It can be difficult to find God within heart-wrenching pain. More than difficult. It can seem impossible – only a thing for great theologians, and individuals much better and more selfless than myself. For a simple girl, looking at the world from her pain-filled corner? It feels hopeless.
For those of you who are new in joining my journey through Just Breathe, I’ll recap briefly a few key points to date. I’ve been working my way through One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp, who highlights the perspective of living in thankfulness, also known as eucharisteo. If you’d like to read my other posts specifically in regards to this part of my growth this year, you can click on the category “eucharisteo” and join in. My practical step to focusing on thankfulness is a small journal I keep, where I keeping my “gift list” – a place where I can list the gifts of grace that God places in my life. My goal? To reach 1000. My even bigger goal? To never stop recording what God is doing in my life, even if it is a quick jot in a book, but to live in habitual eucharisteo. So, to 1000 and beyond!
Also, I told you, my lovely adventurers, that I would be accountable to you with how my list was progressing. Admittedly, I am not as far along as I should. With how abundant God’s blessings are, I should be well past a thousand. However, I have not given up, but am quietly plugging along. My compilation thus far has reached a grand total of 114. That’s 114 better than 0.
109. Skype dates with Kiley
110. that one shady spot in a parking lot being open
111. something sweet at the end of a long, hard day
112. Being tired from the sunshine – and having sunshine to be tired from!
113. Momma saying I am a blessing to her
114. Being wanted.
I’ve been home from college for about a week and half, and it has been lovely to be done with exams. Ohmysoul. So very lovely. I do not miss finals, or the 3 1/2 hours of sleep per night I got on average that week. However, coming home has not been easy. I will be honest, life (circumstantially) is not entirely rosy. I am surrounded by a lot of brokenness, and at times it can be difficult to see clearly through pain. Yes, there are wonderful parts to being home – I get to see my Momma every day, and my favorite coffee shop makes a mean dirty chai, but life feels very big and overwhelming. Truth is, I am not enough to rise up and meet it. I simply am not.
A particular question looms in view of this: Where is grace? Where is God’s goodness in all of the ugliness?
Ah. There’s the kicker. How do you view ugliness as grace?
How do we read the world, read the situation, read the people that cause pain? Through His Word. ”To read His message in moments, I’ll need to read His passion on the page; wear the lens of the Word, to read His writing in the world. Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world, because The World has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, ‘I know. I know.’ The passion on the page is a Person, and the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea, but the eyes of the God-Man who came and knows the pain.”
I am a forgetful individual. I forget that Jesus really did come, and that He really did experience pain – to an exponentially deeper degree than I will ever know. Sometimes I feel like shouting at God, saying, “You cannot understand how torn my heart is and how great my pain is!” And yet. He can.
Here’s one of the most incredible concepts I’ve ever considered. God the Father put His ONLY Son, Jesus, on the cross to pay for the sin of all of His people, and He called it grace. He called it grace. How could something so heinous, so terrible and horrifying be characterized as grace? Because God uses the ugly-beautiful.
“See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my words, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom, and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?”
It is grace because God isn’t finished yet. He is the God of transfiguration. He transfigured death into life. He transfigured separation into relationship. He transfigured depravity into righteousness. Why do we think He is stopping there? He was just getting on a roll!
In similar words to those of Ann Voscamp, but in my own language, from my own heart:
I can say that all is grace. When a child loses a parent, when a family loses a home, when a mother buries her child, when friend takes their own life, when community is severed by betrayal – it is all grace. This is when eucharisteo is hard - when thankfulness isn’t rejoiced in after experiencing a child’s laughter or a warm ray of sunshine. All is grace, because God can transfigure all. All is grace, because redemption is always possible. All is grace, because “suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart – and mourning and dancing are but movements in His unfinished symphony of beauty.” It is the “hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty.” But is possible. Why? Because God is good.
My challenge now? To count hardship, struggle, and grief as grace. My God is the God who transforms. He is the God of the ugly-beautiful.
*One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voscamp; excerpts from chapter 5