The wind blew softly through the trees and sent leaves swirling through the air. The woman crunched through the fragrant piles of color and inhaled deeply. She loved that sweet tangy aroma of autumn.
The sun shone warmly as she walked behind the happily trotting dog. It was another beautiful day, resplendent with the hues of the season. But the woman didn’t stay focused on the beauty for long. Her mind kept drifting to the verse she’d read in her devotions just a few minutes earlier…For the Lord delights in justice…Psalm 37:38.
Father, how do I make sense of this verse? If You delight in justice, why are we still waiting after a year and a half for it? Why do we have to spend so much money for it? My husband is innocent, Lord! You know this…and yet because You’ve allowed this accusation to rest on his shoulders, a child was pulled from our home, and all the doors shut to the ministry of foster care and adoption. I have such a hard time reconciling the fact that You are a God of justice when I don’t see that in our lives!
The woman gazed through the sun-dappled trees and waited as the dog sniffed excitedly at a clump of grass. How quickly time flew and yet seemed to drag at the same time. The dog pulled her forward again, and her mind returned to the conversation she was having with her Father.
Will you teach me? Guide me? I know I don’t have the right to understand it all. I accept that You are God and You call me to trust that You are working good. I love you, Lord, I really do. What are your plans for us? Prepare our hearts, and help us to grow!
Life had been a roller coaster lately. They were still waiting- oh, the waiting! Some days it didn’t bother her and other days, when pregnancies were announced or babies born or dreams fulfilled, she would weep for all the memories of parenthood and the longings of her own heart.
Back in the cozy house, the woman sipped her tea as she began dinner preparation. And that’s when her ears caught a small phrase in the midst of a sermon being played on her phone…“I’ve found that when I open up this big old photo album of my life and I look at all those pretty little happy shiny moments that I’ve documented, I realize something is missing. I call it the pain between the pictures. It’s all those photographs of those moments that you don’t want anyone to document. You try to push those out as far from your mind as possible. You know what’s funny about those missing pictures in your photo album? If you’re anything like me you go, ‘Those are the moments God was doing the best stuff in my heart. Everything was falling over, everything was falling apart, but yet I remember that’s when I actually found faith. That’s when I learned what hope really was’…”
Pain between the pictures…the phrase stuck in the woman’s brain, and she almost missed the next words.
“And we believe this lie that ‘If I pray enough and I obey enough then God owes me this thing’…Sometimes we’ve got a death grip on that thing, and it’s killing us…When you make a good thing an ultimate thing, it ruins everything. And God in His great mercy- sometimes it’s severe mercy- but in His great mercy, He loves you and He’ll work real hard on those white knuckles of yours, and He’ll get you to unleash that death lock on whatever thing you’ve set your heart on, and He says ‘No, you have got to have Me.'” (Mike Donehey)
Pain between pictures…when I found faith…when I learned what hope really was…You have got to have Me…
There were plenty of pictures. Happy memories, days of joy and laughter. But the truth sunk in deeply. Those weren’t the times of growth in her life. She wasn’t who she was today because of the pictures. They just emphasized the goodness of her Father.
No, the real treasure was in the pain. Because in the hard times, in the lacking- that was when she turned to her Stronghold, her Refuge. And looking back over the past few years, the truth of it all took her breath away- she only needed God. The months of tears and waiting had stripped away the white-knuckled grip she’d had on so many dreams and left her with the one thing that mattered- her Father.
Oh Father! Where would I be? There is nothing more precious to me than my relationship with You. Thank you for opening my eyes to this truth!
And the next day when she heard the old hymn she used to sing to her sweet boy, it stopped her in her tracks and brought tears of grief. This world still held pain and it still reached its tentacles into her life. But underneath was a current of joy. She had her Jesus. And He was enough.
O God, You are my God, earnestly will I seek You; my inner self thirsts for You, my flesh longs and is faint for You, in a dry and weary land where no water is. For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice. My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1, 7-8