Sometimes you can follow all the directions and still end up in the wrong place.

I left in plenty of time. I knew my destination, had directions, allowed extra time to park and find my spot along the course. It was my son’s cross country race, one of the last of his highschool career. I couldn’t miss it.

But I did. Miss it. Instead of cheering from a prime spot, I ended up wandering at the wrong end of the state park. For thirty minutes, I climbed hills and turned corners, certain I would find my son and his team “just around the next bend.” Instead, frustration. Worthless directions. And plenty of evidence that I was miles from where I wanted to be.

You can imagine my disappointment when I finally stepped up to the finish line minutes after my boy crossed it. The moment was gone, never to return. And I’d missed it.

{WARNING: uncomfortable honestly forthcoming}

So here’s the deal. This how-did-I-end-up-here feeling pretty much sums up the last several months for me. Standing in an unexpected place, holding worthless directions, missing out on the life I imagined.

It’s been one heckuva year (I’m keeping it PG, but you can guess the other descriptors that perch on the end of my tongue). Eight months ago I found out I had cancer for the second time. Five months ago, I found out my Dad’s cancer had come back. Two months ago we buried him. Not to mention the day-to-day upheaval of marriage, special needs children, blah blah blah.

I used to believe lightning didn’t strike the same place twice, and a person would only be required to endure so much suffering. But then I felt the sting of too many unexpected circumstances. And I discovered lightning is no respector of persons. And grief and suffering don’t care what you endured the month efore. It will come again anyway, and expect you to deal with it.

So I whip open my Bible to all those mountain-moving verses, find a nice, neat list of directions and follow them with precision. Because that’s how we end up where we want to be, right? If we just pray hard enough. Study hard enough. Believe hard enough. Right?

Right? 

But then the cancer comes back anyway. And my dad dies anyway. And my special needs child seems to unravel a bit more. And my marriage shows evidence of exhaustion. And the schedule doesn’t let up. And I wonder why we bother praying and hoping and believing when it doesn’t seem to change a darn thing.

{don’t say I didn’t warn you}

Can we just cut the charade for a minute and let all the ugly out? Faith is a beautiful thing. And I’m hanging on to it with both hands. But even those of us who bank on faith have moments of deep, dark doubt. Moments when the questions pile up far more than any answers.

This wasn’t supposed to happen! 

Seriously, God?! Can’t you give a girl a break? 

Why so much suffering? And why aren’t you doing something about it? 

Oh, I know you’ve said the same. At the least, you’ve thought it, too afraid to give it voice. So let me go first.

Oh, my friend, I understand! I’ve lost track of my questions and rants, the doubts without answers. Because when life turns upside down, when the unexpected and impossible show up fierce on your front step, grief and doubt are part of the fallout.

I Want God, by Lisa Whittle

I Want God, by Lisa Whittle

Over the past month, I’ve been reading I Want God, by my friend Lisa Whittle. It’s not an easy read, and I mean that in the best possible way. It dives into the wandering places and dares you to wrestle with what you find there. To begin, Lisa dares us to ask one dangerous question:

What do I want?

My easy-peasy, sunday-school answer, is “I want God.” I need Him. I love Him. I want to live for Him.

Hear, hear! Three cheers!

But when faced with illness and death and grief and pain—all the less-neat spaces and places—what do I really want?

  • Do I want the Sovereign One who sometimes doesn’t answer prayers as I expect?
  • Do I want the Mysterious One who listens to my rantings, but doesn’t feel pressure to respond with explanations?
  • Do I want the Omnipotent One who, although capable of curing and delivering, sometimes chooses not to?

Do I really want God? No.

I want cancer to go away. I want my dad to come back. I want my children to be whole, my marriage to be easy and my future to be painted with blue skies and yellow daisies. I want God, yes, but as a means to wave His magic wand and make my wishes come true. But if my want of God requires the fire of affliction and a shattering brokenness, then perhaps I don’t really want God after all.

After deep suffering of his own, C. S. Lewis finally relinquished:

I need Christ, not something that resembles Him.

After months of wandering myself, I have come to the same conclusion. In spite of my not understanding Him, I want Him. But I can also tell you that I have come point blank with my untried intentions and my comfort addiction. And the way I have made God to be so very small and containable and a means to an end.

And I desperately need a God who is so much more than a means to an end.

I need a God who shows up at the wrong end of the park and hangs with me there. For as long as it takes to get me home.

What do YOU really want? 

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