Today I drove for the first time in four weeks.
I picked up coffee from the coffee shop at our church.
And I cried when I drove home, when I walked in the door at my house, and when I told my husband how hard it is to see the people you love without truly being with them.
My heart aches a bit, you know?
Throughout this time of separation, it’s easier to discern what actually matters to me over what I choose to care about. What actually matters are the things and the people that leave aches in my soul, like holes that were punctured by someone’s fist. What I choose to care about are things that I can live without: a haircut, takeout, shopping at Target once a week. Those things don’t leave aching holes in my soul. Being without what matters most makes me feel a bit incomplete.
We’ve been watching church online for the past month or so, and while it isn’t the same as being with our family, it does reveal what I often bring to the altar in hopes that it’s good enough for God. I don’t realize I do things with the expectation that God will be pleased. Don’t we all? And isn’t that why so many don’t go to God to begin with? We have cemented in our minds an idea that we need to do something, bring something, and be something for God to be pleased with us. It’s how we navigate being in relationship with others, often considering our selfish desires over the desires of someone else. I am close to God, and I am so delighted to know Him. So to realize that I still have these misconceptions tells me that so do the rest of you. I am not a better believer because I know Him. I am still learning, and He is still teaching me.
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! Romans 8:15-17, MSG
What’s next, Papa?
Often when I am in a church service surrounded by other people, I find myself raising my hands to God because it makes sense to me. In the comfort of my home, however, there is a shift in the way I worship. My arms don’t go in the air towards the heavens. My body doesn’t sway to the music like it does when I stand in a crowd. Instead, I find myself closing my eyes and sitting, soaking in His presence and His trustworthy love, arms in my lap, tears filling my eyes. The world is not what I want it to be, and I revel in believing that He is still the same.
He touches my spirit, and He confirms who I really am. I am not a poster child for the perfect believer, one who stands in a crowd of worship and displays affection for the Father so others can be a witness. I am His girl, wrapped in His lap, and only comforted by who He is to us: a Father who sees and knows, who endures the pain with us and absorbs our pain as we weep in His arms.
What’s next is probably more suffering, more pain, and more separation. I’ll cry more tears, and I will ache daily for the presence of the people I love. What makes me weep is that even in my discomfort and grievances, He is still the Father, still the comfort, still mine. He is closer to me than my breath, and I grieve with hope knowing He grieves with me.
We know who He is and we know who we are: Father and children. You know, nothing is outside of His vision? What happens to us and our world has passed through His hand. My vision is not pain, and neither is His. But if anyone can direct my path amid grief, it is a God who willingly sacrificed Himself to a painful death so I could live. Pain is not for nothing. Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4). Suffering is not unique to those who endure it. Suffering is what it means to be human. And redemption is what it means to be His.
Certainly, we will be with Him. Do you believe it? Certainly, He will be with us. Pain comes, grief exists, and yet the God who knows and loves us has never left us for a moment. That is love.