The Great Known

8 03 2011

This post is comprised of excerpts from recent speaking notes, edited for submission in Peter Pollock’s One Word at a Time Blog Carnival. The word this week is Future. Visit Peter’s site to read more entries on this topic.

 

Are you a flipper? When you’re reading a scary or suspenseful story, do you flip ahead to find out what happens? With books, we have this luxury. We can read the ending first, or skip the parts that make us uncomfortable, or if we really don’t like the way things are shaping up, we can toss that book aside and pick up another.

Have you ever wished life could be that way?

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And every person has a story. In one sense, it begins at birth, but really, it began long before that in the heart of the Author. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” God writes our stories before we’re born. The whole thing, beginning, middle, and end. We live it, unfolding with day-to-day choices and challenges, but nothing that happens in our lives takes Him by surprise. This is a mystery, yes, but it is also true.

We live in a broken world. Our lives are touched by suffering, disease, betrayal, bereavement, loneliness, and grief. When we find ourselves in the midst of deep pain, our natural response is to ask, “Why?” If God is in control, why doesn’t He fix this mess? Why do good people get sick and die? Why are innocent children abandoned or abused? How could all this apparent chaos be part of His plan?

We live in a broken world, but we live here by the purposeful design of a redeeming God. Matthew chapter 10 tells us that God is so near and knows us so well, He even numbers the hairs on our heads. It also says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” His eye is on the sparrow. We love that image, but I think we inadvertently miss an important aspect of the promise. The verse doesn’t say that sparrows won’t fall. Only that God is there — aware and in control — when they do.

So, what are we to do when our Father wills that hairs do fall from our heads or that sparrows drop from the sky? What do we do when the rug of false security is pulled out from under our feet?

Everyone has a story. You have one, and I do, too. Some of the chapters in my story read like a fairy tale frolic in flowery meadows, and some are like walking barefoot over shards of glass. If it had been up to me, I would have left those painful chapters out, but as I look back over my life, I realize they truly are gifts. Good gifts from a good God who never calls us to suffer without purpose.

If you drop a pebble in water, ripples are set in motion. But let’s say it’s not a pebble. Let’s say it’s a priceless jewel. Something you dearly love. Something irreplaceable. You’ve spent your life trying to protect it, and now, due to circumstances beyond your control, it’s gone. You stare in disbelief at the spot where it went down, a multitude of “if only’s” swirling in your head, wishing you could press rewind or wake up and realize it’s all just a horrible nightmare. But you can’t, and it isn’t. At this point, you have a choice. You can keep staring at the spot where your treasure sank, or you can watch the ripples to see what God is doing.

When we suffer, we have a choice. Mourn our loss or watch the ripples. Yes, we will go through a grief process. God created us, He knows our frame, and He understands that. But we can still choose the “why?” or the “thank You” even in the midst of our grief.

Jesus suffered and died to draw near to each one of us. He rose from the dead to deliver us from death’s power. He sees our hearts, He knows our pain, and He longs to redeem it. We can come exactly as we are to receive His mercy. Indeed, we can’t come any other way. He already knows our stories. He wrote them.

No matter what’s happening in our lives right now, we don’t have to flip ahead to live with joy and peace. And we don’t have to fear the future. Today can be the start of a brand new chapter of trusting the Author’s heart — letting go of the “why?” and living in the “Thank You.”

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

He knows. And that means I don’t have to.


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17 responses

8 03 2011
heartscape

Jeanne,
This post is so timely, on many levels. I just said to my friend that if ever there was a time for a crystal ball, it’s now: what of my career, of my church, of growing children? There are so many things I’d love to just have the answer to–so many questions that keep me up. Working to find peace in the midst of uncertainty requires enormous faith muscles! Perhaps I haven’t been flexing mine enough. Thank you for that reminder.

8 03 2011
jeannedamoff

I’m so thankful this is timely for you, Jane! It’s a reminder to me, too, pretty much daily. As soon as I think I’ve got a handle on this walking-by-faith thing, I trip over my own clay feet and I’m back at square one, wanting to see and know and have it all mapped out. But if that were the case, there’d be no need for faith, and without faith, it’s impossible to please Him. So we press on, trusting God to keep His promises — to open and close doors, to whisper the word, “This is the way, walk in it,” when we turn to the right or left, and to make our paths straight. May we choose to see life as an adventure, because that’s what it is — a divine romance. The questions don’t go away, but they become more of a treasure hunt.

