(image courtesy of Mary Roth)
It’s a little known fact that many of the most inspiring and deeply spiritual God moments in my life have been brought to me by the eight-year-old living under my roof who sneaks fruit snacks before dinner, whose first complete sentence at age two and a half was, “But I don’t yike Chinese”, referring to the take-out we ordered, and who would not sleep as a toddler, because he wanted to talk about clouds, the Trinity, and his nannies in Ethiopia that “loved me a whole lot.”
Since the day he became a part of our family at age eight months, I knew this child was not an ordinary kid. No ma’am. You don’t answer a question with, “I don’t know, Micah.” That’s not sufficient. We have to reason, look things up on Google, and ask Siri. I wish I was making this up. Needless to say, I have no earthly idea how Abraham and Sarah parented a child while Sarah was in her 90’s and Abraham was 100. Parenting a young one in my late 40’s is about to break me. I want know to know if Sarah already had gray hair, or if it just started cropping up when Isaac started talking and then never stopped. The struggle is real.
Per usual, our best conversations take place in the car on the way home from church or school. He asks me a question that I normally can’t answer, or when I do try to answer, he claims that I’m not making any sense, and so we move on. We recently pulled into the driveway, and he noticed that one of his big sister’s cars had a small dent in it. Think college kid. It’s a rite of passage for kids in their early 20’s to own cars with dents. He said, “Is that little dent in her car really valuable? I bet it is. VERY valuable.” I went on to say that I wasn’t sure that “valuable” was the word that he meant to use in describing a dent, an accident, or anything else that wasn’t very good for a car. I proceeded to tell him that if something was valuable, it was worth a lot of money, really special, priceless, and something we would never want to lose. His response was, “No. Valuable is what I meant. That dent IS very valuable.” At this point, I was tired after a long day of teaching 6th graders and wasn’t up for a Google search. I was ready to leave the conversation there, because quite frankly, there was no use trying to argue. This was not a hill I was going to die on.
I went on to say that I wasn’t sure that “valuable” was the word that he meant to use in describing a dent, an accident, or anything else that wasn’t very good for a car. I proceeded to tell him that if something was valuable, it was worth a lot of money, really special, priceless, and something we would never want to lose. His response was, “No. Valuable is what I meant. That dent IS very valuable.” At this point, I was tired after a long day of teaching 6th graders and wasn’t up for a Google search. I was ready to leave the conversation there, because quite frankly, there was no use trying to argue. This was not a hill I was going to die on.
Again, late 40’s, an eight-year-old, and I spend the day with 80 eleven-year-olds. Surely, you feel me here. Before disappearing in the house for fruit snacks, he replied, “Well, dents can actually be really valuable. They may look bad on cars, but they do leave you with a lot of memories. If we didn’t have dents, we’d probably never have any good memories.” Let’s just have an alter call right this minute. I actually stood frozen for a moment, mulling over this little nugget and haven’t forgotten it since.
I’m pretty sure that I can say with a high degree of certainty that we’ve had some dents we’d soon enough like to have passed us by. As in, “Nope. Can’t deal with that. You’ve got the wrong person. I cannot live through this. I don’t have the strength to even take the next step” type of dents. Dents that are so deep and cutting that we wonder where God went, because He certainly wasn’t right here beside us like He promised. He’s certainly not working out all things for good, and He most definitely isn’t continuing any kind of good work in us.
How could He be?
We are over here reeling from the loss of loved ones, marriages that are hanging on by a thread, children who have turned their backs on God when we thought we did everything right, depression and anxiety that keep us in the darkest of pits, and financial problems that appear to have no hope for a solution. Our hearts are heavy, our heads hang in despair, and we cry into our pillows at night.
Friends, I feel your pain. Honestly, I hate dents and bruises. I don’t like them when my people are hurting. I don’t understand them. I often doubt that God even cares, let alone holds me in the palm of His hand. The last three years of my life have been a dark season that in no way I would describe as valuable.
Miserable. Hopeless. Bitter. Now these words I would use. Valuable? Not for a second.
I lost my dad to congestive heart failure nearly three years ago. He was my hero. Less than a year later, my older brother took his life, no longer able to handle his own dents and hurt. My mom’s dementia worsened at the same time and she now lives in a two-minute world of questions that are on repeat. I cry in the car after every single visit with her in the memory unit of our local nursing home. It’s exhausting, sad, and frankly, every girl wants their mom when they’re hurting. Throw in the darkest valley of depression that I have walked in many years, and I have to say, this is not what I signed up for. At all.
I’m still crawling out, clinging to the promise that God, does indeed, know what He’s doing, and will, in time, let me know that He never walked away during any of my trials. I have to know it in my heart, not just my head. I have no choice.
We could discuss our dents, hurts, and trials and find that sisters in Christ have the same thing in common. Jesus. I have a Father who loves us through our fires, not always around them, or over them. He walks us through them. And they hurt. They wound us in ways mere words can’t describe. They knock us down. We doubt, we question, and sometimes we walk away.
When I find myself here, I spend hours in the Psalms reading about a God who is all-knowing, full of compassion, and completely sovereign. I read of sincere thankfulness, pleas for deliverance, and outpourings of worship from expectant hearts. When you find yourself broken, confused, and exhausted, link arms with those around you whom God placed in your life for times like this and boldly say, “We’re depending on God; He’s everything we need. What’s more, our hearts brim with joy since we have taken for our own His holy name. Love us, God, with all you’ve got, that’s what we’re depending on.” (Psalm 33:20-22, The Message, MSG).
I have to rest in believing that God is more than big enough to handle my questions, my doubts, my anger, and my temptation to walk away. We can’t live in fear of expressing our emotions to the very One who knew long before the hurt we’d experience. He is not surprised by our dents. Jesus experienced every emotion that we have. He’s no stranger to pain. He’s waiting to see what we do with them. We will only find true peace when we see our hurts, losses, and trials as a path to a perfect trust in a God that allows pain to drive us to Him. As we wait, “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.” (Romans 5:3-4, MSG)
So today is all about memories in the making. Sometimes, they still sting and hurt to the core. But without them, would I truly run to my Father, choose to leave my hurts at His feet, and leave the outcome to Him? Someday, I’m certain that our memories will be shared with others whose paths we cross and we can say with confidence that God does, indeed, love us with all He’s got.
As I stood on the shore of Puget Sound two years ago, one of my brother’s favorite places, we spread his ashes and I watched and heard the waves take them away. It was a temporary good-bye, but such a painful and beautiful one. It has taken me a while to truly believe the Father’s words, “More than the sounds of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, the Lord on High is mighty,” (Psalm 93:4 New American Standard, NAS).
And I’m going to choose to depend on it. He is mighty. When we are hurting with nowhere to turn, He is passionately teaching us that He’s not done. He will not leave us stranded. So dents and all, run to Him. His hand is always open for ours to hold onto. And in my humble opinion, holding His hand is the most valuable, priceless gift I can even imagine.