I love when God tells me, “Write. This. Down.” Sometimes, I wish he wouldn’t tell me that at 3 in the morning, but He has his reasons, and sometimes, I have no other choice but to listen and trust.
Tonight, I went to see “I Can Only Imagine”. If you haven’t seen it, go. Right now. I’ll wait. Regardless, almost as soon as the opening credits were flashing, I heard it: Write. This. Down. I’m glad the lights were down, because I know I don’t have a poker face, and I’m pretty sure my face matched what I was thinking: “Um, God…we’re 30 seconds into the movie. What could you possibly want me to write down?” Well, read on…
At some point during the movie, Ecclesiastes 3:11 popped into my head. It reads:
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
If you’re the grieving family member of a parent, child, close friend, etc., that might not mean very much to you. If the relationship you thought was meant to last forever suddenly comes to an end, you may or may not care about God’s timing. If you’ve suddenly been given life-changing news, such as a diagnosis or a loss, God’s timing may not feel so beautiful. So, what do you do?
As I mentioned earlier, this is where trusting comes in. As the reigning Queen of Impatience, I know very well that trusting is easier said than done. But when I look back over my life, there’s a very different picture painted by trust and God’s timing. For example:
• For many years, I hated my mother. I thought she was a monster for various reasons and I was tired of trying to please her and always falling flat. God was preparing me over several years to understand that my mother was doing the best she could with what she had as a single parent and a child with a chronic medical condition; I began to understand and even appreciate who my mother is. Now we’re closer than most mothers and daughters I know. God’s timing brings redemption.
• I have the chronic medical condition mentioned above that would give me very good reason to believe that God gave me a raw deal and was trying to punish me, but I don’t see it that way. That condition is the reason I became a nurse. That condition is the reason I live in Austin—because I came here to be a diabetes educator for kids like me. I’ve met some very cool people and done some very cool things because of that condition. God’s timing brings purpose.
• I was involved in a potentially fatal car crash caused by a drunk driver. When I faced the driver in a courtroom, I spent a lot of time chewing him out when I really looked at him and saw one of God’s children, who was probably facing something I knew nothing about, but now compounded by criminal charges and devastating financial penalty. I saw someone who appeared broken. While I was upset with what he did to my friend and me, I saw him as a person. A person who makes mistakes. I also make mistakes. I told the man that I was hurting, but I would forgive him. God’s timing brings forgiveness.
• I recently found out I would be losing my primary job and main source of income in a week’s time. While the first words out of my mouth were, “But my health insurance!”, the next thing I heard was God speaking to me. He said, “I’m giving you this time to recharge and renew. Take it—I promise you’ll be okay.” Truth be told, I’ve spent the last couple of years working and going to school and not much else. For the last couple of months, I’ve been working seven days straight. I’m looking forward to decluttering my space, and reconnecting with others and myself. God’s timing brings rest and renewal.
• Going back to God telling me to write stuff down at 3 am: the last time that happened, it was actually 3:40 in the morning, and as soon as I woke up, I instantly felt weak and shaky. My blood sugar was low. While I was treating that blood sugar, I was writing down what God said. Until I feel release to share that, I’m going to keep that between Him and me, but suffice it to say, He saved my life because He wanted me to keep serving Him here. God’s timing brings deliverance.
I’ve found that my timing and God’s timing are often “out of sync”, and sometimes, that’s really frustrating. But when I think about it, if I were left to my own devices, I’m pretty sure I never would have experienced the beauty in God’s timing as mentioned in Ecclesiastes. And I definitely can’t fathom God’s beginning to end. I do know when I get to see even pieces of it, I can’t help but see the beauty, and that’s a feeling I hope everyone gets to experience at least once in their lives.
I know life is hard, and it’s a lot to ask to trust God’s timing and process. There are things that I still don’t know why my timing and God’s hasn’t matched up, but I hang on to the fact that when God’s plan plays out, it’s going to be more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed for myself. I know that because it’s happened—not just to me, but many around me. I have stories for days. They inspire me. And when it happens for you (notice I didn’t say if), I hope you’ll take a moment once you’re done saying, “Wow”, to say “thank you” for saving, delivering, redeeming, renewing, giving and forgiving, or pure joy that is brought by God’s timing and grace.
As I move toward graduation in the next few days, I’ve been really emotional. If you’ve ever completed a long road to achieve a goal, you probably know what I’m talking about. You get to the end, and you’re excited about finishing, but you’re also not sure what you’re going to do when you get tossed out into the world. Even if you do know, change is scary.
I’ve also been emotional because this journey has been a little different. When I was in college the first time, I fell by the wayside. I was in a world where I was meeting people of all different faiths and ethnicities, didn’t have to go to church every Sunday, and was able to see a world beyond the little town I came from. Unfortunately, part of the world I saw was ugly and full of darkness—and I was hooked. By the time I realized it and tried to fix not being in church—which I thought was the real problem—I was lost.
I didn’t understand one very big concept: if you really, really want to feel supported, loved, and cared for, you have to have a relationship with God. I didn’t really know what that meant, and I struggled over many years to find out. I bounced from church to church trying to find a community that would help me “figure it out”, support me, and hold up the mirror that would show me who God thought I really was. While church isn’t the end-all, be-all, in order to have a relationship with Him, you have to find a community who will love you through it and your flaws. Since I couldn’t find that, I gave up on it, and worst of all, I gave up on Him. Every time I tried again, I was met with the same result, leading to the same frustration and feeling like no one really cared. I was looking for the right thing (a relationship with Him), but hanging it all on one thing (the wrong thing and the wrong thing to do).
"To know who God really is, you have to find a community who will show you who God really is."
Now we circle back to why I’m emotional. When I started this latest journey in my education, I knew how the story would play out: I would probably stop going to church due to lack of time, no one would care, and I would give up again. As God usually does, He pleasantly surprised me. By this point, I understood what having a relationship with Him was, so I knew that even if I wasn’t going to church, I would at least know that He wasn’t giving up on me and that I could trust Him to hold me up. But that’s not what happened. My City Chapel friends and family reached out to me, told me they missed me when I missed long periods due to mountains of schoolwork, never guilt-tripped me, and most importantly, they never let me go. That’s what I call love. However, to know who God really is, you have to find a community who will show you who God really is. He is love, and His people should be also. And it’s beautiful and it’s overwhelming and my heart is so full it brings tears to my eyes.
As I was writing this, I kept hearing, “fishers of men”. Now, I don’t claim to be a true bible scholar or interpreter, but when I think of that phrase, I think of two things: 1. A tribe that reflects who He is: love, and 2. A fisherman who hangs onto his catch instead of someone who throws his catch back because it wasn’t _______ enough (fill in the blank however you see fit). A true community will love you through the good, bad, and ugly. They will keep you humble, but celebrate you. Because let’s be real: even fish who make the cut have flaws, but regardless, God couldn’t imagine a world without you—or any one of His fish, or his children—in it. And in the words of a friend that I was describing my experience to, “when you find a community who’s excited about you, that’s your tribe.” And she’s right. That may or may not be City Chapel for you. However, be sure that wherever you go, the tribe celebrates Him by following His greatest commandment: love.
So, City Chapel family, I want to thank you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for knowing just when I needed you, and most importantly, thank you for reminding me who God really is and that I’ve never been alone. Thank you for never throwing me back. Diploma or not, finding and knowing Him is the greatest accomplishment of all—and you have been a big part of the greatest journey of my life.