How frail is humanity!
How short is life, how full of trouble!
We blossom like a flower and then wither.
Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear. Job 14:1-3
Somewhere after Abraham but before Moses, there lived a very good man named Job. Full of wealth and blessing weighed by livestock, family and reputation, his life was decimated within a day’s time. He did not see the Story. How could he? I see God hovering close to Job, waiting. Would Job turn to Him or walk away? History, and in my opinion, the most breath-taking book in the bible, tells us he stayed the awful course. Mournful, dejected, and at times a bit feisty, he seeks God, who suddenly seems strange and far off. From the ashy ruins of his near-pulseless life, he laments just how temporal and common our lives are. Kind of like daffodils.
This is strangely freeing, once you get past your own insignificance. How difficult that is could be a measuring stick for ego. I am not lacking. But every search for my self-worth always ended up like pawing through a junk drawer. Until I met Jesus. And it’s in this paradox of our own obscurity, we will oddly discover our value.
I first started to write while away at summer camp. I was twelve and I was dying. Not physically, but in a place hidden, even to me. I think I can still find some of those poems, in a journal given to me by a counselor. The words spoke nothing of my pain and sublime disappointment in life. I was turning over inside, my heart heaving to one side like a great sinking ship being sucked under by its own whirlpool. Writing brought me up for air. Butterflies, clouds. Stuff a normal twelve-year-old might notice. But it was my heart hitching with a divine Creator. I knew the Creator was throwing a lifeline.
He does, after all.
Years later, living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan among the underground poets of pubs and stained pages, I continued in my journal, the words growing dark and inward. Even I could see that I was not insane, just lost. I pursued freedom and found myself entangled in a net of vanity. I searched for peace and found exhaustion. Despite immeasurable opportunity and the promise of a city that would not sleep, joy was elusive. In the sweltering crush of 8,000,000 souls, I was all alone within a despair so profound, I was locked away. I can still hear the soft medicated shuffle of patients in the hall, the smell of disinfectant and sweat. An occasional outburst quickly restrained and quieted. Shhh, shhhhhhh. There, there, go to sleep.
Jail ministry sparked up again last week after a three-year Covid nap. Two women sat across the table from me and I asked them, “Who do you think God is?” Well, He had a place but it was very far away. I get it. That’s where I thought He was all those years ago when I looked out across the flickering summer heat of New York City from the 10thfloor of a psyche ward. No doubt He was there somewhere. Just not HERE, with me. I wasn’t wearing a prison jumpsuit but I may as well have been. Again, I took out my words and painted in charcoal and smoke. WHERE IS GOD? I was stuck and I knew it. So I wondered if He saw me, like a distant flare, dying in the clouds.
Soon I stepped onto a sandbar, with a baby, then more. They were my pages, my story – weaving comedy and tragedy into Cub Scouts and bars with names like the Bomb Shelter. Night school and Sunday school. Reaching up into cold steel skies and touching heaven. Slowly, my words deferred to His. The Author, the Finisher – two things I failed at. The One who writes my faith in longhand.
I admit it can be scary when you let God write the story. More than once I’ve screamed, “What’s the point here?”
He doesn’t answer.
And then God answered: “Write this.
Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
so that it can be read on the run.
This vision-message is a witness
pointing to what’s coming.
It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!
And it doesn’t lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
It’s on its way. It will come right on time. Habakkuk 2:2-3MSG
The vision-message is HOPE, the title is JESUS. It can be read on the run – when you are in traffic, or texting or changing a diaper. It can be seen from the bottom of Despair or the pinnacle of Fear. The words point to a new beginning and a coming end. Even a rich man knows his shadow is no larger than the poor man he passes. I think most of our sickness comes from avoiding Truth.
We are insufferably small, yet the apple of God’s eye. When I embraced my negotiable significance on earth, then I began to know the magnificent all- sufficient, ever-present, never-runs-out-of-love God. Only then. I was crushed to nothing and out of Me.
“Aren’t I broken enough?” I was mad, and a bit sarcastic. I’m sure Job said this at least once.
Then He said, “Now you are.” And so our journey began, the Ancient of Days condescends to take the hand of a shattered woman, a Nobody being led by the Lord of Hosts, of Angel-Armies, through the ruins to a different place. A higher ground with a view.
Write it down, He said. Write what you see.
Who would guess that I would be waving this banner of Hope, this Baton of Love and looking for someone to pass to?
Run with it. It is a witness – to the broken mom, the inmates, the addicts, the teen overwhelmed by the dark.
Dozens of daffodils bow their heads in resignation from my window, withered. A patient of mine last week woke up with a headache and four days later, her husband and grown children kept a brief vigil around her deathbed.
She’s my age, I thought as I touched her face, smoothed her blankets. A fleeting shadow.
Since his days are determined,
The number of his months is with You;
And You have set his limits so that he cannot pass. Job14:5
Right again, Job. The world turns, and if we don’t know who we are, or what we are worth then we catch a lie. A terminal lie. Your worth is not hiding in a closet or a junk drawer. It’s definitely not in the bank.
Dear Reader, where is your Story? God has penned it over every measured breath and uncertain step. Are you broken enough yet to meet the Author?
You would call and I would answer,
and you would yearn for me, your handiwork.
Here it is, take this message and run. There is HOPE beloved. It begins and ends with Jesus. And it is right on time.