Twenty minutes felt like hours, as I stood under the canopied expanse of the Michigan sky in my long-johns and layers and considered a decision that would forever alter the course of my life. Day-old snow crunched under my boots as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other to keep warm.
Like any fifteen year-old with barely a decade of memories behind me, the scale of my decisions ranged in degree from choosing a prom dress to planning what I might do this Friday night. On any given day, either could be weightier than the other.
In between the tears that dropped, one by one off my cheek and onto my woolen mittens, I heard the movements of those around me — also considering this message. The dark sky created a hiding place for the hundreds of hearts in that field, first exposed to the God whose eyes had been fixed on them from the foundation of the world.
I’d grown up in church. I believed in Jesus. I had my own Bible. I paid homage year-after-year to His death — just before devouring scores of peanut-butter-filled chocolate eggs. Our big events revolved around His big events.
But the notion of His appeal for relationship, however many times I may have heard it before, was … new, this night. And I sometimes wonder now if, when I walked back into the warm gathering place that night, I knew my life would never be the same.
I sketched in red on a yellow mini legal pad the next day: My new relationship with Jesus Christ. November 13, 1992.
That year was streaked with wonder, just as on that first night. There was so much that was new in this God-Man, whose name I’d known but only just received, for myself. I found myself highlighting verse after verse in His Word; its pages held answers I’d long sought but for which I had no language to ask.
Something in me was unlocked.
I’d now label it hunger.
The cravings I’d had before but had merely displaced or squelched — because craving can find dangerous outlets, and I was mostly a “good girl” — were now given permission.
But, over time, a subtle shift began to occur. I’d developed an appetite for wonder, the kind of wonder incited that cold November night that stirred my teenage heart to overlook parties and popularity and cigarettes for this substance I’d found in that God-Man … but it’s thrill was petering. The list of things that Christians “do” was growing longer and wonder was trumped by list-following.
In an effort to retrieve it, I naturally began to assume that the thrill in following Him came from what I could do for Him. Impact. My heart raced at the thought of turning the world around … for Him. Jesus needed me, right?
What started as a nascent sprig of beauty, a deep desire I had to let others know Him, turned into a reason for following God. And, soon enough, the line between His leading and my drive got fuzzy.
And wonder was displaced. Forgotten.
In His mercy, however, He began to pair down the externals and the outward expression of my pursuit began to match my parched insides. I was exhausted.
This is when the real search for wonder began.
It’s twenty years after that night and He gave me a glorious day today to celebrate. I didn’t shower, and handled the first child’s heart-issue of the day, surfacing, at 7:15am. I washed sheets and dishes and peeled 3 pounds of carrots. I taught her how to add 10 + 9, again (for the third time). The only phone call I fielded was from the doctor’s office, confirming an appointment.
But I talked to Him, all day long.
You see, just recently, He led me here: “And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” (Psalm 40:5).
And I realized that my thoughts towards me can not only be recounted, but that I replay them — over and over again. I swish their stale musk around in my mouth, but instead of spitting them out, I drink them — only to have them regurgitated hours later for my further digestion. Just like my early-Christian-days thrill seeking, when I took the world’s grid for what following a leader and a king might look like and applied it against my life, I still slip into following my own little grid for who I think He is and how I think He sees me.
But the real wonder lies in casting off that grid, setting my mind aside, and attaching myself to a God-Man whom I have accepted to be other. He has thoughts about me and thoughts about Himself of which I’ve only just scratched the surface.
And today He stirred that wonder as I carried my Bible up the stairs and down, talking with Him over my mundanity — choosing to exchange my thoughts for His — and asking Him: Father, what do You think about me?
Sourcing my life in His opinions about me and His opinions about Him answers my craving. And it makes me crave more.
There is a God-Man who can still quicken my pulse when I quiet my shallow understandings of Him, in expectation that He might show me a new side of Himself, and a new side of me (because, as Piper said, “even self-knowledge is about God knowledge”). There is a wonder to searching out this God who knelt low with His life in order to reach the people He made, in their mess. He runs His calloused hands across my cheek and I catch my breath at the realization that even this solitary moment is teeming with wonder.
Twenty years in, and I feel like the barrier to entry just got lower.
Come disheveled, come hungry, come expectant … but come only to one thing, one Man. And your un-showered, un-noticed, un-glamorous days might just be filled with wonder like that night that swept away my fifteen year-old heart, that night that everything changed.
For Your Continued Pursuit: Psalm 42:1 | Psalm 40:5 | Exodus 15:11 | Psalm 119:18 | Isaiah 55:1 | 2 Corinthians 10:5 | Psalm 27:4
Photos compliments of Mandie Joy. This girl has also set us up on instagram. Friends, it took several sittings for me to know exactly what that means and I still don’t quite get it … except, that you can now find updates and useful graphics on Instagram @everybitterthingissweet. We have just started rolling out S-T-R-E-N-G-T-H-E-N images — letter by letter, how cool! Mandie keeps me in the 21st century.