He is not wasteful, He is perfect. He saw you clambering over stone walls to see the old well. He saw you noticing the stain-glassed window. He heard your heart on the way home saying you want to be remembered as a sower of His word and He smiled. He loves how you love Him.
Beth Moore shared something sweet in the Bible study video I watched yesterday:
God to Beth: “Don’t say, ‘I love you’ to Me. Say, ‘I love you, too.’ Because I am always saying it first.”
I like that.
Our defining moments, as tough and heartbreaking and scary as they are, are designed to bring us to the place where we “come to know and believe (once and for all, but with occasional need for reminders) the love God has for us.” 1 John 4:16a
Does God see you? Does He love you? He chose you, dear child. Remember that day? That was the day He answered “Yes!” Forever.