“April 18, 2015 — what do I expect of God?

I feel hemmed in by loss…there is nothing to cling to aside from you, God. Everything is stripped away except for your presence—and even your presence so often fails to live up to my expectations, because often my expectations revolve around what your presence ought to do for me…namely, removing the hard things. Dwelling in your presence, I am learning, does not necessarily mean the removal of the hard things. In fact, sometimes the hard things magnify your presence. Sometimes you are working most powerfully in those times.

And so I want to expect only you, your lavish love and your glorious grace and your promised rest…a rest of your definition, not mine. These are days of great heaviness, pierced only by the startling beauty of the Gospel and the person of Christ. And I wonder if that is exactly how it is supposed to be…nothing, no person or place or experience, taking the place of you, my great and glorious Savior, my deepest joy, my only hope.”

It has been almost eight weeks since I found myself back in America. I’ve thought a lot about writing since then—written words seem to come together easier than verbal ones—but time moves quickly, and most days transition stumps me. It’s hard to write what I am still mulling over, processing, thinking, feeling. And even though those words were scribbled in my journal more than three months ago, many days I still feel hemmed in by loss, suspended in the numbing wasteland of in-between that follows upturned plans and redirected paths.

But right here, in the middle of it, I think I am learning to hear the voice of my Jesus a little clearer, a little sweeter. You are not lost, Abba reminds me. You will not drown in the washing away of these other things.

There is an addendum to that April 18th journal entry, a note jotted quickly in the margin: Psalm 139:5. The wording caught me by surprise as I read it not long ago:

“You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”

He Himself hems me in.

Whatever else I may feel is engulfing me—whether loss or heartache or stress—it is swallowed up by the far-reaching circle of the arms that hold me. Wherever I look, he already has been and is and will be. Whichever direction I turn, he is the final and infinite horizon.

So the hard things are still here, the struggles still come, and the tension of transition still flares—I must continually learn to release my expectations that these things be taken away. But in the meeting of God’s great presence and the world’s great imperfection, I think there is a gradually revealed clarity: the One who hems us in is the One who is our rest in the midst of these things, not the absence of them. I find him sweeter as I see the world to be less satisfying; I rest in him more fully as I fail to find peace in anything else.

That’s the journey. The beautiful, painful, life-consuming journey…and I want to spend myself wholly in its pursuit.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6)

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