Playing with Fire {for the one who is waiting}

I pushed the cart through the last-minute Valentine’s Day bustle, collecting bananas and strawberries and graham crackers (all for our fondue family tradition), appreciating that I had a distraction. But the thoughts of what might yet be weren’t polite to wait their turn.

I’ve never been this close to having my ages-old prayer take tangible shape, I thought, as I scooted through the mass.

Yes, you have! came another. You know you’re playing with fire here, to hope.

The rest of the evening went much like this. Little brown fingers and faces cloaked themselves in chocolate. We laughed by candlelight, celebrating what we loved best about each other. And my mind entertained thoughts elsewhere.

We’d decided the next morning that I’d confirm our tenuous hopes by that dreaded plastic test. It had been sufficiently long enough and signs, this time, were different.

But don’t you imagine the signs are different every time? came the interruption, the tennis match in my mind accusing my little-girl’s heart to be naive.

Dozens of pregnancies tests and nearlya decade later, and for the first time I saw two lines. Not faint, but distinct. Could the 4AM haze be lying to me? Was I so disillusioned by hope that I’d made my eyes to see lies?

And here I am now, six months later, with more than just those two lines to show for this “impossible” in my life. I take deep breaths during prenatal appointments and sometimes cry when this baby kicks. I stifled sobs through a birthing class orientation (among a roomful of strangers), unable to gather composure around this figurative dream that’s tucked itself inside of my body, waiting to come out. I can barely make sense of this season that’s ended and the other that’s on its heels.

Hope and I, we have a rock-ribbed history.

Road MJ

I’ve cried my way home from dozens of baby showers, hospital visits with friends and their newborns and pregnancy announcements, unable to get away from my lack. I avoided places where new moms congregated and ducked out of prayer meetings where I might be singled out as one not-yet-initiated into this “rite of passage.” The loss threatened to hang like a banner over me; I thought my reproach defined me. And that one December when I danced with hope for multiple weeks — certain this time that I was pregnant, only to find out on Christmas Eve that I was just as barren as I’d been months before  — has still given that month a special sting.

“Why do I do this to myself, over and over again?” I asked a dear friend, acknowledging that it was much easier to expect the worst than to lift myself up off the ground to dream with Him.

“This is good,” she said, that December. “It’s evidence that you still have hope.”

There is something that happened, time and time again, in those moments where I chose to believe not only that He was good but that His goodness would manifest itself in a womb made-open.

And I couldn’t make that internal confession of hope independent of heavy wrestling.

Every single time I chose to hope, it was preceded by a conversation that moved me from relating to God as transactional to seeing Him as the One whose hands cupped my tears — who knew the wrestle of humanity seeking to lean in to the crazy, uncontained love of the God-Man. 

Every single time I chose to hope, I had a glimpse of the Jesus who wept.

Doorway

Hope peeled back my skin. It burned through my protective layers.

Underneath the exterior of our everyday relating to God is a heart, bleeding and bare, longing for a touch from the unseen God. And in order to encounter the God who presses His holiness-made-flesh-for-us against our skin, torn open, we, too, have to bleed a little.

And hope makes you bleed.

Every one of us has this longing, though most — like me — work hard to suppress it.

Hope is unwieldy. It is other. It requires me to hold the unseen God alongside the One who broke through the expanse of sky with the flesh of His Son — in the same hand. Hope is offensive to my humanity. I can easily talk myself out of it, hiding behind scripture to support all my reasons for being “wise” and “measured” in my responses towards the not-yets in my life.

I can spend a lifetime encased in my perilous construct of wisdom and never fall wildly in love or respond to Him with that wild love — the kind that moves His heart. I can spend a lifetime protecting myself from the vulnerability that hope brings, the vulnerability that most connects me to Him.

But when I choose hope — when I choose to engage in that awkward intimacy of believing that He might say “no” (and committing myself to loving His mystery if He does), while asking expectantly that He might say “yes” — He gets the most beautiful part of me.

And, so, hope is my great offering.

Hands

I cannot hope, against all odds, without peeling back the layers of self-protection that prevent me from the kind of weakness that incites Him to draw near to me.

Hope cracks me open like an alabaster jar. The God who created the violent ocean and the diligent ant, the methodical sway of the earth, is moved by the raw, exposed vulnerability that surfaces when I hope.

I’ve never once wrestled with hope without being a wreck on the inside, but not one of those negative pregnancy tests, when I took the plunge to hope, was wasted.

Plant MJ

Because He loves when I’m laid bare.

Hope is my precious oil, washed through tears over His feet. When I see my end as a life lived, willing to give Him the weakest part of myself and wrestling with that which might crack me even wider open (hope in Him who is powerful to respond to my cries, despite what my eyes see) the outcome fades in my imagination — and He expands.

That’s why I want to keep living in this hope that He’s forged in me — because I want to move His heart.

So I choose to play with fire, as did those standing at the edge of flames, and I say with my life: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.”

But if not…” — as those men said, while the flames taunted them — hope is still worth it because the part of me that is bleeding, but desiring, becomes one crazy, beautiful offering to Him.

He loves my heart strung up in hope.

And to you, the one with whom this resonates — the one with the barren womb or the sick child or the stack of adoption paperwork that hasn’t yet led to a child. The one with the severed relationship or the child who has run the other way. The one with the bare left ring-finger. The one waiting, in any capacity: you have been given a holy holding place.

He loves you that much that He is willing to create this circumstantial nexus that would call forth what moves Him: you, cracked wide-open before Him — vulnerable, bleeding … and hungry. Let me hand you a permission slip. Hope again. Wrestle with the God of hope. Your heart, exposed, will graft a new way to His.

A note about what is coming: Those of you following us on instagram have caught wind of what’s coming. In just a few days, Children Adore will be ready as a free download. For those, like me, who want to turn a new page on the very first day of a new month, we’ll have the first few days for you to access on instagram and over here on our printables page before the download is ready, early next week! Check back here for how to access that download.

For Your Continued Pursuit: John 11:35 | Matthew 26:6-12 | Daniel 3 | Psalm 71:5 | Lamentations 3:24-26 | Romans 5:5

Photos compliments of Mandie Joy. (Check out what she’s up to this weekend …!!)

 

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