in the dark with our demons

It’s a line from a song by The Oh Hellos called “I Have Made Mistakes.” It made sense before I felt broken in two, before the day I met grief, but it makes more sense now that demons are trying to live in my dark.

Demons, like returning to a regular job and navigating crowded city streets and breathing in slow, evening minutes that seem painfully unaltered by Will’s absence. Demons that stare at me in the lamplit dark of this little apartment and whisper things like, “What are you doing in this city?” and “Why Will?” and “Why don’t you feel like being productive or looking presentable?” Demons.

But I keep hearing these words from the sermon at Will’s service last Friday,
“Death is not normal.”

Nothing is normal now, except grief headaches pushing like bricks on my ears. Apartment hunting is different, marriage is different, sunshine is different, morning is different and friendship is different. I am different.

I am different and things won’t get better because we were not created to die. We were created to live. Being alive is normal. Ten days ago, I could pretend that living was normal here on earth; I could pretend that everyone has time to dream and time to be lazy and time to have time. And then I answered an ominous phone call and drove across the country with my husband to hug a line of 450 people who loved my brother Will.

We are not forever young because we are not forever. It’s a hard thing to reconcile, really. Will was not forever and I am not forever, but it feels like we should be – like we should have indefinite time to plan adventures and let laugh lines mark our faces.

We were made for life, so that is the “normal” we crave. But, in our sin we chose death, so that is the normal we face.

We severed that eternal thread when we decided to go our own way, but I have never yearned for life more than right now. I have never longed for eternity or ached for God’s perfect “normal” than I do these days. I am holding tightly to the belief that Christ came to restore that order.

The normal we crave vs. the normal we face. The tension of the two is trying to break me in the dark with my demons – trying to make a defeated sluggard out of me.

I feel like I got painted into a watercolor and left out in the rain. I have made mistakes in my mourning and I’ll continue to make them. I’ll be impatient and silent and stubborn. I will refuse to look presentable and I will forget my manners. But I will not pretend to be strong. I will not pretend that we were created to die, that this “circle of life” is just “how it has to be.” I want God’s normal – the way He created Adam and Eve originally in the garden, before their decision to eat that rotten fruit and before my sin claimed the same rotten fate.

Sometimes the only thing keeping you from being defeated is believing you are not.

And I believe. Simple sermons are okay, I think, like this one my aunt sent me last night from Deuteronomy 33:27, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” The everlasting arms holding me up also defeated the demons in my dark and made a place for me in heaven.


Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

winter wanderers

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is not heavy enough – not urgent or eager enough. But those words will have to do.

I still think it’s okay to get sad and broken about all the undone things – all the world-weary, winter wanderers who do not know God has come to earth or do not believe it was for them.

There is a kind of rejoicing that can swallow up mourning. But mourning never disappears. It will not until the day when faith is made sight and eternity stretches before us like a promise fulfilled.

We anticipate the Savior and we anticipate His coming again, when peace will rule and reign forever. My cousin Amanda really says it best in her post, Why Advent is Breaking my Heart.”

Sweet, sweet words.

slow motion holiday

The moment I walked into my parents’ sleepy farmhouse, I rattled off a long list of promises to my niece – about forts and decorated cookies and potato stamps and monkey games. I wanted to do everything wonderful and I wanted to do it all at once. Between the two of us, I’m not sure who was more like a 3 three year old, but at one point my mom said, “Honey, why don’t you just choose one thing and do it all the way.”

That was yesterday.

This morning, in the Sunday rush and rumble to get ready for church, Natalie crawled on my lap and said, “I just need to snuggle for a little bit.” There she goes again, stepping into the moments standing right in front of me without making lists about the moments that follow. Maybe my niece and my mom are in cahoots to get some slow motion in my life.

I’m breathing deeper now, breathing advent in slowly and letting the anticipation sink in deep. Because longing does not mean impatience and excitement does not mean busy plans. Looking for my Savior is something I can savor slowly, like Sunday morning snuggles and Saturday night fort building.

Slow seems to be a theme these days, especially as I reflect on advent.

This gift of a Savior baby – a miracle sent to meet all our messes – was not a rush job. God didn’t wait until things got real bad, until Gotham was nearly a graveyard, before sending his superhero. No, He didn’t send the Messiah out of fear that the world was caving in and evil was winning.

God conducted the world and everything in it like the perfect notes in an orchestra. He knew redemption was necessary the moment He set creation in motion. He knew how far we would fall from his plans and how busy we would make ourselves in making our own. He knew all this and still stayed with His salvation plan from the beginning.

