I look back on that day, and I think there’s only one thing she could’ve thought.
There I was, fingers buried up to the knuckles in my little bedroom’s fairly industrial carpet, tears forming a river formidable enough to make Justin Timberlake proud.
Meredith was standing in the hall, and her eyes were huge.
She was unpacking her suitcases. She was new to England.
I wondered if she was taking in the scene and thinking in horror that she might be looking into the mirror at the ghost of Christmas future.
Expats sometimes call them “ticket days” – the days that if you had a one-way ticket, you’d probably get on the plane and fly back.
This was my first ticket day.
It seemed everything had imploded in a split second. I’d prayed over several things, then botched them all in ways I couldn’t have even dreamed up. I’d hurt people I love when I meant to do the opposite. All in one day. It felt like I’d been dead-legged so suddenly I didn’t feel it until my face hit the industrial carpet.
It was awful.
Later that week, I was on the schedule to give an encouraging talk at my office, and I don’t remember saying much that fit the bill of encouraging. I think it centered around clinging to God in the midst of pitch blackness, when everything goes up in flames.
Admittedly I have a deep well of emotions, but this plumbed it and kept digging. But in the middle of it, something unexpected happened.
I started learning how to learn.
A few days later, after I’d moved from the carpet to the couch, I found myself in 2 Corinthians 4.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal bodies.”
My weak, frail body – exploding with tears and messing things up even with my best efforts – is nothing but a jar of clay.
The stuff that matters is the treasure that’s on the inside: “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
I may feel hard-pressed on every side, but I’m not crushed, all because of His strength, strength that is super visible in my clay-like weakness.
That passage dead-legged me, and I remember yelling down the spiral staircase at Meredith how much I LOVED THIS CHAPTER.
I read it. And read it. And read it. Until finally one day I felt God prodding me to do something I hadn’t done since my sixth grade Christmas program.
It was hard. It took time. It took turning off the radio to say it to myself while I drove. It took getting up early to have some quiet hours before work.
But eventually it got in there.
And just in time.
When my friend Clare died last February, my face hit the carpet again, and this time I wasn’t sure how to get up with the weight of pain that sat in my gut and radiated through my pores. But something else came spilling out, too.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen.”
I couldn’t read. I couldn’t pray. Everything hurt so badly I couldn’t see.
I wanted a ticket out of this one, too.
“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Scripture came pouring out. Praise God. He knew my need. He supplied His Word. It got me through some hard, hard days. Sleepless nights. Tear-filled showers. Days doubled over my desk.
I started wishing I had already put so much more in my heart, because it didn’t take long to realize that when this jar-of-clay heart gets shattered, His Word spills out everywhere.
If I’ve put it there.
“My sheep know My voice … ” through His Word.