I’ve just read an amazing book called One Thousand Gifts by an equally amazing woman of God; Ann Voskamp. Her book is a record of her brutally honest thoughts and reflections in relation to her life with the Lord. The following quotes are from the first chapter – yes, I have basically typed out the whole chapter . . . it’s just that good!
Reading her writing has really inspired me to ask the hard questions, be honest with myself and those around me, and to keep on recording my own reflections, as I struggle through my own life.
So here’s a snippet (hopefully it grabs you the way it grabbed me, and you are able to get your hands on a copy of her book!):
Really, when you bury a child – or when you just simply get up every day and live life raw – you murmur the question soundlessly. No one hears. Can there be a good God? A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through the long nights, and bugs burrow through coffins? Where is God, really? How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode, and dreams blow away, dust in the wind? Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away. Where hides this joy of the Lord, this God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?
For years, we all silently ask these questions. For years we come up empty. And over the years, we fill again – with estrangement. We live with our hands clenched tight…
. . .
Is this the toxic air of the world, this atmosphere we inhale, burning into our lungs, this No, God? No, God, we won’t take what You give. No, God, Your plans are a gutted, bleeding mess and I didn’t sign up for this and You really thought I’d go for this? No, God, this is ugly and this is a mess and can’t You get anything right and just haul all this pain out of here and I’ll take it from here, thanks. And God? Thanks for nothing. Isn’t this the human inheritance, the legacy of the Garden?
I wake and put the feet to the plank floors, and I believe the Serpent’s hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn’t good. It’s the cornerstone of his movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us.
. . .
I moan that God has ripped away what I wanted. No, what I needed. Though I can hardly whisper it, I live as though He stole what I consider rightly mine: happiest children, marriage of unending bliss, long, content, death-defying days. I look in the mirror, and if I’m fearlessly blunt – what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I’ve got – this simply isn’t enough. That forked tongue darts and daily I live the doubt, look at my reflection, and ask: Does God really love me? If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold that which I believe will fully nourish me? Why do I live in this sense of rejection, of less than, of pain? Does He not want me to be happy?
. . .
Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.
. . .
We look and swell with the ache of a broken, battered planet, what we ascribe as the negligent work of an indifferent Creator (if we even think there is one). Do we ever think of this busted-up place as the result of us ingrates, unsatisfied, we who punctured it all with a bite? The fruit’s poison has infected the whole of humanity. Me. I say no to what He’s given. I thirst for some roborant, some elixir, to relieve the anguish of what I’ve believed: God isn’t good. God doesn’t love me.
If I’m ruthlessly honest, I may have said yes to God, yes to Christianity, but really, I have lived the no. I have. Infected by that Eden mouthful, the retina of my soul develops macular holes of blackness. From my own beginning, my sister’s death tears a hole in the canvas of the world.
Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with back voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn’t; holes, lack, deficiency.
. . .
I hunger for filling in a world that is starved.
But from that Garden beginning, God has had a different purpose for us. His intent, since He bent low and breathed His life into the dust of our lungs, since He kissed us into being, has never been to slyly orchestrate our ruin. And yet, I have found it: He does have surprising, secret purposes. I open a Bible, and His plans, startling, lie there barefaced. It’s hard to believe it, when I read it, and I have to come back to it many times, feel long across those words, make sure they are real. His love letter forever silences any doubts: ‘His secret purpose framed from the beginning [is] to bring us to our full glory” (1Corinthians 2:7 NEB). He means to rename us – to return us to our true names, our truest selves. He means to heal our soul holes. From the very beginning, that Eden beginning, that has always been and always is, to this day, His secret purpose – our return to our full glory. Appalling – that He would! Us, unworthy. And yet since we took a bite out of the fruit and tore into our own souls, that drain hole where joy seeps away, God’s had this wild secretive plan. He means to fill us with glory again. With glory and with grace.
Grace, it means “favour”, from the Latin gratia. It connotes a free readiness. A free ad ready favour. That’s grace. It is one thing to choose to take the grace offered at the cross. But to choose to live as one filling with His grace? Choosing to fill with all that He freely gives and fully live – with glory and grace and God?
I know it but I don’t want to: it is a choice. Living with losses, I may choose to still say yes. Choose to say yes to what He freely gives. Could I live like that – the choice to open the hands to freely receive whatever God gives? If I don’t, I am still making a choice.
The choice not to.
. . .