Tuesday, March 6, 2012

burning bushes

i know bella is 4 and i am 40 something, but regardless of that extra zero, we have a lot in common.  though she's not even been with us a full two years, it is already obvious she is a mcnatt through and through.  i can see myself in her more each day.  the way she tilts her head to the side, the roll of her eyes,  how she tosses her hair, and then there's her absolute love of everything silly. i know she is watching me and all the rest of the family too -- and copying.  imitating. learning.  transforming into the person God has designed her to be.  more each day.  one of her favorite games to play is "running errands."  she'll grab her backpack, her keys and maybe even her princess phone and hop in her her pink and purple little tikes car.  i've even watched her apply pretend lipstick while chatting on phone with one hand and steering with the other.  i can't imagine where she gets this stuff! 

i am not just seeing the imitation, but i hear it as well.  lately, she has been using the expression "kinda."  she'll say to me, "that music is kinda loud...i'm kinda hungry...cooper is kinda fluffy...i am kinda tired."   i'll ask her if she likes her broccoli or cheesey potatoes or pork chop and she answers, "i kinda like it mommy."  i've kinda wondered where in the world this word came from and then recently i overheard myself talking.  yep.  that word is more than kinda mine and i wasn't even aware until i heard it coming out of her. funny (and scary) how our kids can sometimes act as our mirror. 

so the other night at bedtime we were reading through her little bible storybook.  one story after another and she was taking it all in, listening intently until we came to the burning bush.  "mama, why is that bush on fire?" she asked.  i answered without thinking, "oh, that's the burning bush bella and that's really God in the bush."  i realized immediately i had gone a little too far, a little too fast.  "what?" she asked, her quiet face rapidly waking. "but why is God in the bush? and why is He burning?" she sat up in her bed, sleepy girl all furrowed brow and  wrinkled nose now. "why mom, why? why is God in a bush?"  on and on the questions came.  i tried to explain, best i could, but realized pretty quickly, i didn't have all that great of an answer.  how do you explain God's holiness to a 4 year old? i tried to move on to the next story, but for bella, the walls of jericho tumbling down just didn't hold the same intrigue as the burning bush.  even the next morning she came teetering down the stairs with her "lovey" and that small bible book dragging behind her.  "mama, why is God burning in a bush?" it was the first thing out of her mouth.  she was not willing to give up on this conversation.  she just didn't understand.

and she couldn't.  and sometimes i can't either.  sometimes things happen in my life where i feel exactly like bella with the burning bush and her little storybook.  "why God, why? what does it mean?  why did this happen?  why are showing yourself in this way?"  i stumble around clutching my questions and wanting my answers.  over and over i ask.  does my heavenly Father ever grow tired of my continual-need-to-know?  it is easy to be patient with bella.  she's four and she's pretty darn cute.  but me?  i should know better, right?  except that i don't. and except that i am never satisfied with the pat or easy answer.  i have always had this great need to understand things.  this great need to know.  except the older i get, i am finding, the less i really do know.

this blog has gotten me into some trouble too.  i have written of things over the past couple years which aren't always easy to understand or accept.   i've wrestled with a lot of it...and i know many of you have as well. i have a folder full of emails and messages from readers wanting to know how i can believe what i believe,  wanting to know if i really trust in God's plan as much as i say i do, wanting to know if i really believe God is in control of everything...all things...even the ugly bits of life --  even the cancer.  i've had people tell me i'm "in denial" ...that i can't "possibly believe God is behind this." i've had people write me, wanting to know how i might be able to see something like cancer or bella's heart condition as a blessing...oh this is hard stuff.  these questions  are all burning bushes and they blaze inside of me all the time.  i am always wrestling with the heat of my weak faith and the burn of my insufficient trust.

