I’ve been following along with Ann Voskamp’s advent writing and something she said a few days ago just won’t leave me alone, “Faith thanks God in the middle of the story.”
Did you exhale when you read that? I did.
It’s such a reminder that God isn’t good because God gives me what I want, or fixes my stupid mistakes, or balances the budget when there’s nothing left. God is good because that is the nature of God. God is good in the middle of the story when it feels like there’s no way out, when there isn’t enough, when the harsh words can’t be taken back.
This is what I’m pausing to notice, again, this advent season. God is a long, long list of the very things I need in the deepest and most tender places of my heart. I don’t understand it, but somehow the God who paints stars and sets the tides, also sits right beside me. God—who exists outside of time—is patient with me when I am not patient at all.
It is so easy to slip into a faith that equates the goodness of God with my current level of comfort. If things are great, so is God, and if things are not so good, well maybe God needs to start paying attention. It’s so like me to recreate God in my own image, to put myself at the centre of the universe. But the very good news for all of us is that God is just as magnificent on the days when it’s all falling apart as God is on the days of our greatest joy.
I don’t know what 2016 has been like for you. I know that for me there has been a lot of uncertainty. I look toward 2017 and the stories in the news do not fill my heart with hope. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Some days that justice seems a long way off. But faith thanks God in the middle of the story, before the answers come, so I pause again and remember who anchors my hope.
Faith cries out, “God I need you” and “I believe that you are coming” all in the same breath. I want faith like that, now in this Christmas season and in the unknown months that will spool out into 2017.
Hope is powerful stuff, and sometimes it feels dangerous, like fire. I worry about hoping too much, about getting my hopes up and having them dashed. If I believe a thing is going to happen and it doesn’t, I’ll feel foolish. Living with less hope feels safer, but I think it is a mistake.
When I don’t hold a space for hope in my heart, worry fills the gap instead. And that’s dangerous for me because I am a champion worrier. I imagine terrible, awful things. I don’t mean to. My mind can find a thousand dark and terrible roads to run down. But when I’m focused on hope, it’s harder for the darkness to creep in.
As I write this I’m waiting on a phone call and am I struggling to sit with hope. If the decision goes my way the result of this call would be a game changer. And if it doesn’t, it will be hard to have come so close and not reach the goal.
I tend to hope quietly. I was planning to keep this phone call mostly to myself. If there turns out to be something to celebrate, I’ll share it and if not, the pain can be just mine. But that decision was taken out of my hands when someone I told announced the news at a dinner party. Suddenly the whole room knew and I wanted to gather the words up and stuff them down into the bottom of my purse. I wanted the hope to be small and manageable. But it was too late for that. To my surprise, it wasn’t awful. Everyone was happy for me, and they hoped with me. There was such comfort in hoping together.
Hope takes courage. But it often doesn’t feel like courage, it feels like risk, like walking a tightrope or riding a unicycle. But here’s the secret: life without hope isn’t safer, it’s just lonelier. So, here I am thanking God in the middle of the story. I am choosing hope, even if I have to remind myself to choose it again a hundred times today
Here’s the truth that I have to remember: we are always in the middle of the story. In victory and in defeat, in the endless days and the ones that zip by far too quickly, it’s all still the middle of the story. So, the time to thank God is now, today, because God is at work in all circumstances until we draw our last breath. And even then the promise of heaven reminds us, the story is just getting started.