Would it have still been worth it?

Tuesday, September 6: It was a regular day. We were in a friend’s living room, worshiping and praying with our small group community from church, just like we do every week.

Noland and I were getting ready to launch this big fund raising campaign the next day for our adoption, and I was feeling THE MOST vulnerable and exposed. We’d just been singing a song called “Nothing Shall Be Impossible,” the chorus boldly proclaiming:

Nothing shall be impossible for You
Nothing shall be impossible for us
For You made all things right upon the cross
Oh, the love of Jesus Christ

At the end of that song, we all just felt like we needed to stand in faith for one another in impossible places — ours obviously being the $15,000 we were trying to raise over the next 30 days.

As our friends gathered around to lay hands on us and pray over our next 30 days, one friend of ours boldly said, “Guys, tomorrow is September 7. I just feel like that’s significant… seven being the Biblical number of completion, and the day that God rested because His work was already done. I feel like tomorrow, God is completing what He’s already begun in your family. You can rest. It’s done.”

So the next day at noon, we launched this campaign. The goal was $15K in 30 days. Exactly seven hours later, at 7 pm, we’d reached our goal of $15K.

It was exactly as our friends had prayed the night before. It was exactly as God had spoken. Noland and I were undone. Many of you were a part of this sweet miracle, and I wish I could hug every single one of you for fighting for our family the way that you have. We laughed and cried and cheered and celebrated like crazy, that our God is faithful. That nothing shall be impossible for Him.

Yet when the cheers calm down, I hear the whisper of the accuser: “Why should this time be any different?”

We’ve been here before. In February of 2015, when we had put belief for family on the shelf until after our move to Utah, God placed this invitation on the table. A baby boy, growing inside of the womb of an addict, in need of someone to fight for him.

We were so certain that we had heard from God loud and clear. Our friends were having dreams and visions of us adopting this boy. Strangers were walking up to us at church and praying over our growing family. We felt so sure of what God was speaking over his life and his story. And then in an instant, he was gone.

About three years ago, we had just begun trying to get pregnant. It had been a few months, and I was starting to wonder if this was going to be a long and daunting journey for us. We hadn’t told anyone we were trying yet. I felt discouraged and alone, unsure of how to walk out such a tender and uncertain thing.

We were at a worship night at church, and a girl I hardly knew walked up and asked if she could pray for me. She said she didn’t know what kind of impossible thing I was facing, but she felt led to come pray over whatever it was. As she prayed over me, she said, “I just want to submit this to you… I feel like I’m supposed to tell you ‘three years.’”

Immediately I was a little bit mad about that. It had only been like three months, and three years felt like an eternity. For years after that, I held that word really loosely, unsure of what to make of such a specific prophetic word about such a tender thing.

We had started believing God for a family on July 1, 2013. I remember the date because it was the day after our anniversary. On July 2, 2016, I stood in a hotel room in Berlin, staring in shock and disbelief at a positive pregnancy test.

Three years.

It was exactly as God said. We couldn’t believe it. I’ll never forget running down the street to a dear friend’s apartment, laughing and crying and praying together as we praised God for such a sweet miracle gift.

And then a month later, I felt my heart sink and a lump swell in my throat when the doctor couldn’t find a heart beat. Five days after that, I miscarried that little miracle gift.

How do you make sense of that kind of suffering? That kind of confusion? When you had an undeniable encounter with God, knowing He was at work, and then it just ends in death?

And how do you believe that the next one won’t end the same way?

Over Labor Day weekend, we had our discipleship school retreat, and one night as my friend Codi spoke on being ‘Faithful in the Little’ he said something that has been ringing in my ears ever since: “Would it have still been worth it if David never became king?”

He was talking about an area of his own life where he’d been working through disappointment with God, and He kept feeling like God was asking him that question. Over several months, he said he wrestled with that question, wondering what he was supposed to make of it.

Would it have still been worth it if David had never become king? If the anointing happened but the appointing never did — if he had just spent those years as a shepherd, falling deeply in love with his God, understanding and becoming a man after our Shepherd’s heart.

Would it have been worth it?

I started thinking about my life, and about all the promises I know God has spoken over our family, and I asked myself, “Would all of this be worth it, even if we never become parents on this side of Heaven?”

That is a sobering question to reconcile in your heart. But you know what I’ve learned about suffering? My suffering is not a thing that God assigned to me to teach me a lesson. My suffering is a thing God entrusted to me to draw me and others closer to Him.

