I’ve been thinking. When I mentioned as much to George yesterday afternoon, his (potentially justified) reaction was, “Uh-oh.” But he needn’t have worried. This isn’t a plotting or scheming — it’s more a gathering. A gleaning. It’s looking with beauty hungry eyes toward a coming feast, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.
It’s pieces, coming together, not to form a whole, but to suggest a vast, unfathomable mystery beyond the reach of human sense. It’s this mortal trying to comprehend immortality, like grasping for words to describe the color of an aroma or the texture of a sound.
We see bits and pieces, snapshots of a journey, and sometimes we question God’s ways. His children stumble, weighed down by pain, failure, brokenness, shame, and the world mocks, and the church is embarrassed, because aren’t we supposed to soar on the wings of eagles, to run and not grow weary, to walk and not faint? Weren’t we created for victory?
I’m captivated by Sara’s story. Her joy. Her race well run. And I want to know more, because there had to be moments — perhaps weeks or months or even years? — when she struggled. When fear and self-pity clung to her ankles, dragging her down in the mire. If we’d seen her in those moments, would we have been able to imagine the glory that rests on her now?
A couple of days ago I read an interview with Phil Vischer in the September 24 edition of World Magazine. You know Phil. He created VeggieTales and founded Big Idea Productions. And he was serious about the whole “big idea” thing. He wanted to be the “next Walt Disney.”
Given his initial success, he appeared to be on track to achieve his goal. But the whole thing crashed and burned. Massive hiring, heavy debt, a break with the distributor, a nasty lawsuit, and an expensive last-ditch-effort project that fell short, all added up to bankruptcy. Vischer lost ownership of the VeggieTale gang. He lost his dream. And no doubt there were those in the world who mocked and those in the church who were embarrassed.
But God was in it.
What do you do with your closed doors? The ones you dreamed about, diligently worked toward, believed would open? Do you thank Him when they slam in your face?
Phil Vischer says what he gained is far more valuable than what he lost. After a several-month long sabbatical spent seeking God, he launched a new business from a completely different mindset. He calls his company Jellyfish Labs, because jellyfish rely on the current to carry them where they belong. “I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.”
And I think again of Sara and the way she has pursued God and loved others well from the confines of her condo. She lost her health, and she gained more of Him. Phil Vischer lost his company and his dreams, and he gained more of Him. If we see only one piece — only the losing — we miss the gift.
I want to encourage you today. If you or someone you love is experiencing a time of suffering or loss — if the world mocks your faith as feeble or unfounded, and those you trusted to be friends offer blame instead of comfort — I pray you’ll have the grace to lean hard into Christ and know this is only a piece of the picture. When He closes doors, and when he takes away what we cherished most, He offers beauty for ashes. Substance for shadow. The eternal for the passing away.
He offers the best gift, and the only one we can keep forever.
He offers us Himself.
And, as Phil said at the end of the interview, “Everything else should be held with an open hand.”
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Joining a chorus of thanksgiving:
#230 glimpses of a beautiful, inspiring life
#231 the sure hope of heaven
#232 brokenness redeemed
#233 voices in harmony
#234 Jacob’s laughter
#235 friends who listen and pray
#237 peace that passes understanding
#238 the testimonies of the saints
#239 the cloud of witnesses
#240 babies due any day
#243 plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness
#244 closed doors
#245 waking up last night to the sound of rain
#246 grace for today