“Tell me the story again…” – Chris Rice
I clutched my phone last night in bed, reading multiple blogs, and felt like I was going to throw up. The president gave a speech in the midst of a great swirl of terror and now the blogs, forums, and timelines are flooded with fear, assumptions, and anger. My sleep came in restless turns as I drifted in and out of my thoughts. Today I woke up, bleary eyed and dark inside. Today is September 11–the day that, at the tender age of 16, I learned that safety was not something anyone on earth can promise me. I looked at my son, asking for juice, excited about watching Arthur and tears filled my eyes. Oh God….I whispered into the dark of the room, on the dawn of this Day of Sorrows.
We dressed in the dark, and my son and I drove into the city as the sun rose over the skyline. He had a medical procedure before school, and as we drove, I answered all the questions that I could about Spiderman to the 5 year old kicking the back of my seat. Strange bits of normal creeping into my dark thoughts. During the procedure I mentioned the date to the technician to share our mutual expression of grief and even possible condolence. It always surprises me how far the fingers of The Attack have spread across the earth to countless hurting people.
“All we can do is just watch the news, and stay informed,” she said.
I’ve heard this before. Many times before, actually. I live in the Midwest, where news stations drone in an endless cycle on the tvs all day, and men shrieking on am radio stations are considered the utmost sources of information.
But not me. Not our house.
You see, I suffer from a tricky and frustrating disorder called anxiety. I can quickly spiral from feeling in control of my breath and emotions, and end up in a dark, thick pool of terror, and mental chaos. We found that information was a major trigger for me, but friends, lean in here and listen…too much information is a sin-trigger for us all. For some, it causes us to fear, and misplace our trust, sometimes losing it all together. For others, too much information becomes a kind of drug–a sense of control in the middle of chaos. Either way, we live in this information era where we are certain that we need to, and are entitled to, know everything–and we have full opportunity to do so. It’s feeding something deep in a space that we have to open up to the One whom we’ll never fully understand.
God did not give us all the information. We are asked to trust in His unknown plan and place our faith in His unlimited power. We have no IDEA what will happen in our next breath. He will give us what we need, including what we need to know, in the moment that it matters for us to know.
So here we find ourselves, relying on everything else except Him, or everything else including Him, but not only Him. Because we have become so accustomed to knowing everything, we have grown a need to know everything. Suddenly He isn’t our only sought-out source of peace, because He is not giving out what we want to know, and CNN is. But can we stop for a moment and wonder why God designed it this way? There are many reasons, and I suppose I’d have to enter seminary to even begin to dig them all up from the beautiful earth of His Word, but…in great humility, I present my own.
Love. It’s because of love. Jesus was weeping in the garden and one of the reasons for that is because He knew. He knew what would happen to Him. Moses spent his days in the desert exhausted with the task of leading God’s people, knowing so much more about the reality of God and their situation then the thousands who followed. Jeremiah wept…all the time. Presidents leave their terms looking haggard and aged well beyond their years. God does not want this intense burden to be placed on us. He wants to have life and to live it abundantly. To know is the gift to prepare, true, and, when He calls us, to do His work. But to know doesn’t alway mean the ability to change the outcome. To know is quite honestly, a burden, that He gives to men at their appointed time along with His supernatural strength to carry it.
We were saved by love, and 1 Corinthians 13 says that love bears all things. God bears the burden of knowing the entire plan.
Part of our peace comes from our eternal security in Him, but there is another part that comes from not needing to know the plan because He has it well in hand. He takes that responsibility away from us because He loves us. But we reach back in with our need to know and, in a way, reject the fullness of His love for us. There is a thin, shaky line between being informed and over-informed, and I think if we were to really look at our habits we’d know where we sit on that. The bleak side of truth here is that we as civilians have very little that we can actually do about the information currently swirling through our computer screens and tvs. But the sin of this world–all of it–is God’s battle to be won, and He’s got this, friends. He isn’t nervous, nor is He surprised. Imagine the sin of the world, from the garden until now, to be like when our parents would sit and quietly discuss finances at the table. We could tell something was wrong but they tried their best to leave us out of it and protect us from the stress. Our parents were willing to take the burden of information to protect our joy, and peace. When we needed to know, they would let us know.
