In the early months of college a song was released.
I found God on the corner of First in Amistad
Where the west was all but won
Smoking his last cigarette
I said where you been?
He said, ask anything
He said, ask anything.
My God then is different than my God now.
[But yes, theologically the same, ya-da-ya-da]
I know. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow–Hebrews 13:8–and while there is great hope in that, there is also great hope in the God who makes Himself known in every hard, barrelling, fray of life and every good, becoming leaf that’s turned.
As a baby, God was spoken into my being.
In so many prayers, “The Lord bless you and keep you the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you and give you His peace”. He was that kissed assurance from my parents.
As a child He was in the breeze, on family vacations, in my imagination and sibling play; in the pulpit on Sundays from dad and uncle, in the discipline and star charts and kind-living engraved; He was in the hard work intention and the appreciation for what we have and what we will have in life with Him in heaven.
He was up there. He was hugs. In the I love you’s. He was in it all.
And then there was a shift.
A hormonal shift, and more. Pimples and hips and breasts and a desire to not just see beauty outside my window, but to be beauty, to be known. By friends and boys and parents and sidewalk strangers.
There was balance, and there was not.
Reality also shifted as awareness for life’s fray started to bear down hard.
My God of then was confusing and out there, but inner working with this–what felt like–unattainable grip.
He welcomed questions and let me free fall from heartache into His invisible hands. Sometimes those hands steadied me, other times they made me bitter.
Where are you?
But intellectually, He was. I knew that.
So I painted life pretty, sought pretty, worked pretty hard for all the pretty things. Mission living and mission dating, committing to the mission of finding Him– when on the inside turmoil rooted, and sin looked ugly, confusing and misleading.
My God, then, was there. But I didn’t always feel Him there.
How could I when flesh tore me up in everything from curse words, to bruises, to strangers stealing affection, to I love you’s whispered in falsehood, and needs masked by insecurities? How could I when the suffocating presence of sin–mine and not–was choking out the presence of Him?
So college came. And with that my burdens and the fray that painted dark colors all around and in my life.
I was at the corner of my amistad, I think.
I had holes to be patched, and graves to be laid, and deserts to be quenched.
And He met me there. I’m not sure if He was smoking the cigarette, or if I was smoking my first cigarillo, but we met up.
My God then was plain as day.
I could either say yes or not. Resistance was futile, but I tried.
It was the ugliest game of tug-o-war, because I actually thought God was on the other end of the rope. He wasn’t, he was just sitting in the middle, waving that white flag, ready for me to fall into His not-so-invisible hands.
So who was–on the other end?
Peace wasn’t there, but I held on tight for awhile. For years really.
On one end was joy and the best friendships and finding myself and opportunity and learning and true longing and authentic love and healing patches. And on the other end, all the other crap.
Fear. Insecurity. False security. Lust. Crushed dreams. Frustration. Bitter seeds. Humans that weren’t God. Tempting longings. Good people, who hadn’t met God yet. Disappointment.
Amistad felt frozen.
It needed melting, those cigarillos needed to burn out, but it was a slow burn.
I wish I could say that the plain-as-day God scooped me up and force-fed me that white flag, but He’s too loving to do that…I can say that now.
He let me burn out–through the shake down of anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, dismantled relationships, trust misplaced and running, running, running until I was beating down the doors of my God of redemption–painfully, on my own terms, detoxifying from a toxic world that wrapped me up in all its viney glory.
I was tired and I was ready, with puffy eyes, a worn-on-the-outside smile, and a well that was all kinds of dried up.
I sat down at that corner, face planted, really. Fixed, just me and God.
I was so afraid to lift my eyes to anything, and anyone, that was there. I felt skeletal, a walking void in a void-filling world. But all around me were life-breathers.
His word became nourishment, life off of pages.
The morning kept coming, and each time with new light.
I heard His name differently, and whispered it bold.
Shame dissolved into story owning and story owning turned into story living.
My worn-outside-smile became brave with care and freedom.
And people, He used them, to sit me back up with love that sits on corners and cleans up blood with rags of white and God and words re-birthed like
unconditional, grace, forever.
Redemption was so sweet, that unbecoming rescue, and the humbling reality that I was one name in all the grains of sand, that He was cupping in tender, tangible hands without losing a speck.
He has been that God, and more, ever since.
He’s been my eyes and my ears, tuned into a toxic world without becoming it. He’s been my side-by-side and literal breath, and the anchor to my frayed bones. He is the reason I get up and the how to to my day. He’s daily grace, and always surrender, when the ugly of me tries to claw its way out.
He’s in the pursuit of people, and the bitterness rested, and the laughter of my family, and the world of my children. He’s the hope we go to sleep with, “The Lord bless you and keep you”’s of our kissed assurance on our own little’s heads, and the I love you’s of our home.
He is tender and He is true.
He’s rooted and sure and waiting and always ready for all of my questions,
Always saying, ask anything.