I love analogies—stories and mental images that help me wrap my mind around ideas. We often use the analogy of life as a journey, a traveling down the path, which is how I’ve pictured this cancer trial. As I was reading a book that a dear family friend gave me, that picture came beautifully to life. (Sometimes other people’s words define our feelings better than we can). Here, the author describes the moment in which we encounter God in our suffering, what it’s like to be hit with the reality that God does not only lavish us with blessings but also lets us walk through fire:
This is the discovery of God’s reality, of His Majesty which utterly overwhelms you, of an Almightiness which absorbs within itself you and everything you call yours. And for the first time you feel what it is to confront the living God. Now you know Him!
-Abraham Kuyper, Be Still, My Soul
I read those words, and the analogy of walking with the Lord began to spin and grow in my mind.
I see myself walking down a road next to Jesus. I’ve been walking down this path with God at my side for a long time. I felt Him. I knew Him. I could see Him (at least one side of Him).
But then I reached this bump in the road, and now God’s standing in front of me. He’s over the bump, already past it, extending a hand to me. Will I take hold? I’ve always had a choice to walk with Him, but now suddenly, it matters. I’m looking at Him full in the face—feeling “what it is to confront the Living God” for the first time.
This makes halfhearted worship impossible. For I no longer see the profile of this God I’ve tried to love my whole life. I see the face of a God whose majesty “utterly overwhelms” me. I’m discovering His reality day by day as He tells me to not try to get out of anything prematurely, but let Him do a good and complete work in my life.
So here I am, trying to keep my eyes above the waves (or above the road-bump, in this case), as Peter did. I’ve taken the first step out of the boat. But it’s not the first step that’s the hardest like we so often believe. Peter didn’t begin to sink until he was halfway to Jesus. The steps are hardest when the waves start changing directions and the saltwater is stinging your eyes and the wind is making it hard to breathe. The steps are the hardest when you thought you were almost to shore but look up to find a gaping distance. Taking every step is hard.
It’s dry and rough. That’s why they call these seasons of life “deserts.” And mine’s not even close to the worst. You can feel estranged from everyone, out on your own, blinded and burned by the sand. It seems impossible to think the hot grains could ever feel like cool water to your aching feet, but they can. In a way I honestly can’t explain, God takes one situation and makes it into something else. He can lift the veil, clear the smoke. He’s the only one who can make all my deserts rivers of joy. He changes sand to sea and refreshes our souls.
In a post I wrote two years ago, I said this:
I kind of look at my life like it’s a ball of clay. And God, unrestrained by time, looks at it for what it is. He sees me for everything I am, every particle, every shape, every color. He knows every form the clay can take, every ingredient that’s in it. He sees what I began as, what I am, what I could be, and what I will be. While all I can tell is that I’m different from what I was, I have no idea what I’m becoming, but I’m currently being punched and pulled. As He’s molding me, He knows I’m just where He wants me and sees my life as the thing He’s making it to be. To Him, that’s what I already am: what He’s working towards. So I should never be discouraged by where I am now, by what He’s doing or not doing in my life. By where I want to be but am not yet. Because He looks at me and sees all of me in one piece–my beginning and end, my mistakes and victories, my journey and completion. He looks at me and sees the finished product. For all intents and purposes, I already am the finished product…and He can’t wait for me to get there. So why would I ever doubt His molding?
I may feel like I’m in the desert, on the potter’s wheel, at a bump in the road—whichever analogy you prefer. But God looks at me and sees all of me, every stage of life and lesson and experience all rolled into one, and He says This moment is worth it.
I believed that two years ago, and I believe it now. He guides us over road-bumps and turns deserts into rivers and forms beautiful pots out of clay. And in the process, He draws us ever closer to Himself, showing us more and more of His glorious face until the day when Kuyper’s statement will be true of us: Now we know Him!