I have to commit that I won’t get nervous until God gets nervous…and am promised that just isn’t going to happen.
This is God, in His holy place, telling us that He has never stepped off of this throne. He has a sword firmly on His side and He is well prepared to use it. He has had a plan since we left His presence in the garden and it was finished when His Son breathed His last breath for us. He wants us to have rest that He miraculously provides in the midst of this–that we may have joy and have it more abundantly. He want us to not be anxious about anything but in everything, make our requests known to HIM, and our hearts vulnerable to HIM…talk to GOD FIRST. Talk to Him. Not to Google.
I will say that have been hugging my children tighter, and have been more grateful for the times of peace we may or may not have left. But should this be what is required for us to do that? Does information dictate our behavior? Every breath is a gift…not just because terror possibly approaches. We were in the same amount of sin and darkness when Adam’s feet first hit the sand outside the garden, as we were in right now.
If ISIS shows up at my door to systematically kill my family today, I won’t be helped by having stayed up late reading the countless stories about them in the news. The information won’t posture the state of my heart in the moment when the knife is to my throat, nor will the heated debates or conversations gain me strength in that moment. So I don’t want to know those stories…
…I want to know “The Story.” I want to know it so well that I breathe it. I want to know, every moment of the day, the story about the man and the woman who sinned and left perfection. I want to know the story about the Love that came down, in the midst of violent murder, rape and abuse and set it right with a bloody crucifixion. I want to read more about that love, that doesn’t judge according to our sins, but saves us…even Christian killers, and turns them around, blinds them and points them toward eyes that see glory. I want to know about the Love that doesn’t care if the country is successful, poverty stricken, worships Him, or worships Allah…but sweeps through with a rush of glory to save all who seek His glorious face. I want to know about a Love so great that people would die brutal deaths for it. I want to read the story about thousands of slaves set free by a series of plagues, and sent out through the center of a sea split into two. I want to read the story about the Enemy who had victory over us because there was NO WAY we could settle the debt. I want to know the story about how, when he thought we were in his grip forever, that this same Love that set thousands free came down and yanked everyone out of this enemy’s hand. I want to know the story about Jesus when He said it was finished, and be reminded that it really truly is….finished. I want to know that this certain present danger is nothing different than any other terror that fell upon our shoulders when we walked away from perfection in the garden. I want to know the story that says this place is not my home, and read the story that describes my home.
I want to tell myself “The Story,” in every inhale and tell the world “The Story” in every exhale. Again, and again, and again. This Story is the only story that bears life. And none of this story is in the news.
We’ve read the back of the Book. The enemy loses, He did lose, It’s not over till the KING says it’s OVER. And He did…with His dying breath–the breath that gave us life beyond this dark and terrible place.
I had a wise instructor once tell me that when my heart is fearful and lying to me, to preach to my heart. Because, friends, we have The Story in our heads. We know these things. We have to tell it to our heart again, and again, and again. Water those dry and aching roots with the only piece of information that will ever revive our dry bones. We can’t escape death. We can’t. But we’ve been given life beyond it…and true life in the midst of it.
“When I’m held in the arms of this waking fear…
…can You find me here?” – Lucy Schwartz
So, today, on September 11, 2014, I remember with great and heavy sadness, all of the lives that were lost, leaving a wake of a broken hearts, and shattered dreams. My prayer is that our God who restores can be seen restoring us in the land of the living, not just in glory. That we see His work on the earth now…not when the plan is fulfilled to completion. His presence has not left us…not for one single moment. May we sense His presence today, and see His hand. Romans 12:19 says to “cling to the good.” So turn off the news, and open the good, rich, nourishing Word of life. Jesus is good, His plan of salvation is good, the Word is good, love is good, our children giggling in the covers is good, the miracle of first and last breaths…is good. Cling to the good today. The bad, the terrible, the horrifying, and destructive are in His hands. All of the plans that are being made in response to terrible things going on outside our doors….are not THE Plan. They’re A plan. THE Plan is already underway and that one WILL succeed.
He has a sword at His side, and HIs right arm is holding back His justice. When the time is right–He will say the Word, and He WILL come down to set it all right, delivering justice for the evil that has effected us all and broken our hearts.
When He does….He will have YOU on His mind, dear loved one. He will have YOU on His mind.
All my love on this difficult day,