O God, make haste

I’m struggling with worry right now. On the other side of this move, with some things settled (like Dave’s teaching position), other things are still very much up in the air: a job for me that brings in more income but still allows me to homeschool Em and “mom” my kids well; Em’s schooling—is this the best path longterm?; soccer and friendships for the kids; church; adjustment to a decreased budget…

I finger all the strands in my mind, till it’s simply a snarled mess and I’m hopelessly tangled in it.

In very low moments, I ask, “Are you there, God?”

In other moments I know He is. I remember His faithfulness, the fact that he has never, ever failed, that the darkest moments of the past have then turned into seasons of watching and marveling at the creativity and goodness of God.

I feel like I’m cycling through the lament psalms, repeating the psalmist’s rhythm of despair/crying out/remembering God’s faithfulness/hope.

By the time I get to the remembering part, I’m ready to dump my entire snarled mess in God’s lap. “Please take this. I can’t do it. I can’t figure this out.” This brings relief, because his lap is large, big enough to hold me as well as my mess.

But, just a day or two later, sometimes only a few hours later, I find a fresh snarl of yarns in my head and the cycle begins again. Who knew my mind could gather fluff so quickly and spin so much so fast!

God has used my neighborhood to help shred my worry web, to help me move past myself to others. When I get out and about in the neighborhood and pass mothers waiting at bus stops, holding children on hips, others by the hand, I think, How many of them are running a rat race that feels hopeless? How many are working minimum-wage jobs, trying to feed and shelter a family on $350 a week, with childcare swallowing up a huge chunk of a paycheck? And, comparing these struggles to my current light-in-contrast worries—which I’m flattened by pretty easily—I wonder how long it would take before the hopelessness of that kind of grind would wear a person into the ground.

My husband’s work also shapes my perspective. The other morning he got a text from one of his student’s mothers, asking if Dave has heard from her son, that he ran away the night before and she’s hoping against all the fear in her heart that he shows up at school, that he hasn’t succumbed to some gang that’s promising him belonging, that he’ s not using, that… oh, the darkness that can swallow up all our hope.

And so my prayers change, and when I say, “O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us,” I do not have just my family in mind but my neighbors, my city, beyond.

As I recite Psalm 143, I imagine myself standing before God linked hand-in-hand with a long line of people: “Hear (our) prayer, O Lord, and in your faithfulness give ear to (our) supplications; answer (us) in your righteousness.”

And for those who are so burdened they cannot even whisper the words, whose heads are bowed low, whose knees are week, I change the singular pronouns to plural; I speak louder; I raise my voice: “Our spirit faints within us; our heart within is desolate. We stretch out our hands to you; our soul gasps for you like a thirsty land.

“O Lord, make haste to answer us; our spirits fail us; hide not your face from us lest we be like those who go down to the Pit. Let us hear of your loving-kindness in the morning,

For in you we put our trust.”

Remember, remember, remember

Another guest photo! Since Judy is taking a media arts class, she’s been using the camera to take some very fun shots, like this one of our kids plus a couple extra enjoying the trampoline.

The entire Old Testament can be summed up as a recurring cycle of creation, fall, redemption. It starts with the capital-C Creation: the first, tragic fall, and then the redemption promised by God in chapter 3. The cycle is repeated on big levels—the creation of the nation Israel, its refusal to enter the Promised Land, God’s raising up Joshua as a triumphant leader—and on individual levels–Abraham receives the promise of a son, he lacks trust and has Ishmael by Hagar, Isaac is miraculously conceived and born.

When you read large chunks of the OT at a time, you get the feel that God is constantly having to remind His people of His faithfulness. He recounts their history to them time and time again, through songs, through the speeches of prophets, through annual celebrations and feasts, through rituals and sacrifices. Over and over they are reminded that they failed, God disciplined, they cried out, and God redeemed. The message is this: trust Him so the cycle does not repeat.

Things change in the New Testament, as the biggest redemption story of all is told. Through Christ’s work on the cross, those trusting Him are redeemed for all time. No further sacrifice is needed.

Yet, on a smale scale, I still see the OT cycle in my own life. God creates new work in me, yet I become complacent or proud or angry or distant, and God must draw me near again.

Just like the Old Testament Israelites, I need constant reminders of God’s faithfulness so I don’t continue to repeat this cycle. Recently I read Psalm 78, one of those lo-o-o-ng reminder Psalms that reviews Israel’s history from Jacob to David, and it gave me the idea of reviewing my own history with God. I don’t have as much to look back on as the Israelites—or as much as the 70 and 80-something saints I’ve been interviewing lately for Wheaton Academy publications—but at age 42 I’ve had a good 25-plus years of walking with God, and He’s revealed Himself to me again and again.

So here’s the beginning of my own Psalm 78, starting when I was 16:

-When I was 16 I led a kids’ Sunday School class in a downtown federal housing project. One of the older kids from the project—his name was Peanut—was my guide, taking me safely through the project, telling me which sections not to enter as I gathered children each week. I remember praying as I walked, for my own safety and for the wellbeing of the kids who lived there. I knew the presence of God as I walked there.

-I was 17 when I first experienced a time when the Lord gave direct leading. I just knew I was supposed to go to Grace College, 11 hours from home, sight unseen, without knowing a single other person going there.

-Near the end of my junior year in college, Dave and I, engaged at the time, broke up after dating for 2 ½ years. I set my ring aside, spent a lot of time alone (he did, too), and came to a point at which I could truly say, “Lord, I love You first. To marry this guy or stay single—I’m waiting to hear from You.” Though that was a difficult time, it was truly a sweet time—maybe the first time I can remember losing a sense of time and place with the joy of fellowshipping with God.

-My first teaching job at a public middle school in Warsaw, Indiana, the tiny, misfit youth group Dave and I started during those years, the mission trip we took together to Argentina—there are so many ways I remember God leading and directing and teaching me during these years.

-In 1998 we knew we were supposed to go—somewhere. I remember filling out the application for overseas teaching and looking at this question: Are you willing to go anywhere God wants you to go? Well, what do you say to that? I originally wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, but God made it very clear we were supposed to go to Okinawa, Japan.

-When I went to the doctor in Okinawa to confirm my first pregnancy, he looked at the ultrasound and counseled Dave and I to expect a miscarriage. Separately we were both given the same verse to hold onto—“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you”—and we went back to the next doctor visit sure that, no matter what the outcome of the visit, God would give us peace and comfort. Emily is the result of that pregnancy!

-We returned in 2000 and went through a difficult time of doubting that we were supposed to be back in the States. God reassured me so abundantly of His love during that time that I began to rethink how I viewed God, comparing my thoughts of Him with the way He is revealed throughout Scripture and in the person of Christ, learning to think “rightly” of Him.

I’ll pause here so the blog entry doesn’t run too long—maybe part two will be my next entry. Writing this has been a wonderful reminder to me that God has revealed Himself to me over and over—and these are just the “big” ways; there are too many small things to include in between all the “big.” Maybe you want to write your own Psalm 78—or if you don’t feel that you can, ask God to help you see the ways He is working in your life.

Thanks for reading—hope it was helpful.

Jen