It was gray that afternoon, a little misty, a lot of hula hoopers. The karaoke place wasn’t open at 2 p.m. A homeless Jamaican lady told us about what it was like growing up in Alaska.
My brain was just that jumbled.
One more part of my life had been stripped away that day. I remember making it into Emily’s apartment, collapsing on the couch as she pushed a cup of hot tea into my hands. Tears slipped off my face.
I’m not a crier. Really. I’m not. At least I didn’t used to be.
But something has happened in the past month or so, something profound. Something slightly akin to that scene in Twister where Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are strapped to a pipe as a tornado goes right over the top of them, obliterating everything around them but leaving them intact.
I’ve been watching my life as I know it get thrown around and ripped apart by a holy God. In the midst of moments rich in God’s blessings, I find people, places, things stripped away one by one. I’ve cried in my office, in my car, in the grocery store, on Emily’s couch.
And I’ve asked for more.
I must be crazy.
As I sat on her couch, my fingers bobbed the tea bag up and down on the string like a little puppet in the green ceramic mug. Control.
I had none. And I was OK with that.
I looked up at my friend, smiled through tears and said, “These are crazy times.”
She smiled back and reminded me of the two words I’d been hearing a lot lately. Kingdom view.
A few years ago, I was living a life all sunbeams and happy thoughts. Riding a wave of a sweet life in a cute little house, surrounded by hilarious and amazing friends, going to an incredible church and brewing tea and riding bikes and taking road trips. Working a job I believe God led me to, in a city I’d come to love as home.
Great things. All of which are still true.
But at night some nights, I would lay in bed knowing that I was holding on to way too much. At my core, I knew Christ didn’t have all of me – not even close. Did I want Him then, at any cost? I’d have told you yes. But was I truly willing to put everything – everything – on the table?
We went like that for a long time, He and I.
It wasn’t really a light-bulb epiphany. In the midst of my selfishness, God lovingly began chipping away at the happy shell I had covering a restless core. Sunday morning after Sunday morning I would hear David preach the Radical series and similar messages, and Elizabeth and I would go to lunch afterward and try to force down deli sandwiches while questioning how to make the lives we had fit the lives we were challenged to live.
I found I couldn’t.
It took months. Lots of months. But finally one day I threw it down. All of it. The job. Friends. Family. Clothes. Bikes. With empty hands, I reached up.
And He reached back.
Ever since, in the midst of the great joy that has overflowed with all this change, there have been moments in which things have been stripped away by His loving hand and perfect timing. But it’s hard to argue. The peace that’s running underneath any loss is such an overwhelming flood that it soothes the pain, even when it hurts the worst, and covers it to the point that I wouldn’t stop the hurt if it meant giving up the peace.
It doesn’t mean I’m handling it well all the time.
But in every situation where something is offered up as a sacrifice and He receives it, the precise and loving work of His hand surrounding the loss brings wonder in such a way that I can’t question His reasoning or His ultimate motivation. He fills the gap and then some.
And He pulls back the curtain a little and shows a way that He’s using the situation for His glory, sometimes several ways. A Kingdom view.
That curtain part – it’s a gift He doesn’t have to give.
That grace – it’s intoxicating.
Everything feels richer. Blessings radiate happier, pain hurts more purposefully. It’s like in C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” when the souls, slight and weak and unfit for Heaven, make it there but find Heaven’s grass too “real” to walk on – the reality there is more than they are equipped to handle, both the good and the bad.
I’m unfit for this path, both the joy and the pain. The grass is too real, too sharp – it’s cutting my feet.
But right now, I’m compelled by desire to keep walking.