When the report is good, we lead with it. Hemming and hawing is out of place here. Straight out of the gate the doctor exclaims, “Congratulations!” or the company confirms, “You‘re hired!” or, after a frenzied search I bellow, “I found my size – and it has pockets!” No feather-filled blanket of kind words needs to be laid down to soften the landing of pleasant news. That good message is the evidence of things hoped for so even laid bare, it is well received.
I hastily clicked on the bold font of the unread incoming email. And when I did – not with a plan to read it, but to see how very unnecessarily long the first paragraph was to tell me “Yes!” – I immediately knew. My head and my heart had grown familiar with the shape of the words that rejected me. Maturity has caused a callus to form, but I have not been able to completely heal upon my learning that “other candidates were better suited”, or to find out “(only) eleven people read your blog,” or being asked, “close the window; it’s cold in here!” Also, “it’s just a chemical pregnancy” – these are all painful phrases that to varying degrees have been indelibly woven into the fabric of my life in days recent or decades past.
But at this age, I gotta ask myself some hard questions and be prepared to hear some equally hard answers. Wanting a child or a job or a bedroom that’s set at an optimal 65° for nighttime sleep is one thing, but my hope being anchored in those things is another matter entirely. I have to realize that all of these desires are temporal and finite. None of them fills the void that aches for something that lasts; something that is unconditional; something – nay, someone, who completely satisfies.
I saw this graphic on Instagram recently:
This wrecked me. The writer was kind to use the word “esteem” but in my life, that word is code for “idolize”. As much as I know about God and how he is jealous for my affection, my propensity to be an idol factory remains unchanged. I still find myself seeking satisfaction in stuff, people, and carbs. And every single time, the stuff is not relational, the people are broken, and the carbohydrates leave me with regret of calories gone by.
One of the terms in this two-word phrase is powerful beyond human comprehension. The word “but” tells us that the statement previously made can be stricken because of the words about to come, and in this case, that word is “God”. He knows we are this way. He knows that we are prone to wander – Lord, I feel it! He is not surprised when I go astray; he is not caught off guard when I sin; he is not any less God when I hold these idols in high esteem over Him.
A brilliant pastor said, “God causes lasting change through catastrophe or revival. And sometimes, He uses both.” Ah, yes. To show me what my idols are and how to remove them, why wouldn’t He combine a bit of the bitter with the sweet? For me, it’s an Ebenezer – a stone of remembrance. I need a reminder not only of how low I sunk, but that when I was alone at my absolute lowest in that pit bathing in the filthy cycle of my sin and guilt and shame and sin and guilt and shame, the grace of God had to sink lower than me to scoop me up and pull me out of it. He knows what’s at the end of my having idols and He knows that it’s disastrous. But instead of doling out to me justice, He washes me clean with His finished work on the cross, then showers me with abundant mercy.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. His mercies are new every morning. And I lean into that mercy and shout out and thank Him for his grace. And in the quiet – because the removal of idols reveals that they clang and have clamor built into them – I can finally see who He is and how much He loves me.