This is for anyone who doesn’t know what is going on. You’ve done everything right. You’ve checked all the boxes. You went to college and made the honors list. You buy organic groceries using your own bags. You give coffee to the homeless guy standing on the island in the center of the street. You’ve gone to church since you were in your mother’s womb. And God doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo.
You know he doesn’t work like that. He’s not a tame lion. But you were hoping. It seemed to work for other people. There was a woman in my church who prayed for her student loans and she received a check in the mail for $30,000, and she brought it to church and held it up, crying, saying God answers prayers. But my student loan account is still full, and I’ve been on income driven repayment since graduation. At this rate, I won’t pay it off until I die.
Does it feel selfish? Asking for a miracle? Asking God, I’ve been the other son. The non-prodigal. The one who stayed at home and tended his father’s flocks while his brother ran off to Vegas, and you haven’t given me a lamb to celebrate with my friends. Why do other people get married, have kids, have boyfriends, and here I am in the corner, a shadow on the wall. I’ve never kissed a guy. No one’s ever asked.
Then here it comes, the guilt. Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow. Oh, praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead. Oh, praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead. Jesus.
It slaps you across the face. Who am I? Who am I to demand a little respect, a little golden sprinkle down from heaven once in a while? What has all this been for, all these years, dragging myself to church, writing the ten percent checks, raising my hands in worship, trusting God will make all things work together for my good? That he has a plan for me, and his plan is good, and I have a hope and a future. Where is the hope? Where is the future he promised?
Is it right now? Am I living in the future now, is all this part of his plan, or was it right, what that man told me who said God loved Jacob because Jacob put in the sweat and he put in the time. God honored Jacob for asking seeking knocking searching striving after God, shaking the pillars of heaven until letters rained down from God’s desk, secret notes that slipped from the surface and dropped through the clouds. Blueprints no one had seen, not even the angels, because they were still just sketches in God’s mind. But Jacob shook and he asked and he wrestled with God, because that’s what God really wants, someone who can throw a punch. Not some whining crying little girl in the closet with a pile of snotty tissues, begging God please please please listen to me. Hear me. I want to know you. I don’t care what you do for me or don’t do for me. I just want to know you. Be close to you. Why aren’t you here?
I know it doesn’t matter. The little things I see each day, reminders that I’m still on Earth. But I am still on Earth. This is where I live, because this is where God began my story. And I’m here, with the dust and the smog and the blossoming almond trees and the Corona virus, and the orange and purple sunset smeared across the watercolor sky. And on Earth, it matters when you gain twenty pounds. After you signed up for the gym and pushed through the pain went on that boring diet and what do you know, it worked! You lost twenty pounds. And then two years later, you have too much birthday cake and gain it all back. But every time I look in the mirror, I see that cake pudging out from my belly and the fear crawls over me like a spider, saying now you’ve gone and done it. And it grins a wicked smile.
That’s not God. I don’t know what he’s doing up there in the yonder. But it’s not him, the voice that’s sneaking over my shoulder saying you’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough, did you think he was paying attention? He’s too busy for you. He’s got wars and starving orphans in Africa and the untouchables in India and the underground churches in China. He’s got the whole damn world in his hands. What are you? Little miss disappointed American.
But God sees me. I know it. Because last weekend I sprained my ankle in the parking lot outside of In-n-Out, just walking off a curb. And while my brother was driving me home, when I still couldn’t think because my ankle was throbbing and how am I going to pay for this and I’m not going to get to go backpacking this summer, I heard a little voice. A nudge in my chest, like God’s hands reaching down through the filaments of heaven and encircling my heart, saying he’s here.
And sometimes, I think that’s all he needs to say.