Authority is a costly thing, and it is forged in the kind of fire that only leaves you with one companion: Jesus.

And yes. Of course He’s worth it.

Does that mean I stop believing for our promise fulfilled on this side of Heaven, though? Absolutely not. I have resolved two things in my heart that I will not allow:

  1. I will not turn my back on the only One who’s walked with me through the fire, regardless of whether or not I ever get “what I want” on this side of eternity.
  2. I will not allow fear to steal my hope and faith in what my God is capable of.

This is important, though: If I miss the fact that Jesus is worth my suffering, then those two “I won’t” statements are just me being a strong-willed middle child who refuses to lose. But if I’m anchored in the reality that my prize on this side of Heaven is the promise of His presence, then those two statements are a declaration of the intimacy with Him that I am unwilling to forfeit because of my pain and disappointment.

So there’s my challenge for all of us, I guess. Are you willing to go there and reconcile in your heart that whatever your “David anointed as king” promise is will still be worth it, even if you never see it fulfilled?

Or put more bluntly: is the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, enough?

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Identity > Fear.

SCRIPTURE:

Romans 8:15-17

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

STORY:

Like four years ago there was a kids movie that came out called Rise of the Guardians. I was a nanny at the time, so I was on top of my animated film game. I remember seeing this movie with the kids one day and feeling like God was so clearly speaking through the entire thing.

Basically the movie was about the “guardians” of children such as Santa, the Easter Bunny & the Tooth Fairy, and their purpose was to protect joy & innocence in kids. The entire movie, the guardians fight against the villain — a boogey man named Pitch Black who meets kids in their dreams and replaces their good dreams with fear.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Fear is a thief, y’all. Apparently even secular animated film writers know that. Fear will rob you of your dreams and your destiny, and the crazy thing is sometimes you don’t even know it until you look up and realize you’ve been completely derailed by it.

As Noland and I were heading into the new year, having our annual family dream session, we had to have some honest conversations with ourselves about the places we’d allowed fear to derail us. We had to repent of places we’d partnered with fear & handed over our dreams in exchange for the bondage of being afraid.

We realized we’d been living out of a fear of losing again. A fear of the unknown. A fear of being too broken to move forward.

And you know what I love about God? His answer is so simple. The solution to dealing with fear is in recalling our identity. It’s so easily spelled out in this Romans 8 passage — you haven’t been given a spirit of fear. Instead, the Spirit you’ve been given is the adoption to sonship. Period.

God pretty much just says, “You can’t be fearful. You’re mine.”

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) Fear not, little flock. For it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Gosh, I want to be better at living like this. I want to live my life this year in such a way that I know who I am because I know WHOSE I am — and since I’m His, I cannot be enslaved to fear.

SONG:

“No Longer Slaves”
Bethel Music
We Will Not Be Shaken

Listen:
Spotify  |  Apple Music  |  YouTube

Playlist from previous weeks:
Spotify  |  Apple Music

Drowning in fear, grieving what’s to come, and learning to be brave.

This has been a really sweet season of celebration with my family. My older sister got married in March, my younger sister gets married in August, and we’ve spent a lot of time together planning and partying. 

Image

Now that it’s almost summer time here in Texas, we’re spending more weekends together at my grandparents lake house, we’re celebrating anything and everything just because we can, and I am realizing every time we’re together that these days are numbered for me. Noland and I will move to Utah sometime in the next year, and as excited as I am about all that God has promised ahead of us, my heart is often full of uncertainty, fear, and a little bit of grief.

There are moments I spend with my sisters where I wish we could freeze time and sit there forever. Moments where we sit around the dinner table long after plates and glasses are emptied, telling stories we’ve all heard a thousand times, laughing as if it were the first time any of us had heard it. Moments dancing in the car and still borrowing each others clothes for weeks at a time until we meet up again to swap back. 

There are moments with my mom that I hold onto more dearly than I used to, getting our nails done together or driving to one another’s city to spend one night hanging out, just because we felt like it. A friendship we’ve developed in my adulthood that I’m growing to really love. Of course, in this season of wedding planning for my sisters, most of our conversations are out of the necessity of, “Sara I need to you show me how to do this one creative thing.”

There are times spent with my dad that feel like precious stones — moments I want to stow away in a special box or set in a bracelet to wear all the time, keeping them close and in sight so I never forget them. Encouraging words he speaks into the deepest places of my heart, big bear hugs, and a kiss on the forehead that usually comes with an, “I’m so proud of you” — immediately bringing tears every time. I don’t want to let go of those moments.

