I ended my last post with the climactic, “God showed up,”—as if He had been in hiding, as if He wasn’t always there.
I live in fits of wakefulness, drifting in and out of God-consciousness. Even now, though my tongue doth confess my focus doth protest.
I flit. I flounder.
Some mornings the medley of blanket and body heat are enough to remind me that the day does not belong to me. That I do not go it alone.
But other days, I groan. I stretch. I snooze. Refusing to open my eye to the God-gifts in front of my face, beneath my toes, the gift of my toes themselves.
But mostly I’m just busy. Tired. Preoccupied, as if I have something more important to occupy myself with than noticing the presence of God.
Naming the presence of God is a different discipline entirely, requiring rigor and hawk eyes for grace.
Most days I’m not up to the task.
But Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts pushes me forward, taunting me with her joy-filled list. She is “Ann full of grace” beckoning to an “Aly full of grace.”
Will I follow?
Today I do.
Today I hunker down to wake up my God-conscious.
I am buzzing on the high of answered prayers, of God-shows-up-because-He-never-left-revelations. I can choose to see Him in the Now. I can choose to see Him moving forward. I try to discipline my mind to believe that He was always there.
I stop short. I pause long.
There when I didn’t see Him?
There when I didn’t want Him?
There when all I felt was pain?
I try to rewrite history. I strain to hear Him speak into the life of the Aly who did not confess His name. I hear the voices that haunted me for years. Voices that condemned and taunted and paralyzed. Voices that kept me self-focused and shuddering. Voices I thought, at my worst, were His. That hissed fire and wrath and brimstone and disappointment. And then guilt for not feeling loved.
And I wonder, where was He in that? He is in the transformation, but is He in the ugly? Did he create the ugly? Orchestrate it? Or allow it?
I can see how I got here. I know it was Grace. Grace the mechanism, Grace the process, Grace the end. But why the humble beginning? Why the dark days?
Why does God need darkness to bring forth light?
I cling to the God of transformation as I read Ann’s hardest chapter yet, asking the hardest questions.
She asks, essentially, “How to lay the hand open for this moment’s bread—when it will hurt.”
What of pain and death and evil and the overwhelming sense of NOT ENOUGH?
Where is God’s grace then?
When her son injures his hand, when he narrowly misses missing fingers, losing a whole hand, her mother whispers, “God’s grace.”
She replies, retorts in this internal dialogue that resonates with the entirety of my being, of my experience, of the questions we’ve all thought and fought and whispered from the pit of fear burning into our stomachs,
“And if his hand had been right sheared off?
What’s God’s grace then?
Can I ask that question?”
What about the times it doesn’t feel like God showed up?
Ann begins to question even her naming of gifts, of graces, of blessings, her family’s “life story in freeze frames of thanks.”
She asks, “If I name this moment as gift, grace, what is the next moment? Curse? How do you know how to sift through a day, a life, and rightly read the graces, rightly ascertain the curses?”
Surely if there are gifts there must be curses. Things intended for ill.
I will write more on my take on evil and curses and other such lighthearted topics later in the week. BUT, today I will soak in the lesson that God is teaching Ann: that
ALL is good.
The good gifts we greedily grasp and the pain we skirt and sidestep and dispute.
She writes of a God who “longs to transfigure all, no matter how long it takes.” Who transfigures the ugly into the beautiful, redeeming the ugly, redeeming the broken, redeeming the pain.
Most times it’s longer than I have the patience for. But I know this God of transformation and movement and redemption. Do I trust Him? Do I trust Him to redeem all things, transfigure all things, reconcile all things?
I hope I do. I know I’m trying.
Because—despite my feelings—I know that God doesn’t show up or not show up. I know that in Him I move and breathe and have my being. My very breath is the essence of His presence.
I live in fits of wakefulness, drifting in and out of God-consciousness. I ask you, God, to awake my eyes.
Do you believe that God is always there? Always working to reconcile all things? When is it hardest for you to believe that?