There is something about hearing people’s stories and walking with them through their pain that causes you to question everything you know to be true. The Lord has taken me on my own journey of finding healing and wholeness here working in a rehabilitation program, but I have also learned that I am so damn lucky. Of course, the truth is that luck had nothing to do with my life. The reality is, though, the same God that purposefully placed some of us into families that, for all their dysfunction and brokenness, loved Jesus and were relatively stable, also placed some of us into families that really shouldn’t even be categorized under that description. The same God that knew some of us before we were even conceived in our Christian mother’s womb knew some of us before we were conceived in the most difficult circumstances. I first came on staff here as a nineteen year old with a newly minted degree in General Studies and the awareness that I was walking into what the Lord had told me would be a wilderness. I had been through enough of my own struggles to know that there wasn’t necessarily a simple answer for every question, but I think I assumed that there at least was an answer—even if it wasn’t easy or simple. Over two years later, I am not sure if there are even answers to every question. At least not on this side of heaven. I’m inclined to think that when I see Jesus, it won’t matter because His beauty will be all-consuming and all I will be able to do, or even want to do, will be worship.
But right now, we only see glimpses of that beauty and those questions do matter. They matter because they are only asked when something doesn’t make sense or cannot be explained. They matter because the motive for our asking those tough questions either moves us towards or away from the Lord. I have spent much time listening to people’s questions and asking questions of my own. I have spent collective hours sitting before the Lord with tears streaming down my face, admitting to Him that I have questions, that I don’t fully trust Him, that the longer I walk with Him, the more unsteady my faith feels. And I am so grateful, because I am realizing that in the doubting and unsteadiness, He is actually planting my roots deep in Him. When my faith feels unsteady, I learn to hold onto the Steadfast. When my questions don’t have answers, I learn to trust the Answer.
I don’t have the answers for these women. I can only walk with them, cry with them, and point them to Jesus. Not because Jesus will provide all the answers, immediately comfort all wounds, or fill all their heart holes. But because Jesus simply is. He is the Steadfast, He is the Answer, He is the Healer, Comforter, Savior, Redeemer.
We are the sinners unable to worship. We are the men and women wearing nothing but shame. We are the lepers having to hear our own voices pronounce our filthiness for everyone to hear. We are the people standing on the dim side of the glass, seeing only glimpses of a Glory that we long to fully know. We are the beggar children wanting to kiss the face of the King.
He is the I Am.
This I Am, this God who simply IS – He knows us. He knows us in a way that is both terrifying and intimate. Our clothing of choice is transparent and He sees our shame and we tremble. We are not worthy. We are not holy. We are dying of sin and we bear the smell and marks of it. Sin is not so much an action as it is a state of being. Shame is not defined by the things that we do; it is in our very nature. Salvation is not altered by the shape of the sin that it crucifies. Redemption is messy and beautiful regardless of whether it takes place in a grave or a church.
I once had a dream in which I saw Jesus. He was standing several feet away, wearing a white robe, and His arms were open. I wish I could remember His face. I saw it in the dream, but I have never been able to clearly recall it, and perhaps I never saw it clearly. He smiled and beckoned to me and I went to Him. When His arms folded around me, I fit completely into them. I was hidden and safe. I had never before, and have not since, experienced the feeling of peace and security that filled me in that moment.
And that is why I can only point people towards Jesus. This life is hard, families are dysfunctional, and Satan has come to steal, kill and destroy. I have learned that focusing on that death only creates questions and fuels doubt. Focusing on the healing only breeds frustration and disillusionment. Focusing on the pat answers and carefully-explained faith only leads to confusion and an inability to ever fully walk in truth. But focusing on Jesus leads to a joy in the sorrow and healing in the pain, because a relationship with Him is the only real thing that is lasting and substantial.
And so we walk with Him. We become the dead sleepers that He wakes with the promise that He will shine on us. We become the men and women that He clothes. We become the slaves that enter the throne room and are granted a royal status. We become the lepers who are transformed by His touch. We become the priests worshiping at His feet. He redeems our lives. We are dead to sin and alive to Christ. We are no longer hiding, but we are hidden in Him.
This friendship with Jesus becomes part of our story.
To be honest, I still find myself asking those tough questions. Though there may be no answers that my finite human mind can comprehend, I can see His work in the hearts of the men and women here – sometimes in the quietest and smallest of ways. He is breaking up the fallow ground in hard hearts and stony souls. Those that choose to keep asking honest questions rather than allowing the questions to turn into statements of bitterness and defeat, find themselves constantly reaching for Him, crying “more, Lord, more.”
I have the immense privilege of walking with these residents through the over-turned soil and softened mud, watching as He plants new seeds and gently reworks their root systems. Yes, there are many days that I struggle with doubt and sadness. There is a sorrow that comes with asking questions with people. But I am also filled with a deep joy because I know both the Gardener and the soil of these hearts. There are so many things I don’t understand and probably never will, but knowing Jesus is enough. Jesus is worthy of it all—He is worthy of the sorrow, He is worthy of the trust in the midst of questions.
I wish there was a way I could neatly wrap up these thoughts, but I’m still living them. Maybe someday I will be able to summarize my faith and the how and why behind life’s pain more succinctly. At the moment, though, I am not meant to find meaning or solutions. I’m simply called to point people towards Jesus, inviting them to walk with me as I walk with Jesus.