This week, I’ve been thinking about Father, Son and Holy Spirit knowing what redemption would look like. Thousands of years of knowing that salvation would involve serious sacrifice. An eternity past of knowing that the Son would be sent to be the Savior of the world.

What a very long time.

Yet, the Lord was never anxious about His plans. He did not crowd or cram the calendar. Because He is sovereign, His plans are never foiled. He did not need to move fast.

There was enough time for celestial choirs and enough time for repeating the sounding joy. Repeat the sounding joy. Slowly.

joy to the world! the Savior reigns
let men their songs employ!
while fields and floods
and hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy!

I’m spending this holiday in slow motion – savoring fully the invitation to come and adore Christ the Lord.

the rain will strengthen your soul

So, so much rain here in Iowa and it’s lovely.

We’re all kind of swimming in it but if you feel a bit like you are drowning, this might be a little light for you. Sometimes rain pulls out the sadness in us like the worms on the sidewalks in the morning – all wiggly and out of place.

If the rain is doing this kind of operation – pulling out old demons and pushing fears in your face – remember that no mistake or circumstance or vice can overcome the One who overcomes.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

 

let us not be wrong about a wondrous thing

“Luke 12:32 is a verse about the nature of God. It’s a verse about what kind of heart God has. It’s a verse about what makes God glad—not merely about what God will do or what he has to do, but what he delights to do, what he loves to do, and what he takes pleasure in doing. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
(Love to the Uttermost Holy Week Devotional, p. 2)

I am wrong about a lot of things… and often. As I read the above from the Holy Week devotional, I asked the Lord to examine my heart and see if I was wrong about this one wondrous thing. Because of all things to be wrong about, the nature of God is pretty major – maybe the most major thing to be wrong about in all of life. A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Many people view the nature of God as one they must hide from at the risk of being smitten or they reject that God must be hidden from and stand defiantly in opposition.

The former view of God is a fearful one that hides not only from God’s judgment but also from His blessing. The latter view is a boastful one that defiantly exposes oneself to God’s judgment but also rejects His blessing with clenched fist raised high.

Can we hide from God – from His judgment or His blessing?

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,
”even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:1-12, ESV)

No, we cannot hide from God. We can find the deepest cave, the most secret tunnel, the most remote island and He will find us. The world and everything in it is His. We can never run so far that we are beyond His gaze. If He desires, His judgment will find us as easily as His blessing.

Can we defy God’s judgment and reject His blessing?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:18-23)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17, ESV)

No, we cannot defy God. We cannot erase the righteous wrath of God by closing our eyes and raising our fists. He created us and imprinted His name on our hearts as a trademark of His craftsmanship. He will pour out His wrath and His blessing whether the world receives them with eyes open or closed.

There is no hiding from God and there is no defying God. But, if we understand the true nature of God, we will not want to hide or defy Him. 

the kingdom is a wondrous thing

In Luke 12:32, we read that it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. God, in His very nature, is delighted to give us the most precious and beautiful and costly thing – Himself.

Today is Palm Sunday, when we remember that Jesus rode triumphantly on a humble donkey into the city that would betray Him. He had set his face like flint toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), determined to submit to the Father’s will and experiencing the joy set before Him as He endured the scorn (Hebrews 12).

It is futile and foolish to hold up clenched fists in defiance of this kind of precious, beautiful, costly love, but it is also foolish to hide from it. The enormity of God’s glory is a weighty and scary thing, but God purposed to cast out all fear with His perfect love (1 John 4:18) when He sent Jesus to satisfy His wrath for those He had chosen.

The cross uncovers a Father who provided a way for His creation to be reconciled, but not out of obligation or master schemery. His provision was not a plan B or a compromise. He did not need to make provision that any would be reconciled.

The Father provided a way for His creation to be reconciled because He is in His nature good and merciful, tender-hearted and loving. 

God gave the kingdom to His creation willingly because it brought Him great delight. He gave His children the kingdom – His Son – out of the kind of joy we don’t have room in our brains to understand. His glorious face shone with pleasure when His Son paid the ransom due for His children to be reconciled to Him. Can you imagine? The God of the universe delighting in you coming home, delighting in the sacrifice of His own Son so that you could come home?

Both hiding from and defying God are rooted in fear. And fear (the unrighteous kind) has no place in God’s reconciliation mission of our souls.

Will we let the perfect love of Christ cast out all fear?
Will we admit where we are wrong about this wondrous thing?