Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When the Road Ahead is Unclear


Life feels predictable at times.  My calendar teems with plans bound to happen.  Our checkbook is balanced with enough to cover anticipated costs and then some.  Jobs seem secure and promised.  Everyone in the family is healthy enough for me to take it for granted.  The living room is vacuumed, the dishes are clean and stacked in the cabinets and my "to-do" list seems attainable.  It is well with my soul when I can check off the boxes and feel a sense of control.

At other times life throws curve balls - hard ones.

I remember when we were selling our first home.  I was six months pregnant with our first son and my mother-in-law sent us an email with a link to some new houses being built in her area where mortgages were going to be way more affordable than our current home in Los Angeles.  My (up to this point) very stable and predictable husband decided overnight that we ought to move to the Central Valley.  So we sold.  But it didn't happen quite that easily.  Our house was on the market for weeks with people parading through at all sorts of hours while we kept things immaculate and took the dog on an infinite number of walks to clear out for would-be buyers.  We did finally sell, but that inbetween waiting period was excruciating - exacerbated by the nesting instinct I was going through.  I longed to nest and I was being uprooted instead.

You know how that is.

We want roots.  We want predictability.  We want a plan.  Or at least we want a clue as to which way the wind is going to blow so we can properly set the sails.

If we are honest we'll admit that in the midst of these "hallway" experiences - where we are neither "here" nor "there" but just in the middle ground that seems like no man's land - we can get a bit upset with God.  I mean, shouldn't He give us a hint as to what is going on?  Wouldn't it help for Him to give us a heads up?  He sees us wrestling and yet sometimes we wait and wait and nothing seems to change and there isn't even a sign as to when this indefinite period of ambiguity will come to a close.

Years before that house sold, I lost my job.  I didn't know if we were going to be able to keep the apartment where we then lived.  What would become of me?  Would I ever work again?  It seems like a lifetime ago when this happened, but in the midst of that trial, I felt like a looming mountain was over my head and every direction I turned I hit wall after wall.  Ultimately I got a much better job and was able to finish my graduate degree while working, but in the middle of the storm I had no idea which way things would land

I endured way worse trials when my father died, when my marriage hit unthinkably hard times, when dear friends ripped the rug out of relationship, when chronic health problems would not relent, when we left a church which had been our spiritual home for years, when people sinned against me or when sins I had committed caught up with me.  Each of those experiences brought with it some sense that life had hit a dead end and I had seen the last of the "good ol' days."

Sometimes we wait for someone to respond to an outstretched apology.  Other times the doctor needs to call us with the results of our test.  We can be waiting for a bomb to drop - just knowing that our boss or our spouse has news that will turn our life upside down.  Waiting can even be for something wonderful like a new job, a proposal or a move.  When it isn't coming as expected we feel unearthed and uneasy.  I don't know about you, but sometimes I'd rather have bad news than no news.

Why does God not just forklift us out of these hallway experiences?  Why isn't He like the great prince on a stallion, riding through and scooping us up, preventing our tears and grief?  I will tell you what I have come to believe is at least part of the answer.

While we long for something concrete - a sense of control and direction - God longs for us.

He knows that giving us what we are asking for - earthly security and one more chance to grab at the steering wheel of our own life - will keep us from true dependence upon Him.  As I look back over the many "hallways" of uncertain times and the trials where my heart broke in two, I see clearly that I drew nearer to God in those times than in most others. 

God is the lover of our soul, the Good Shepherd.  His name is Jehovah Jireh - The Lord, My Provider.  Abraham spoke this name when God provided a ram in place of Isaac after Abraham had bound Isaac and was prepared (knife poised) to sacrifice his son.  Talk about an excruciating waiting period!  God did come through, but as He did, He brought Abraham to a place of deeper faith through the process of waiting. 

I am not of the mind that God brings calamity as an enemy bombs a shelter.  God is lavish in His provision and He longs for us as a mother for her children or a lover for His beloved.  If we will not give our children stones when they ask for bread, it doesn't make sense that God would bring illness, calamity and hardship on those He loves.  As Dallas Willard said often, "Don't ever believe a bad thing you hear about God - God is light and in Him is no darkness whatsoever."  Amen, Dallas.  God doesn't bring these hardships, but He allows them and makes good use of them - for our good and the deepening of our connection to Him. 

