About two years ago, when our family of six first moved to the land of corn and soybeans (Iowa), God was intent on letting me know He was making all things new. I came across the verse in Isaiah (43:19) in my devotions, I heard my Pastor preach it from the pulpit– I even read the passage in Revelation (21:5) to my congregation on my Sunday as Reader!
I was so overjoyed! God was speaking a Truth I was so ready to hear!!
This is about where you, my dear Christian reader, try so hard not to roll your eyes… Not another testimony. Please, God! I thought Kristen was way too cool to fall into that tired victory narrative…
No worries, dear Reader. I totally am. Just, keep reading. I wouldn’t want you to strain your eye balls…
So, I was just relating how God was going to great lengths in getting His message across. Yay! All things new!! What could possibly go wrong?
Then, absolutely everything in my life went wrong (For a recap, go here).
About two months ago, I was sitting on my back deck smoking a cigarette (yup, that’s how bad things got. I became a SMOKER. Take that, Jesus!) and telling God: “There is nothing left. You’ve stomped all over my little life and broke it entirely into pieces.” And, I vaguely recall Him answering something about still having my health…and if I could have, I totally would have blown smoke in His face. I was furious.
I don’t mince words with God. So, I’m not going to pretend here that I was all ‘patient in affliction’ at that moment. Because, I have not been patient. I have not been patient at all.
And it’s not like I’m exaggerating about the state of my life– I had lost two pregnancies, my kiddos were all seeing therapists because of the stress of leaving Seminary (heck, we left suddenly and under the cloak of darkness. It was that bad.), our church despised us, we were about to lose both our van AND our house, my marriage was falling apart because of all the stress, and I had a falling out with my family (they live 300 miles away, so, it was a falling out over text message. Don’t judge me.)
Everything I thought I had was being taken from me.
Then, over a period of several weeks of agonizing prayer and supplication, I finally realized what was happening. God was doing exactly what He told me He was going to do– He was making all things new.
Now, if I had known that the process of making all things new required the breaking down of everything I thought was mine, I doubt I would have been so joyful to receive that message back in 2014. But it was too late to protest. I had already been separated from everyone and everything that was not God. No use in lamenting it (anymore).
No, I was going to learn from it, damn it! What was I going to learn? I had no clue. But I was not going to let my suffering go to waste. That’s for sure. Unless, of course, God disagreed with my whole learning plan. It’s not like I was in a place to argue with Him…
God 1, Kristen 0
The time between then and now has been largely unremarkable. I’ve been trying to listen to God instead of fight Him. Returning to the faith I started with, the faith I had before coming to know, personally, God The Destroyer.
And then, the last three days, God The Destroyer was mysteriously absent…
The first day, I was allowed to see how much my kiddos have grown spiritually through all of this. My eldest came to me, seemingly out of nowhere, to tell me how he was reflecting upon all of the missed opportunities to better the lives of others. He’s now 10 years old, but last year his behavior was one of the catalysts for our being ostracized. He apologized to me. I don’t know why… But I have a feeling it had to do with the Spirit, because he continued to voice his regret over his failure to befriend the school bully and help him with his homework… And, I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped. And we hugged, and I fought back tears. It was beautiful. It was exactly what I needed to hear to recover my own sense of being a good-enough mother.
Then, the next day, my Mom and I reconnected, after six weeks of intentional silence (the women in my family tend to be strong-willed. If you’re wondering. Six weeks is nothing). We talked and talked and talked…and my heart felt lighter. I had my family back.
Today, my Woodsman poured his heart out to me. The wrongs were righted, and the animosity and distance that has been the norm over the past year, spontaneously cleared. As if it had never come between us at all.
Right now, I’m sitting on my back deck, smoking a cigarette, strangely amused by the hand of God.
I didn’t see all of this coming. How could I? Would it have made it any less painful if I had?
I doubt it.
The verse that comes to my mind is this one:
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
Mark 2:22 (NRSV)
So THAT’S what you’ve been doing, God! Why didn’t you just say so?