This is the place a person expects to feel a lot of emotions. One week before the end of a very intensive 9 month… anything. When the school started I laughed about it being as long as a pregnancy and how I hoped to birth something awesome at the end. A metaphorical birth, thank you.
Near the beginning of this “pregnancy” (Bible course) I found out what I would be having when it was over- a life as a teacher. But when starting a new life, where does one start? With babies you buy clothes for them to wear, not knowing how much they will swim in the newborn clothes or how quickly they will grow out of them. You set up room in the house for the baby to sleep, not knowing how much or when sleep will occur. You pick out names, not knowing if what you’ve finally agreed upon with your spouse will actually suite this small human.
I have done those things for a literal baby, only to find everything far different than anyone had prepared for or expected. She only lived 19 hours. I’m not trying to get all depressing on you here, but I just want to give myself some perspective.
We don’t know what will happen next….
What I have discovered from that literal pregnancy and birth (and death) is that no matter what you are anticipating, no matter how differently things end up being than what you expected, no matter how horrible they can turn out- God is there when it happens.
This is life. There is no melodrama. There is no, “Why me, Lord?” but only “What now, Dad?”
What he has in his hands is not about cruel sovereignty or indifferent destiny. While I do believe he could have changed the outcome of past tragedies, his goodness is so absolute that I know that whatever happened, whatever will happen, he loves me and it’s going to be okay.
When I was reading Matthew out loud yesterday (the very last book!) I started weeping at about Chapter 22. This could be because the person I had been reading with had to leave and I was left alone and didn’t have to hold anything in anymore… But what was pouring over me in floods was the realization that the tragedy that occurred way back in the garden, when Adam and Eve said, “I’m not sure if God is good at all,” when they broke God’s heart- when that happened, a whole history of life was set in motion. If God needed to guard his heart against us he could have just ended it all there. If he needed to protect himself from unhealthy codependency, he could have distanced himself forever and just let things run into the ground…. IF.
What he did do, was to make this crazy plan that is woven throughout the Old Testament. Kingdoms rise and fall, smash together and fall to pieces and God constantly sends people to be his voice, “I’ve got a plan, I’m doing things… hang on!” And in Matthew, after the Jews finally, finally understood that they belonged to this one God, he himself comes down to them wearing an average male body and speaking like nobody has spoken (oh, except for those crazy prophets).
He eats with the disciples and tells them one of them will betray him. They all ask with emotion choking their words, “Is it me, Lord?” Because we all know how we have betrayed the ones we love and how we can’t help but break each other’s hearts. The unbelievable, unbearable contradiction that God will use betrayal, hatred, blindness, envy… he will use them to bring about the promises of the prophets. “He will be your peace,” “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh,” “Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows,” “For they shall all know me.”
He will be the sacrifice that they had turned into a business transaction. He will be the ark (the place where God’s presence dwelt) that they used for a lucky charm. He will be the priest who they had made into a hypocrite. He will be the prayer that they now only wore for show and the sword of justice that they had wielded upon the poor. He would be the light to the nations that they never bothered themselves to be.
All of it heartbreaking but so beautiful because he never ran away, no matter how ugly his people became. He never gave up or set down his promise. But he came. And he loved and healed and fed and taught. And then, with unimaginable restraint, he allowed them to take him and judge him (the sinless judge!) falsely. The God of the universe let them (us!) humiliate him to put an end to the brokenness we created.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 cor 5:21)
This is not about religion. This is about God doing an intervention that cost him everything to bring us home. He didn’t need the temple or the law but we need him and that is the whole equation.
And what really got to me is that behind the sorrow and pain and tragedy there is this eternal laughter of God because he knows for sure that he has made a perfect way. He is preparing our rooms, preparing the feast for those who turn to him. He never was powerless and he never felt despair but for those who would reject him. In the moments when I feel such pain for breaking his heart, he is holding my face in his hands and smiling and this is our love.
Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter, John the Beloved, me. We all say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”