God uses these trials - and even the foggy times of waiting - to give us an invitation and an opportunity.  He is with us in the waiting.  He asks us to wait on Him.  Not only that, He promises His presence and support as we do:
Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up on wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary (Is 40:31).  
We wait and He waits with us.  Let's not waste these precious times of waiting by wishing them away.  We can grieve and cry out to Him (a great way of connecting authentically which is modeled throughout scripture, especially in the Psalms).  We can be filled with a range of emotions.  Simultaneously we can choose to receive the gift He has for us in each of these seasons - the gift of greater intimacy with Him.

The hallway can be uncomfortable with all its unfinished business.  We long for a place to settle and we want answers.  I'm not saying you should set up camp in the hallway, but maybe you can pause and see the goodness of His presence with you - as you wait.

Where you are, He is with you - Jehovah Jireh, Your God and Provider.

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Feel free to share your "hallway" here in the comments or on my Facebook Page.  I would love to pray for you as you wait.  

Linking up with:


Barbie said...

Well friend, you know how much this blessed my heart. I have to be honest and tell you I've gone through such a range of emotions in this season -- fear, anger, bitterness, doubt, worry. I know He holds me, has a plan and is a good Father. I hate that I am allowing my emotions to rule me and leave in the desert. Oh how I want to walk into the promise land of freedom. Thank you!

HeartsHomeward said...

I know. Your hallway has been very long indeed. Those emotions are not rebellion. They are part of how we are wired as we grieve. The Psalms are our guide. They are in the Holy Word for a reason (or two) and they give us a model of how to approach God in times of questioning and pain and uncertainty. It is hard, but if you can, go to that part of you that feels all those things and allow Jesus to tell you what He will. He will give you the ability to extend yourself the grace you would extend a hurting child in the middle of a dark night when things seem overwhelming and fearful. He will teach you to speak to yourself the same way you encourage a friend. I sure love you - and I pray for you daily.

Heather Faria said...

Patty, this was so what I needed to read now! (Your stuff always has a way of hitting me at just the perfect time!) I loved how you said, When we long for something concrete, God longs for us! So good!!! I find myself chasing a direction and a plan so much, and what's ironic is that He is the only concrete thing in my life that I can always depend on. Thank you for this reminder!

HeartsHomeward said...

I am so grateful whenever something I write touches someone - especially someone I care about. I am so glad God brought us together through Blogging. It's such a blessing to have kindreds like you. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know you were blessed.

LisaSmith93 said...

I think the ability to say, "It is well with my soul," in these uncertain times is a true testimony to trusting God's faithfulness.

PS I love the perspective gained when the house sells and a new job is secured...I pray I learn to exercise that perspective in the foggy times too.

HeartsHomeward said...

So true, Lisa. When our eyes are up and over our circumstances we can say that sweet line no matter what storms swirl around us. It is such a process to grow in trust. In retrospect I can see how each and every uncertain time led to more faith in His goodness and care. I am glad you came to visit Hearts Homeward. Come back anytime.

Jenn said...

Wow, beautiful post. Hallway moments are so scary, but most often the closest time with our Father. Like He's holding us on His lap right there in the hallway, promising us the next room will be incredible...
Thanks for sharing, and linking up with Grace&Truth! :)

HeartsHomeward said...

Amen, Jenn! We need to remember {I need the reminder} and to tell one another that we can persevere and endure under pressure because there is hope. The hallway can feel like nothing, but God is never doing nothing. Thanks for coming to Hearts Himeward - and for letting me know you were here. Come back anytime.

Jennifer Clarke said...

As someone who has been in her share of "hallways," I appreciate your insights here and agree wholeheartedly. This will be my featured post at Grace & Truth this week! Thanks so much for linking up with us.

HeartsHomeward said...

Jennifer, I am so glad this resonated with you and honored that you would choose to feature me. My prayer always is that what I write would touch even one who really needs to hear encouragement and hope. Thanks for coming to Hearts Homeward. You are welcome back anytime.

Michele Morin said...

I love Isaiah, and appreciate the hope in this truth-filled post. Congratulations on begin featured at Grace and Truth.

HeartsHomeward said...

Thank you so much, Michele, So glad you came by Hearts Homeward.