Monday, February 29, 2016

on storms and sunsets.

We had had a week of sunshine and suddenly, on the last morning we were in Boston, the skies darkened, the heavens opened and a flood rushed down. Pouring rain. 8 a.m. flight and buckets of water raining down as we rushed into a cab bound for the airport. 

When we got back to Houston though, of course, the skies looked a lot different. and that night, as I sat on my porch with a cup of tea, back in my own house and sleeping that night in my own bed, that inexplicable peaceful moment of coming home from vacation but still feeling like you are on vacation, except in the newly realized comfort of your own house, I watched an incredible sunset sink over the Heights - the sky aflame with pinks and purples and oranges. 

It was so completely different than how the skies looked that same morning - thousands of miles away in rainy Boston. and yet, it was the same sky. the same world. same view, but a very different perspective. 

I thought a lot about that, as I started a new temporary job, later leaving that one for a contracted job at a PR firm, a job I loved and didn't want to leave, but one that ultimately was short term - for reasons I didn't understand at the time but now see clearly in retrospect that God was preparing me for something much better - after all, there are far greater things ahead than any we leave behind (C.S. Lewis said that.) 

My life, from a zoomed out view, looks pretty much the same over the months - work, Sojourn, Young Life, community. But the internal view - the way I see it, every day - is so different. It looks different all the time. Sometimes an adventure. Sometimes heartbreaking. Sometimes achingly disappointing. Sometimes achingly joyous. New job. Financial stress up and down again as jobs fluctuate. Some days are like that day we came home from Boston - dark and stormy mornings ending in a smooth and clear sunset filled evening sky. As drastically changing as the day can change as drastically as night and day. 

But one thing that this year - a year that has been so hard but yet so good, a mystery to me still as to how that could be - has reminded me is that while my life may either seem pretty steady from a distance or incredibly roller-coaster-y up close, these things are fleeting and perpetually changing. 

But Jesus isn't. In coming back to reality, at the end of vacation, or really, the reality of this season, I can remember that Jesus is good, and He does not change. Always. This is always true. I sing that song by Housefires - "you are a good, good father, that's who you are, it's who you are - and I'm loved by you, it's who I am, it's who I am." 

He is 'El Roi" - the God who sees. the God who sees! He sees me. I am known. He is good. These are true things, facts written into the scripture and the gospel and my life and my heart. These things are eternal. Unchanging. Timeless. They are always true.  The sun always sets no matter how the day starts. This is how Jesus works. From dust He makes beautiful things. Nothing will ever change that - no season, no circumstance, no confusion, nothing. 

I've talked about the book These Strange Ashes many times - it's one of the original defining and refining books I think of when I think back (or read back - I have journals from way back then. #forthelove) on becoming a Christian and knowing and tasting who God is. Elisabeth Elliott, wife to missionary Jim Elliott and missionary to the Colorado indigenous people in Ecuador, finds herself empty handed when a tragic accident kills her translator - the only English speaking and native speaking person in the area - and a suitcase containing all of her language notes disappears on top of a bus. There is nothing left to show for any of the work she has done there, she says - just the ashes of my sacrifices. She says, "I felt like a child who asked for a fish and was given a scorpion." Where do I go from here, what do I offer God, when I literally have nothing left to give Him? When all I have left are the ashes of my sacrifices - whatever they are -  He takes them and rejoices in me as his daughter. 

"who else is like you, oh Lord?" (Psalm 35) 

In the book, Elisabeth quotes the missionary Amy Carmichael - "surely He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows...this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept. And by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer. so I give it back to him, who in mysterious exchange, gives Himself to me." 

Day by day, He is reminding me of these things. in storms. in sunsets. in all things.