You have a lot going on. I pray you’ll abide in perfect peace as you stay your mind on Him. And I pray the same for myself.

8 03 2011
all shall be well

What a comforting thought to dwell on right now, that God wrote my story before I was born and He is watching and right here with me! Especially in many regrets, or what ifs, and why nots that seem to be rushing up to the surface lately!

I love your writing and photos, thank you,
karen

8 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Karen. It is a comforting thought, isn’t it? Regrets, what ifs, and why nots. They take us right out of what’s real — God who goes before, behind, and with. God in the here and now.

“All shall be well.” T.S. Eliot. And so true. 🙂

Love to you.
Jeanne

8 03 2011
deb@talk at the table

exactly . yes. yes.

8 03 2011
jeannedamoff

xo

8 03 2011
Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

Wow, Jeanne…that was beautiful. Thank you.

8 03 2011
jeannedamoff

You’re welcome. With all my heart.

9 03 2011
Hazel I. Moon

I try to flip to see the end at times!! A story has a beginning – a middle and an ending. The Bible and history is full of the same sad broken tragic lives that many still experience today, but our future is a glorious one. Living today as unto the Lord, and reaching for a tomorrow that is soon within our grasp. He holds the future and He knows what that will be.

9 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Amen, Hazel! Thanks.

9 03 2011
Glynn

I am a part, albeit a small part, of his plan of redemption. He could have let me alone to flounder on my own, which I was doing a quite capable job of until he plucked me from it. And thenhe began to work on me each day despite my best efforts to resist him. And I worry about the future?

Good post, Jeanne.

9 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Glynn. Your comment reminds me of something God has been teaching me for a while — that it’s never good to judge any person as a hopeless case based on where they are right now in their journey, because God is patient, and He is unfolding their story page by page. There’s always hope for everyone. Even me, and even you. 🙂

15 03 2011
katdish

Just keep coming back to this. Loved to hear you speak it and write it.

15 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank you, my friend. It was such an honor to see your smiling face as I spoke it, and is a double honor to know that you’re returning to read again.

Love you. I’ve been thinking of you often as I grieve and pray for Japan. xo

19 03 2011
chris

hi Jeanne,

i came across you in the “One Thousand Gifts” on line book club, and then linked to your blog. i just wanted to say i very much enjoyed “The Great Known”: the metaphor of the jewel and the ripples is really arresting…

yes, we do often have to choose between “mourning our loss” and “watching the ripples”. in a way, i want to say, the two things are not mutually exclusive: we can mourn the loss of a finite good, while at the same trusting the Infinite Good to transfigure the loss into gain. It may indeed be that God wants us to mourn the loss of certain finite goods–that such mourning is all part of being given back a heart of flesh where we once had a heart of stone. but i suppose it’s a bit like the jewish practice of sitting shivah. at some point (it may take a lot longer than seven days) we’ve got to move away from the mourning–to stop, as you put it, “staring at the spot where the treasure sank”, and start looking for ripples.

it also seems to me that, when, in the sorts of circumstances you describe, i choose between asking why and saying thank you, the ‘why’ question is often in a sense, not a genuine question. that is, if I say to God, ‘why did you let this happen?’ it’s probably not so much a genuine request for explanation (something that might point me in the direction of the ripples), as much as a way of saying something more like, “God, you shouldn’t have let this happen!”, or “God, make it as tho’ this never happened”. typically, i don’t especially want to know what exactly caused my treasure to sink; i just want my treasure back. i say this, because, when unexpectedly wonderful things happen to me, i don’t usually find myself asking, “why God? why did you let me of all people get this good?”

anyway, thanks again for the post. there’s lots of other stuff on your blog i find encouraging and illuminating, but i’ve already been bending your ear for a while…enjoy your weekend!

best,

chris

19 03 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and insights, Chris. I agree with you completely. Mourning is a normal and healthy part of loss and “lasts for the night,” but joy comes in the morning. Like you said, our questions are often less about answers and more about shaking our fists at God and demanding our way rather than trusting His goodness and purposes in our pain or loss.

I’m honored and thankful that you find my blog encouraging and illuminating. You’re certainly welcome here any time!

Love to you,
Jeanne

19 03 2011
chris

hi again Jeanne,

thank you for the kind welcome! doing this blog is a labor of love on your part, and i’m sure i’m just one of many grateful readers…

love,

chris

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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