Seven Weeks

I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I thought getting back into church would change me into kind, gentle, joyful Vanessa again.  Not to say it won’t.  But I guess it’s been about 6 or 7 weeks now and I am still very frustrated.  I feel like I have knots tied all around inside.  I’m sure I have only just begun.

These words are from a journal entry dated January 17, 2002. My entries are spotty at best. Sometimes a few weeks apart…sometimes several years. I stumbled across this one as I thought to look over the notes I took in church yesterday.

I take notes because it does help me remember but also because I’m quirky about “good” ink pens and like my own handwriting. Not that I typically go back and read my notes…I don’t. But yesterday’s message was just beautiful and my notes are in this old and mostly blank journal.

It was one of those Sundays when I had little expectation. Our Pastor and his family are on a short sabbatical…so I wasn’t sure who would be speaking.

This message was like a warm hug.  It was searing and unforgettable to hear someone plainly speak about seasons of discontent and confusion…expecting and wanting an explanation from God…asking questions like where, when, how and why but never hearing an answer. Only holding on to promises. Letting faith grow and stretch until we think we will snap. Of humbly accepting He is God. He is Creator. I am not. Of discovering even in unanswered questions God is good. Loves us.

I loved how Pastor Kyle Wall started his message:

It’s never really about where you’re going. It’s about heart. The destination of our hearts. Make yourself available. Keep a tender heart.

And this I starred with my fancy blue pen…

Seasons of waiting are an issue of the heart.

And this…

A big blessing out of no where is often a reward for a small act of faith and obedience in the past.

Unstoppable tears from start to finish. So fresh in my life. So clear in hindsight. Yes…He is always intending to shape and grow our hearts…stretch our faith. Yes…our true destination is one of the heart.

Where and how and when He leads might be surprisingly adventuresome but eventually almost inconsequential. We might sit through what seems like a million services with tired, crusty, drained hearts. But we keep sitting. Keep listening. Keep holding on to promises and refuse to be offended with His lack of explanation.

Then one ordinary Sunday a perfect stranger’s message personifies our life experience.

Merely a week or so after sorting through months of struggle and finding this idea of holy discontent (sin always brings discontent…we have to prayerfully consider the difference), Pastor Kyle shares how God indeed uses discontent!

Blown away…

I smile because God’s timing means something so personal to me. That warm hug…that deep sense of belonging…the recognition of His hand and “out of nowhere” blessing on my life.   The sweet fragrance of new growth pushing through the hard dirt of hard days.

God is pleased with me. I could hardly take it. Hardly knew how to receive His pleasure. In me. With me.

Part of me thinks that may be too much, too personal, to share. Someone might take it the wrong way.

That’s okay. I’m tired of expanding and contracting for the sake of human opinion. I’m tired of the dance…staying inside the box and realm of who I’ve been because getting out changes too many dynamics.

And it’s absolutely okay because I know it is faith that pleases God. It gets messy and real and grows brave and then falls on its face but gets back up. Somehow in the midst of it all, He is pleased.

I don’t have faith that says the right thing every time. That has an answer every time.

Unlike the young girl who wrote that entry years ago, I know in my gut faith and heart destinations are grown and discovered on the long stretch. Over a lifetime of getting real.

And that’s a relief.

If you feel tied up in knots today, may I encourage you? You’ve got more than seven weeks. He might not explain, but He will make good on His promises as you put one foot in front of the other.

Beauty for ashes…on the long stretch.

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