and don't think for a minute, the answers have been easy or the acceptance has been eager.  bella may trail her little book around the house and ask in her sweet voice, "why mommy, why?"  but my questioning has at times been much uglier, more violent, borderline belligerent.  last spring, shortly after the cancer diagnosis, there was a night when i went out running...it began to rain...and something about the pain in my side (out of shape), the tumor in my breast and the pelting rain on my face made me well up in anger.  i ran and cried hard for a while.  (not easy to do, mind you).  finally i stopped and when i did the flood gates flew open and the sobbing began -- big, ugly wretched kind of sobs.  there i was just around the bend on buttercup trace and crying like a wild woman, calling out to Jesus and asking my Father, "why, oh why?"  why me?  why my children?  why us? why now? why are you revealing yourself in this way lord? Lord, i'm drowning in my fear ...Lord, save us!" i mean it, i let loose. anyone walking by me would have been certain i had no faith, no trust, no belief, no Lord.  they, at the very least, would have been certain i had no sanity.

exhausted and soaked, i finally got up from my curb and headed home.  and as i walked in the direction of our house, the rain never stopped -- no let up at all.  in fact, it grew worse.  but somehow, a tiny piece of calm began to open up on the inside of me.  a stillness.  i didn't see a light or feel the touch of a hand...i didn't hear a voice or receive some kind of supernatural sign...but a little sliver of peace began to grow within.  and i knew it was really okay for me to have had this breakdown/meltdown/sit down with God.  He was there.  He was listening.  He wasn't, necessarily, going to provide the easy to understand answer at that moment, but i felt assured He, nonetheless, held the answers, even if i couldn't hold them.  i felt sure He wasn't wasting this. He wasn't wasting my pain or fear or future.  i felt sure He would use even this very ugly cancer. 

my storm is so much calmer now. at least for the moment, the wind has ceased its violent blowing...but it seems everywhere i look i see dark weather brewing in someone's life. so many thunderclouds close by.  in the past couple of weeks i have heard news of one of my former students dying in a house fire, a hurting teen start shooting in a school close to my ohio hometown, news of two suicides,  news of a friend with stage four brain cancer,  another friend with cancer rapidly spreading, a teen girl who is cutting, a teen boy who is rebelling, a father who is leaving, a woman who is wandering, a family facing financial ruin...oh, the list goes on.  and some days it feels almost too heavy to hear...too much to bear.  and the questioning woman in me rises up again, even this past sunday morning while sitting in church of all places, and i want to ask, "why God, why?" 

and what i know is this.  we, like bella, won't always understand.  we can't always understand.  i am pretty sure God is okay with us wrestling and questioning though.  i think when we seek His answers we are somehow seeking Him, seeking His face.  and that is what He wants more than anything.  that is theology -- the study of God. knowing God.  knowing God better.  this verse puts the scale in perspective:

"who has gone up to heaven and come down?
 who had gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands?
 who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak?
 who has established all the ends of the earth?
 what is his name, and the name of his son?
 tell me if you know!"    
~ proverbs 30:4

God.  that's who.  God and only God.

there is so much in life we won't and can't understand.  we can make ourselves crazy believing we are supposed to make sense of it all.  we can even end up standing in a rainstorm and shouting wildly at God.  but when i read that passage above, i am reminded of how limited i am. the world wants to tell us we can have the answers -- even tries to tell us that we deserve them.   but then i read that and am reminded how very big my God is and how small am i.   my God who  is big and has big plans.  my God who is sovereign and has preplanned every step of my life.  some of you don't like that.  you don't like that God chose for this (fill in the blank) to happen.  but, i have to ask you,  is believing in chance or luck or coincidence or circumstance or even the devil better?  i don't know about you, but it doesn't make me feel better to believe something "just happened"... even when it is hard and ugly i'd still prefer to know i have a God in total control.   doesn't mean i won't run in the rain and cry out -- doesn't mean i won't question and wonder and ask why. i probably will. but little by little, i'll come closer to God.  maybe not closer to always understanding Him or the storms in life, but to knowing Him better because of them.

"oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 
how unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  
for who can know the LORD's thoughts? who knows enough to give him advice?"  
~ romans 11: 33-34

"trust in the Lord with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding." ~ proverbs 3:5 - 6


Aus said...

Wow - I bet you didn't expect to go there when you started writing today - but I'm really glad that you did!

It is often through the eyes of an innocent that we learn to see the truth - thanks for speaking it - thanks for bringing Witness to it!

hugs - aus and co.

jodymcnatt said...

yes aus, nothing could be truer. it wasn't where i was headed at all...i'm glad i went there though. healing for me to even write about it all. and it is truth. the set-you-free kind of truth.