Last year we went on a road trip with a bunch of friends to California, and we felt like there were specific things that needed to happen, connections to be made–and especially on a road trip, especially when you have about 15 people to consider, there are always blunders, mishaps, bad timings, etc. Derek is all about timing too–knowing the right time for the right thing, but not everyone has this same sense of timing and choreography.
We got really frustrated at one point with the direction things were taking, and were trying to figure out ‘how to get back on track’ with what we thought was supposed to happen, when God gave us a funny word: “commit your way and keep moving forward, even if it seems like it’s not the way it was supposed to be…. get to know me in redemption”.
We sat in the car and thought of all the friends we were on the way to visit, the stories they had–most of them are real leaders in their communities but all of them have really hard stories, stories of imperfection and weakness… and all of them limping in one way or another. But all of them have a kind of humility I admire, where there is a willingness to accept suffering and walk through it with dignity.
And the redemptive story he is telling through them is really sweet and beautiful. That trip taught us so much about redemption… obviously it was not the perfect plan that we kicked ourselves out of the garden, but even in that moment, there was a backup, a plan B, so to speak, that would end up becoming and still is becoming, the entire story of his creation. The remaking of all things new.
I started to learn that trip about the place of suffering is really the place from which we reach the most amazing heights… I think about the 2nd temple… its glory was greater not because it looked better but because it had been built with ‘burnt stones’…. and so the rejoicing and gratefulness was far more spectacular than had ever been seen in the bajillion-dollar temple that Solomon built.
Obviously when we’re in it, when we’re in the suffering parts, it’s so hard to see the other side of things. How to be grateful at all is beyond me, let alone how not to get bitter. But I am seeing it, even now, in some of my friends–the fight not to get depressed or lonely or anxious. And that fight is so worth it, because when they get to the other side of things, or even from the midst, they have so much to teach us about beauty and hope.
This past weekend I visited the Ground Zero site in New York. I have never felt the presence of God so strongly as I did at that place. It was almost as if the Holy Spirit was hovering or brooding over it, almost like he did at the beginning of creation. There is a not-yet in that space, where cranes, drill and concrete trucks are beginning to complete the foundation of what will be there. There was something in there that had hope but also an intense suffering, and Jesus loves to dwell in those places. His presence is actually thick in suffering places. It reminded me of what David wrote– ‘even if I make my bed in hell, you are there’
He is so present in your suffering… there is no place he hasn’t been. You may not feel his presence but he fills those places with himself, and He will resurrect from your devastation. He will come up out of his own grave, and so will you.