At the Intersection of Despair and Confusion

It’s so easy to lose faith, to lose heart.

I sat on the subway staring at an advertisement for higher education. The ad showed a map of streets with a bubble over the top “At the intersection of Career and Success”.  I stared at it for some time, quite possibly to avoid eye contact with the person opposite me. Ah yes….I am becoming quite Bostonian.

As I stared, I thought if this was a bubble over the map of my current world it would say “At the intersection of despair and confusion” Quite a contrast to the hope portrayed in the ad.

I have been here before, and I know “this too shall pass”. When this bubble appears over my life I am at a place where I’ve no choice but to fling myself on God’s mercy, to pray passionately that he will comfort, intervene, give hope and wisdom.

The intersection of despair and confusion will soon be replaced by a different intersection because that’s what life does. But right now I feel I’m in a traffic jam, stuck at this intersection with cars all around honking for me to move — they don’t see the red light in front of me.

In the midst of these thoughts I close my eyes and hear the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 40:

Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.

At the intersection of Despair and Confusion I turn to the only One who can give me wisdom and strength — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God of miracle babies and ladders to Heaven; God who wrestles and marks for life; God of laughter and mercy. A God who will turn despair and confusion into hope and clarity. 

Interruptions and Expectations

My brother and his wife have had an encounter with the Great Interrupter. Perhaps you have had one of these – when your life is going along without significant change, but there’s a bit of restlessness and wonder that hits you time to time. And then in a slow but steady encounter with the Great Interrupter, you realize that your life is being interrupted.

In their case the encounter has put them in a place of selling a home of over 15 years, leaving a church of the same, leaving a community where they have loved hard, and been loved back, and leaving the only home their children remember. They are embarking on a mid-life journey to begin a life in the Middle East. Who needs a mid-life crisis when the Great Interrupter is in your life?

It is an encouragement and challenge to be a spectator of this interruption. There are the myriad of details that boggle the mind and include everything from the first announcement made to friends and colleagues to changing lights so that the bathroom will be more acceptable for the Realtor. Details that include sorting through their children’s elementary school papers and art projects, dusty from their home in the attic, to giving away furniture.

There is the giving up of a cat to their newly married daughter, knowing that no more will Shasta watch them from her perch on the chair or window. And the lasts…the last Thanksgiving in this particular house, the last Christmas, the last …. just fill in the blank. How I hate “lasts”. The finality puts a nervous pit in the stomach.  But in all this the interruptions continue and the Great Interrupter continues to guide, and push, and remind that none of this is possible without His guidance and great love.

Throughout history God has interrupted people’s lives, moving them from comfort to the unknown and asking them to trust along the way. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and more are in the ranks of those whose lives were interrupted and who walked in faith. They lived in a world without cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, and Kodak photos online. They didn’t even have the pony express. Leaving and saying good-bye was final.

There is a quiet trust that sustains them and reminds me and other observers that when God as the Great Interrupter is involved, although it may not make sense to some,  you are in a safety zone of sorts and your soul can rest in this knowledge. With great interruption comes great expectation.

Have you encountered God as the Great Interrupter? What is the story of your interruptions and what did you feel and think as you went through them? Would love to hear your story through the comments!

Bloggers Note: Check out the organization that my brother and sister-in-law will be involved with called The Institute for the Study of Religion in the Middle East. (ISRME) This innovative institute has an aim to “encourage scholarship, academic collaboration and awareness of the diversity of religious life in the Middle East, and the ideas, belief systems, rituals, histories and social structures of religious communities.” This is the first of its kind and an exciting venture.

God of the Details

After a freak early snow storm that caused enormous damage in parts of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we are back to enjoying spring-like, balmy weather. It was in this weather, walking along brick pavement and watching a squirrel toy with an acorn and a leaf, that I was overcome with the God of the details.

Maybe it’s because I have traveled and moved so much, maybe it’s because my life has been anything but predictable, but all these details add up to a miraculous expression of love and grace.

The reimbursement check right when you thought you wouldn’t have enough money to pay the electric bill.

Creation – from the tiniest bud to the largest Red Wood tree – full of details that matter.

A visa, giving you permission to enter a country, minutes before you were to board a plane.

The free ticket to the United States when you were so homesick you thought you couldn’t bear it.

The unexpected message from an acquaintance saying she had a job for you when you had given up getting a job you wanted.

The phone call with news that you got the job on the day your unemployment benefits were to run out.

There are so many deeper things that can’t be shared for fear they’ll lose their mystery and power. I think of Mary, mother of Jesus, who “pondered all these things in her heart”. She pondered all the details. The words spoken and the little things that happened as she raised the Son of the Living God. God of the details.

In the book of Genesis there is a story of Abraham’s servant. Abraham has begged his servant to not let his beloved son Isaac marry a woman from the area. Abraham feels so strongly about this that he has his servant swear by the “Lord, the God of Heaven and of Earth”.  He asks his servant to go back to his people and his country to find a wife. a servant who loves his employer, the servant heads off. What a monumental task! A future is resting on his shoulders and a family is counting on him. The servant utters a specific prayer that basically says “If I say to a girl ‘please give me a drink’ and she says ‘here’s a drink for you and let me water your camels as well!’ then she’s the one for Isaac. He ends the prayer by saying “By this I will know that you have show kindness to my master.”

And the God of the details does just that. Exactly as the servant prayed, no more, no less.

How has God been God of the details in your life? How has he shown his kindness to you through the details? Join in through the comment section.