You are in this time of the interim where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out; the way forward is still concealed from you.
You cannot lay claim to anything; In this place of dusk, your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.
As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow your confusion to squander
This call which is loosening your roots in false ground,
that you might come free from all you have outgrown.
– Josh O’Donohue
Dear reader, I have to be real with you tonight. I had a total meltdown in my car this afternoon. After months of frustrated job hunting . . . months of unanswered prayers for myself and loved ones . . . I got passed over for a job that I am completely and totally qualified for. A job that I was actually excited to apply for, unlike most of my applications in the last year. Excited enough to send my resume in at 1:00 am when I saw the posting instead of inquiring first to see if the position had been filled. So when I got a notice saying nothing other than, “We’ve had a high volume of applicants and will be going in a different direction,” I lost it. I cried. I yelled at God. I said some things I wish I hadn’t said. All of the hopelovejoy, hustle hard and pray harder, inspirational, faith-filled beliefs I’d been hanging onto felt cheaper than the prosperity gospel excrement peddled in inspirational pop culture books and creepy “religious” TV shows.
Lately I’ve been trying really hard to believe that God wants to answers my prayers, even the ones that seem frivolous in comparison with the suffering of others. This is because under the stress of school and work and certain other events in my life that I’d just rather not go into, I’ve come to the realization that I need His mercy for every little thing, every day. I need God to get out of bed. I need God to get through the repetitive administrative crap at my job, as well as the days when my employer decides to slam myself and other employees with some seriously ugly and unprofessional language. And I need God for all the times I fail in frustration. Somehow, I just have to believe that just like Jesus turned water into wine, He wants to and WILL turn the ordinary stuff of life (my character notwithstanding) into delicious, blood-warming, merry-making, intoxicating goodness.
But it’s hard to believe that. It’s hard to believe that when prayers go unanswered. It’s hard to believe that from the comfort of my car when I pass the people walking in the frigid cold. It’s hard to believe that when I receive packet after packet from Childfund, asking me to send more money than I already do because there are kids and families out there who, as the victims of broken socioeconomic systems, are really, really hurting for love and comfort and the most basic essentials – let alone justice.
And so tonight, as I write this, I’m feeling broken. Broken and ashamed that one more career disappointment on top of a year of professional disappointments temporarily shattered my faith in the God who has been more faithful to me than even the people who love me the most.
And the reason I feel like a prophetess of Baal is because, when I compare a number of ongoing prayer requests with the account of Elijah and Baal’s prophets in 1 Kings 18, I feel like I look more like the latter than Elijah. Crying out, raving, bleeding emotionally – not just from morning until night, but for months on end – and nobody answers. Not tangibly. I don’t want an encouraging word from a friend or a Psalm; I want aching bodies healed and justice for the oppressed and wounded hearts mended and captives set free. Today, as one more straw of disappointment dropped onto my back, I broke. I honestly felt in that moment that God was making a mockery of my faith. I felt that He wasn’t a kind and loving father, and that the enemy had totally triumphed over me. It was so painful.
I think there’s a lesson in this, but I’m not fully sure what yet. I can tell you it’s not a spunky, lady boss exhortation that starts with “y’all” and ends with #thankful #grateful #blessed. (Also, I hate that. Thankful and grateful are the same things, people!)
I wrote earlier today (or last night – I can’t recall) in an Instagram story that true greatness is a posture of humility before the Lord. I still believe that. I certainly didn’t stoop to greatness today, but I still believe that.
And hey, maybe that’s the lesson: greatness isn’t a ladder we climb, but a place we stoop to. A place at the feet of Jesus . . . and the feet of our loved ones . . . and yes, even at the feet of our enemies. Greatness is a place of worship and foot washing. Greatness is a place that’s kinda smelly until the foot washing happens. Greatness is a place we lower ourselves to when our burdens are too heavy, and a place we meet others in when their feet are sore from this stupidly long, often unfair, and completely non-Instagrammable journey through a dark world.
Greatness is a place where we feel hot, soapy water stinging the cuts on our own hands as we tend to the needs of others . . . where our knees ache from the wooden floor upon which we kneel and our eyes ache with the splendor of the King we’re serving.
Greatness is not a productivity marker I can accomplish at my job, a grade point average I can achieve at my school, or a relationship status I can attain through being good enough. Greatness is learning to love my coworkers through patience and prayer instead of using the failures of others as my excuse for a bad attitude.
And where, you ask, is the joy in all of that? The merriment, the fun? It’s in the community. Love for others will produce a certain joy in you. Connecting with others – serving and being served – will develop a sense of community that you can’t anticipate until you’re in it. Playfully splashing the water onto your fellow disciples and co-laborers (and perhaps, if you dare, your King) will cause laughter to bubble up from a place so deep in your heart you didn’t even know it was there. And like the soap in your cracked and bleeding knuckles, the love and laughter will sting for a little while. Wounds always hurt when they’re being cleaned. But it will be okay, because you’ll know that those around you are stinging, too, and you’ll love each other through it, and it will be well with your soul.