Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
A month ago, we noticed some water in the carpet of my husband’s car. We thought it was from one of the kid’s water bottles. It dried up and we didn’t worry about it.
Then the water came back. And it brought a friend with it named skunk+death odor. We didn’t like our car’s new tenant Squishy Moisture and its repulsive friend Stinky Mold.
I decided to freak out about it like this: “Your car was our NICE CAR. Mine is always full of disgusting kid stuff like moldy pizza crusts and discarded athletic equipment that smells like the worst kind of teen spirit. Oh my gosh. Your car is worse than mine now. I just can’t believe it.”
Morgan drove with the windows down until he could drop the car off at the mechanic.
Given that all the things have been breaking and falling apart in our lives, we knew we were in deep water— both physically and metaphorically. However, when we learned that we had mysterious body damage to our back window that necessitated the entire interior of the car be ripped out and replaced, we were a tiny bit blindsided.
We hadn’t planned on remodeling our car’s interior this year. I wonder what Chip and Jo would do if their car sprung a leak and had to be gutted? Shiplapping a car seems like a real gutsy move.
Shiplap may not be an option, but maybe we could do leopard print carpet. Animal patterns are all the rage this fall. Morgan seems resistant to this flamboyant choice, though. I’m also a big fan of dhurrie rugs. The’re so boho chic, plus they hold up so well in high traffic situations! We could also put in a nice seagrass or maybe have them lay down linoleum in case another freak leak happens. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Since I’m sure everyone isn’t keeping score of how many things have exploded or broken in our house, here’s the current tally of things of brokenness in our lives: my car’s radiator, the dishwasher, the dryer, the refrigerator, a couple of bathroom faucets, and now Morgan’s car.
Today my daughter thought it would be funny to trick me into thinking the new refrigerator is broken, too. It was not funny. Not at all.
When we told the boys about Morgan’s car, one of my sons asked the age old question that seems to come hard-wired inside every human on earth:
“Why are so many bad things happening to us?”
I looked at this kid of mine and I thought about how much my heart longs to live out James 1; how I want to be the kind of person who keeps score by counting even the trials and challenges we face as joy. I want my heart to keep track of things like this:
- Broken dishwasher: evidence of God’s love
- Broken refrigerator: proof of God’s sovereignty
- Broken cars: obviously a testimony of God’s goodness
- Empty bank account: pure J O Y
It’s funny how courage rises in our hearts when we realize the next generation is watching us and taking notes.
As I considered my son’s question, I thought about the beaches I went to as a child. I loved to stand there ankle-deep and let the waves rush over my feet. Before a new wave could come and wash over me, the previous wave always drew back. The greater the emptying of the sandy beach, the larger the next wave would be.
So that’s how I answered my son’s question. I told him about the waves.
“We’re just standing on the beach watching one wave empty us out so that a fuller wave can fill us. The emptying is for a moment, but the filling will one day last for an eternity. What else is there to do except be grateful for a God who is with us in it all, and to thank him for all the ways he’s rescuing us already?”
I know I would never learn to trust God if life never brought me to the empty tomb, the place where I can count every empty and broken thing as joy instead of fretting about who or what has failed, whether the blame lies with myself, my faith, or my God. I’m also terribly aware that holding emptiness and pain with their parents is probably the best way for my kids to learn that God’s love and goodness are as present when we’re hurting and empty as they are when we’re happy and full.
The interior of our car is temporarily empty (as is our bank account) but my heart is full of hope and joy because the waves filling this shore are part of the tide that’s carrying us into the presence of God. He is in the fullness and he’s in the empty place.
It’s all good after all, just like we thought in the very beginning of this story. And it will all be good in the very end, too.