The subject line reads: Sit down. I read her email yesterday afternoon in the chill of February's wind, pushing the twins ahead of me as we walk to pick up the older three from school.
Jen Michel, are you sitting down?
I am not, of course, but I race through the email, desperate for good news. Has it finally fallen from the sky, her gift of goodness?
I want it for her. I want it in ways that hurt. I want something to start making sense of these years that have spoken silence for them. I want to keep stubbornly believing that whatever His track record, God remains good and strong.
I want the fairy-tale ending. I want the yes.
I hope, but I am also afraid.
Hope and desire. They have their own contours of pain.
What does it mean to keep wanting when all you've held close is writhing disappointment? How do you pray when it seems all you've had from God's hand is pain? These are some of the bravest questions of faith, questions each of us, at some point, will have to stare straight in the eye. Either they will have their way with us, or we will find a newfound confidence in the mysteries of God.
Every occasion of pain, every season of silence moves us nearer to answering: what is it that I really want from God? What is it I demand? Because the truth is that there is much I want apart from God himself. I like my definitions of good and happy, and these aren't easily laid down.
God seems to relentlessly lead us to occasions of confronting the real and terrible possibility that we might never have from Him what we ask. In the unknowing and in the hurting, He whispers an invitation for confirming in us a faith that is not so tentative and feeble. He will undo in us the faith that is not faith at all, the faith that must script its own endings and have its own way.
Real faith moves us in the direction of surrender. Surrender doesn't mean wanting less. It is desire itself that pushes us to the precipice of mystery. And what is it that we'll find there? At the edge of unknowing, we can find something sure. Even good.