Not Only But Always
The greatest shortcoming in my life--possibly my greatest personal fault--is my shattered perception of God and His benevolent nature. I was raised in a Christian family, and yet hearing God alluded to as "The Benevolent Creator of all things" gave me pause. Did I not believe that God was benevolent? Did I not think God was good?
How do we learn anything? We decide based on what we remember. Why does two plus two equal four?--because it has always come to that sum in the past. So if I look at God in that way, I cannot see Him as the benevolent Creator. Trust me when I say, I come from a beautiful background. Good family, good home, good church--nothing to take for granted, but I do. If your house is flooded, you don't consider the architect benevolent because he gave you high ceilings and aesthetically-pleasing windows. A truly benevolent architect would build the house so that it doesn't flood, right? I come from a safe background--a sturdy house--and somehow I find ways to drown beneath my own floods. If I had more depth, I might be able to base my faith on the lot I was born into. I might be able to sum up God's faithfulness based on what He placed me in. I was born into and raised by a good family; two plus two equals four; God is good.
Maybe that works for some, but it has never worked for me.
Setting aside the constantly running threads in my life--things I take for granted--I question God's goodness in other parts of my story. Where was God when...? Why did that happen if God is always good? If all things work together for the good, when will I finally find out why I went through that pain? How can this be good? How come God is so big and so loving, yet I still fail so miserably? He says He is a Comfort, a Provider, a Fortress, and yet I feel exposed--dangling on a string, jerked and spun by the end of God's finger.
While I try to construct some logical process in my heart, while I try to deduce who God is, my spirit is polluted by these creeping thoughts from all directions. I don't know where the ideas come from. It almost feels as if the more sermons and testimonies I hear, the more missionary stories and Christian accounts I collect, I darker my view of God becomes. Thoughts seep into the hallowed greenhouse of my mind, threatening the fragile plant of my growing faith. The more questions I ask, the more I reason, the more I seek God--the fuller that plant grows. Yet, these parasitic thoughts invade my thinking, poisoning the water and corrupting the soil. They write me stories, narratives of what might one day come about. "God has a plan for your life. It's a little stencil, and if you don't fit in it, you are a bad person. He will pressure and push and cut away until you fit inside that stencil. More than likely, the things you want are outside His measurements for your life. No solid music, no expensive clothes, no hot guy. You'll be stuck in the same profession as your parents, settle in a small town just like the one you grew up. You'll wear flappy denim skirts with buttons down the front, and you'll stay home and raise kids on crockpot meals. Don't dream. It doesn't fit."
My life-long pursuit of seeking out God is berated by these ideas, wherever they came from. Maybe God is good, but maybe He's not right for me. I don't want a God who white-knuckles me into some bleached version of myself. I came to God because I wanted to grasp my purpose; I don't want Him to take it away from me.
Now, when the bad days come, I am "comforted" with such advice as: God will see you through. God has a plan in this. All I hear in those words is the beating of God's hammer, pressuring me and molding me into something I don't want to be. They say that God's Will is where you find peace and fulfillment, yet the working of His will is more anxiety-inducing than doing nothing at all. Why do my best for a God who sets such astronomically high standards? Why pursue righteousness in the shadow of a perfect God? Why think and breathe and dream for myself when God has preknown and preconceived every aspect of my existence?
I am huddled down, tiny. I do not know if God is good. I do not know who I am. All I know is, I am being taken somewhere by every ebb and flow of my life. Holed up in my blackened greenhouse, I come to my final conclusions. I cannot understand God by pure logic. I cannot understand God by the testimony of others. I cannot understand Almighty God by the record of life experiences too big and too fluid for me to fully contemplate. The only evidence small enough to fit under the lens of my microscope is myself.
I am imperceptible. I am utterly forgettable. I am a string of DNA wrapped up in eighteen years of empty experiences. Washed out, bled out, broken. Shattered in every way imaginable. God is all-wise, and yet I am the epitome of foolishness--the subconscious jot on the end of a cursive sentence. God is all-seeing, and yet I am invisible. God is purposeful and mighty, yet I am meaningless and weak.
Trapped in that perpetual loop--the fragmented spirit of a girl, broken beyond repair, holding down the fleeting hope that God is, in fact, good--a thought comes to my mind.
What about the sky?
Ask anyone in the world what color the sky is, and they will say blue. We learn that from such a young age, and we learn it everywhere. But the evidence, free for our gleaning, proves a completely different truth. Where I grew up, the sky had as good a chance of being white or gray as it did of being blue. At night, the sky is black, and at dawn and dusk, the sky is a gallery of orange, and pink, and purple.
How can we, with such shattered eyes, take in the cosmic wonder of the sky and label it so simply as blue.
Yes, the sky is blue, but it is not only blue.
Yes, God is good, but He is not only good. Far more complex than the finite sky above, my infinite God will never be understood through the fractured lens of this life. I see a flash of pink, a blur of purple, and a drawn out swath of gray. What could my feeble mind collect from such abstract views of God?
And just as the sky is too boundless to contain in such monosyllabic terms, my spirit is too much to be trapped below a microscope. I am small, but I am not only small. I am weak, but I am not only weak. It is in those incomprehensible spaces that my mysteries and God's mysteries coincide. He said His strength was made great in my weakness, our colors blurring together in a masterpiece I cannot yet see clearly through these mosaic cracks in my vision.
So I stop grappling with what I cannot justify, and I let it go. I let God go. I let go of the idea that He is mean and vicious. I let go of that nightmarish parallel future I've predicted for myself. I let go of the insatiable need to be perfect. I let go of that painful need to understand every why and be responsible for every fault and failure. I let go of myself. I stop measuring every flaw, and I stop forging my own stenciled prison. I stop holding every decision up to unending scrutiny. For once in my life, I stop giving up.
In that moment, I can take all the if's in my life and reprioritize them. I take away the unconquerable if's. If there is no gain to them returning empty, I quit contemplating them. I no longer say: If God is good, If I was better, If I was meant for this, If only I could. God is good. I am who I was always meant to be, and I will continue to grow into more of myself despite the hard things in this life. I am here for a purposes--a purpose God designed and will lead me towards. I own this life, and though it will always be difficult, I know that God is backing me all the way. The sky may seem gray for a time, but I know the truth now.
And with that simple acceptance--not the death of doubt, but the quietness of it--comes an immense freedom, a safety. With a future unfettered by such toxic fear, I am able to dream again. God knows the deepest and darkest parts of my soul. My depth mirrors His, and I am seen clearly by His wonderful eyes. Such intimacy, our threads running so close together, our heartbeats in sync, quiets my fears for the future. God works in our wants--necessities and desires.
I dream. I live. I am. I become.
Rather suddenly to me, He becomes fully sufficient. He is enough, and I am enough. I will fall, and He will catch me. I will soar, and He will lead me. Blurred though my vision might be, His presence is as constant as the sky. And, that tiny plant of growing faith, can stay small and fragile. I only require a seed, not planted in me, however, but in Him. When the faith is in me, God changes from good day to bad, but when my hope is in Him, He remains constant.
He is above my highest comprehension, as the sky is high above the earth. And, yet I tether this unexplainable God--my unexplainable God--to myself with my tiny seed of hope. The unbreakable chain is His handiwork, His grace immeasurably strong in my weak faith.
I hope. I believe. I rest. I am enough.
He stays. He keeps. He knows. He is sufficient.
Not Only but Always.