These past few days, the D.C./Maryland/Virginia areas have experienced an incredible amount of rainfall, record flooding, and lightning storms. One day, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Break out the flip-flops and sundresses, it is June after all, we’re steps away from summer. Yet suddenly and with little warning, the clouds darken, thunder rumbles, and lightning threateningly brightens up the sky for miles ahead. In the short distance to my front door, I face an immediate wardrobe change- if I have any hopes of retaining my anti-rain hair and shoes. In an instant, my plans can change, and sometimes my mood follows suit. I thrive on sunshine and natural lighting…hello… selfies of course! I detest the somber shadow that comes with a storm; of course, I know the need for rain, but couldn’t Nature get what it needs in a less disruptive manner? Couldn’t I? You? Do we really have to go through process, discomfort, and unpredictability? Isn’t there another way?
To be honest, there isn’t. You have to go through the change, through the fire (in my best Chaka Khan voice)…brownie points for knowing that pop culture reference-if you knew me, you’d get it…I tend to do pretty badly in that category. However whether you sing it or don’t, you have to go through. It can be scary, inconvenient, and revealing. When you walk through you learn truths about yourself, truths previously hidden under the safety net of comfort and happy times. You learn how you really feel and who you really trust in. You discover who really is walking with you through your storm and who just can’t handle your total transparency. As I walked through one of the worst storms of my life almost a decade ago, I uncovered layers of myself that I never would have known or even admitted to having. I saw things I was proud of and parts that I had to resubmit to the Master Potter in hopes of further refinement and molding. I thought it was a one shot deal. A few lessons, and then I’d be back on my merry way to my pre-pain way of life. Does this strike a chord within you? God had other plans for me, and I’m positive the same is true for you. Here we are almost ten years later, and I’m still discovering things about myself as I encounter new challenges and triumphs.
Currently, I am reading another storm chapter in my life anthology. Quite frankly, it’s unlike any other that I’ve ever experienced. I’ll tell you more about it in my next vlog, but what I can say now is that God has challenged my perceptions of obedience, sacrifice, rewards, and timing. One particular day when I was desperately trying to make sense of what my life now was, He quietly posed a simple question that completely wrecked my previous presumption of the way things should be: “What if you’re in this storm as a result of what you’ve done right?”
What? Hold up. How does that even work? This simple inquiry completely destroyed my previous brand of Christianity. Unbeknownst to me, and possibly you as well, I had lived under a non-existent checks and balances system of faith. If I did this, I should get that. If I followed the rules, I should get a reward. If I made a mistake, sure I could seek forgiveness, but I’d still have to deal with the consequences. No surprises there. However, what God was proposing just didn’t make sense. Why would I be punished for following the rules? For being obedient? I’m not perfect by any means, and never claim or aspire to be, however, I have tried my personal best to live a life by the Golden Rule, filled with love for others as shown me by my personal relationship with my Heavenly Papa. So what gives? Hadn’t I suffered enough when I buried my first love? Why was I still suffering? Still going through? Can you relate? Have you found yourself on a seemingly unfair cycle of sporadic wins followed by loss after loss? You got the job, but lost your mother. You met and loved the man, but he beat and berated you. You conceived the child, but now there are complications and you’re bedridden. You started the business, but things took a turn and now the money’s gone. What do you do? How is this an indicator of God’s pleasure in you, rather than a punishment?
I’m slowly, very slowly beginning to realize that God really doesn’t think like us. He uses death to give new life. He elevates the forgotten to fulfill His message. He intentionally chooses love in the face of hate. He does things completely backwards! His version of “common sense” ceases to be common the moment it passes through His filter. We think linearly; He has no beginning or end. His perception therefore is eternally infinite. He sees what we cannot and understands what we’ll never comprehend. Ultimately, choosing to walk with Him is literally the act of giving up the reigns to your own life and allowing Him to lead you, even through places and corridors that bring you pain. He never leaves me there. He won’t leave you either. It’s all part of the journey. The anguish makes the happiness a cherished treasure. It’s not ideal and isn’t necessarily how I would do it, but I grow with each leg of the trek. Instead of asking “why,” focus on asking “how?” How will I grow as a result of this? How will God bring me joy in the midst of this tragic heartbreak? How will others be blessed as a result of my journey? How can I share what I’m learning? How will God keep His promises despite the looming deadlines and scary facts?
What if you’re in this storm as a result of what you’ve done right?
I challenge you to revisit your perspective regarding your storm. It’s destructive, alienating, and hard- that part is easy to see, but what are you not seeing? What is hidden within this apparent demolition site that can actually be used as a future foundation? Faith or flight? The choice is yours. Notice, I didn’t say fear; fear is the catalyst for faith. Sometimes when everything seems to go wrong, that’s how you know you’re headed in the right direction. Everything seems to conspire to work against you. I’ve got an update for your troubles and stress: you will succeed. You will love again. You will have peace again. You are still winning. You are right where you’re supposed to be. You are still standing.
“The LORD Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14 NLT
The same way I couldn’t predict the tragic parts of my story, is the very same way that I can’t exactly pinpoint the dates of the most joyous moments awaiting me, and neither can you. Don’t you dare stop reading your story. Keep hoping. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep dancing.