Maybe it sounds silly to you that I feel this way, like I’m planning a funeral for my family that isn’t dying, but the reality is that when change happens, there usually is a funeral of sorts. A season ends so a new one can begin, and somewhere in the transition we all grieve a little bit. And that in-between space can often be a dark, uncertain, fearful place.

A few weeks ago, we were at the lake with my family for Easter. All day on Saturday I was thinking, “God, what is this day for?” I know Friday we remember what Jesus did for us on the cross, and Sunday we celebrate His resurrection, but what do we do — what do we feel — on that day in between?

I felt like He very simply answered, “Here is where you hope.”

That space between death and resurrection invited all of us in to hope against hope, knowing that the third day would come, and with it, new life. This gap is worth standing in because Jesus saw that tomb as worth laying in. He saw us as worth laying in it for. So we enter into these “spaces between” in our lives, and when we do that we enter into a space of knowing Him in a place that only He has ever truly known.

So we don’t have to fear this place, after all. He’s been here. He’s been here and then he walked right out of here, raising not only himself but all the rest of us to new life. And that’s why we can hope that all will be well. Ann Voskamp says all is well, because there’s always a well.

There’s always a well. How quickly I forget this, and go wandering through the desert not remembering that even in this place He intends to refresh me.

But I’m still scared. I’m scared of being far away from my family, as my sisters’ lives settle in Texas, close to my parents. I’m scared of their kids knowing each other and knowing my parents in a way that my kids won’t have the opportunity to. I’m scared of being “that sister/aunt/daughter.” 

I’m scared of all sorts of failure. Feeling like I’ve recently failed in my job has made me wonder about all the things I’ll fail at in the future.

I’m scared of being a mom one day, and I’m scared of my body not being able to make me one.

I’m uncertain about how all the things Noland and I have felt like God has promised us will play out. I’m uncertain on some days about whether or not I really even believe them all wholeheartedly. 

This year has felt like somewhat of a winding road with God. I’m pretty sure we’re still headed exactly where He said we would go, but it hasn’t looked at all like I thought it would. 

Have you ever driven through the state of Arkansas? Worst highways in America. I feel like I need new tires at the end of it every time. But even though it’s bumpy, and the scenery isn’t the most beautiful, I still know I’m getting somewhere in the end. That’s kind of what traveling through this season of my life has been like.

So when the road is bumpy, cloudy and unclear, and it’s riddled with fear and uncertainty and curveballs that feel more like meteor showers, I can know that He’s already been here. I can rest in the truth that He’s a good shepherd, and He promises that His goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6)

I had a friend remind me of this truth this week, and she said something in an email that I’ve been reading over and over ever since. “His goodness & mercy will be more amazing and more beautiful to you because you saw them chase your heels through valleys deep and chasms wide.”

I love that mental image. Goodness and mercy aren’t just following me in a “lingering behind” sort of way. They’re chasing me. They can’t wait to catch me and remind me that they’re here, and that they’ll be here forever.

This morning I woke up and I could already feel fear trying to steal my day, so I sat before God in my living room and I wrote out everything I’m scared of. I told Him I didn’t want to get up off the couch until He took this fear from me and reminded me of what’s true.

Of course, the very next song that shuffled on my iTunes library was “You Make Me Brave.” I sat weeping at His kindness to remind me of this truth as the bridge played:

“You make me brave, you make me brave.

You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.

You make me brave, you make me brave.

No fear can hinder now the promises you’ve made.”

The shore feels safe, and some days I want to be mad at Him for inviting me into a place that feels unsafe. But He’s here. When I feel like I’m drowning in fear and uncertainty and doubt, He’s here. He called me out here. 

And even though I feel like the biggest mess most of my days, I know He’s forging something in my spirit here that I’ll need later. I think when He lets us linger in these places for a while, it’s because there’s a piece of His heart that He intends to impart to us in this place. So I don’t want to leave until He’s done. I want to walk out of this place with His heart.

I’m afraid of failing, I’m afraid of leaving my family, I’m afraid of how, where and when I’ll start my own … but I know He’s here, and I know He makes me brave. 

His Presence is the promise, and I want to be a daughter that continues to say yes to the invitations he lays on the table, even when they lead to uncertain, tender places in my heart. 

At the end of the day, and at the end of myself, I know that all will be well if I can just be near Him. I’m resolved that it doesn’t matter where that is or what it looks like, or even who or what I’ll have to leave behind.

Lord, just let me come wherever you’re going. Keep reminding me that you make me brave.