I like things in order, working well and going as expected. I think most of us do. I guess that’s why it drives me crazy (I’m sure I am not alone here) when of all times and places to have an argument my wife and I always end up getting into it right as we are leaving the house to go to church.
Here is another one, how about the holidays? Why does it seem that when we are trying to order our lives or plan out a special and meaningful time that is when disaster and chaos strike?
That’s what happened to us at the start of the holiday season last year. We were excited for Thanksgiving and Christmas 2014 but all hell broke loose. A few of the highlights…
– Our washer went out for the third time in six months.
– Our refrigerator went out a week later.
– Our kids got sick.
– Our car broke down
– Then the cherry on top – the landlord called to say we needed to be out in 90 days.
We were tense, scared, and worried. It was one of those times in life when you have to either laugh or scream because the tension can only last for so long before breaking…
Looking back on this episode of my life I am reminded of the numerous stories found in Scripture where things look bleak and out of control.
Beginning with Genesis, the Scriptures tell us that “the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep”… in other words chaos and disorder.
Then in the story of Exodus, we read that when fleeing the pursuing armies of Egypt the people of God were faced with a great body of water that they could not cross… hopeless and out of their control.
And again in the Gospel story of Mark, we encounter thirteen men on a little boat being tossed around in a huge storm about to be swallowed up by the forces of nature… certain death within sight.
In every one of these situations, God acted. He breathes life, he sends deliverance, he shows us his glory. Its as if God is reminding us that he is the one with the last word. Only he can tame all things in this life.
We had tried again and again to mitigate the damage. Like plugging holes in a sinking ship. It was no use, we had reached the end of ourselves. I remember that moment with Ashley, we had just finished getting our kids to bed when we both just collapsed onto our bed, emotionally and physically exhausted.
Our prayer in that moment was so elementary, so basic because we simply had nothing left. We had no energy to speak formally or elegantly or polished. We were hysterical toddlers running to Mom for help.
Author Anne Lammott says there are really only three prayers we ever pray; help, thanks, and wow.
This was our “help!” prayer.
I can’t keep it all together. I can’t orchestrate a perfect Sunday morning where all of our clothes look nice and we all arrive at church on time, smiling and loving each other. I can’t make it through the holidays pleasing everyone and without incident or stress. I can’t solve all the problems that my family faces. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
When we surrendered in that moment, we felt the presence of God.
In the end, we didn’t get all we needed, our car continued to give us problems, our washing machine was never fixed, but our kids soon recovered and best of all God provided us with a new home to move into within the month.
I don’t understand why God addresses some issues in our lives and not others, but I can tell you that in that moment, better than the provision that would come, it’s the very real and almost tangible presence of God that stands out to me. I came to the end of myself and found God, the divine parent there to scoop me up, not to fix all my problems but to assure me he was there with me through it all.