by Pearl Allard
I swept crumbs from under the dinner table deep in thought. Three separate sources of words – a book, a phone conversation, and a question – collided, and I puzzled through the fragmented thoughts.
Maybe Christ doesn’t want codependence so much as He wants co-laborers? But I don’t even know what that means.
I’m all in, God! Even if it’s painful, I’m all in. Not like I want the pain. (Right? Who does.) But what other real option is there? To whom else can we turn? But what does that really mean that I’m all in?
Perhaps to be all in really means that He is all in me. That I am completely open to Him. To leave the hands open, as Ann Voskamp would say in The Broken Way.
It’s a hard thing to trust and leave oneself open.
My mama tried that – and watched death snatch her only son at twenty-eight years young. A handful of years later and here we were – my mama and I in a phone conversation lasting hours that felt like minutes. We both remembered when minutes felt like hours.
We sat a hushed fifteen-hour vigil together that last day – my mama, my papa, and me on the brown leather couch. My brother, John, lay in the adjacent reclining chair. We’d all known since he was diagnosed, at two years old, that cystic fibrosis would claim him early. The knowledge didn’t make it any easier to watch him cough a piece of his lung into a Styrofoam cup. John had requested no hospice, no doctors, no nursing staff, no invasion of privacy for his dying days at home, except one palliative care nurse – my mama.
Mama stoically administered morphine and made John as comfortable as she knew how. Her job routinely required nursing the dying, but the dying had never been the one she nursed as an infant. The hissing of the oxygen machine that couldn’t replace breath… The paramedics zipped my brother’s body inside that black bag and carried him away.
The heart’s topography is never the same after loss.
This is the same mama who emphatically told me in that two-hour phone conversation that felt like minutes, “God only gives! God doesn’t do to us and He doesn’t take from us. You need to get this: God only gives!”
“But what about Job?” I countered. “Job said ‘the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’” (Job 1:21b, KJV)
My mama barreled on like she’d seen the question coming a hundred miles away, “Those were Job’s words, not God’s. That was a man’s view of God. God is not to be fully interpreted by any man. And when Job was all done, God spoke and Job was humbled and understood God more fully. Go and read it again.”
A third time she stated, “God only gives.”
If the mama with a son-sized hole in her heart could utter this three times with such conviction, I had to pause and consider.
We do lose people and things in this life, and God is in sovereign control over all of it. But if God is working all things for the good of His people, then even in heartache and even when He takes something away, He is giving us a gift. His good. His best for us. As hard as that is to accept sometimes. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
“Mom, you should read this book,” my seven-year-old son said, waving a book in my face about tsunamis he brought home from school. I was preoccupied making dinner. Later, when the kids were tucked in, I thumbed through the book half-expecting to see a spiritual analogy.
I saw nothing.
But I kept thinking as I got ready for bed, washed my face, set out exercise clothes for the morning. I thought about the acne exercise elicited. (One more reason to hate exercising.) But the acne calmed after daily washing and treating. Then it hit me.
God’s love is like a tsunami that overtakes all of me. All in His love. But tsunamis are destructive. What does His love destroy? Fear and sins! He who fears is not made complete in love. Not a judgment, an observation. There is some space in me that hasn’t opened up to God’s love, if I am still afraid.
The way to survive a tidal wave is to go inland to higher ground. Doesn’t my sin try to do that? It flees inward but has to find higher ground and eventually erupts through the surface waving its ugly black head like a zit. Perhaps the issues I stress over, my fears, are really indications of my need to receive God’s love in that space.
My dear mama had said it, “God only gives.”
For a change to be real and lasting it has to go deeper than the surface, Ann Voskamp observed. Like two fault lines rubbing up against each other under an ocean creating such pressure that it releases into a tsunami-producing earthquake. “If an up-and-down shift occurs on the seafloor,” I read, “all the water above the seafloor moves too, creating an enormous bulge of water, a tsunami.”*
An up-and-down shift. I have to look up and see how Christ has come down for me.
My fault lines have to rub up against Christ’s fault-less lines before the pressure is released and the tsunami of God’s love can flood the spaces that have resident fears and doubts.
Where do you need to let Christ’s fault-less lines release pressures in your life? What are you afraid to expose to him? Are you willing to let his love flood into your incomplete spaces and fill you?
My prayer for you, loved one, and me too, is that we may experience the God who only gives.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18, NIV
Pearl Allard is happily-mostly-aftered to her hero of fourteen years and is stay-at-home mama to two crazy-wonderful kids in Southwest Michigan. Her aim is to nurture Son-followers to embrace grace. She blogs weekly encouragement at Look Up Sometimes, from the perspective of a sunflower, to bask in the Sonshine of Jesus Christ and grow toward the Light.
Job 1:21b; 1 John 4:18b
*Leveled Reader S Tsunamis by Shaun Taylor
Breaking wave photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash
Women sitting together photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash
Water photo by Anastasia Taioglou on Unsplash