In my 35 years I’ve been to many women’s conferences, leadership conferences, rallies, and other Christian gatherings with special speakers. I’ve read countless inspirational books on Christian living by authors. I’ve seen those authors featured as special guest speakers at my churches. Their themes are all similar…. They all came out of a struggle, a dark place, a crisis of faith, a mountain too big, a valley too low or whatever… Pick a crisis… They’ve endured it. And then God came through for them, and now they are living out a very clear calling God has on their life. They are living victorious and have amazing stories to tell. The common theme is that they are all on the other side of their big crisis or test of faith. Amazing! Glorious! What an incredible story! God is good all the time! They inspire us and cheer us on. They speak in hindsight and context, and they often have answers to the big questions of “Why.”
I recently heard one such speech at a woman’s conference. It was a beautiful story from a woman who got the crowd very fired up. But I went back to my hotel room feeling a little… I don’t know… Disappointed. Christians in America love a good story… a wrapped up story with a solid beginning, middle, and end. Something passionate that lights our flame and gives us a momentary “God high.” The crisis explained and wrapped up in 2 short paragraphs. Instant gratification. We eat that up. Oh, Don’t get me wrong. I believe all those speakers really do have incredible God breathed stories, and I am thrilled for what God is doing in their lives.
I’ll tell you who REALLY inspires me. I’ll tell you whose stories slice straight to the core of my soul. They aren’t the inspirational speakers on the mountaintop with a grand story to tell. They are the ones in the valley. The people who quietly hold on to God when so much in their life makes no sense, and there is no amazing flashy story to tell. The people who wonder if they’ll ever know why their lives are led down painful rocky paths and never find out the “Why’s” of their situations. In the midst of pain and uncertainty, they stand up and quietly say, “EVEN STILL. I will keep going. I will trust. I will believe in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” They know God will reveal an amazing story someday… But not today. Someday all the pain and struggle will make sense and be worth it… But not today. In the meantime, the only story they can tell is, “I don’t know why the heck my life looks the way it does, but I will keep walking. Will you walk with me?”
Oh my stars… THAT is who I want to hear from! That is who I want to walk alongside of for awhile and gain strength and inspiration from. That person is my hero!
But nobody asks those people to speak publicly. Their story isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have the polish of a riveting tale. Frankly, I would be the first person in the auditorium at a conference featuring a person still in the middle of a heartbreak who would stand up and say, “Even still.”
We Christians want an exciting story… We want mountaintop stories. We want feel good stuff. We want to live vicariously. We want to leave a conference feeling charged up and excited. For what? That MAYBE if we believe hard enough and hope big enough and click our heels enough, we might have a super amazing world changing story of our own someday?
Let me tell you who my hero is. My grandmother. She had a difficult childhood. Many things that happened to her still don’t make sense and have left scars. She lost her husband before I was born and has lived without him for many many years. She lost a son to psychological issues and suicide. Even to this day, it still makes no sense. She has struggled with personal health issues and constant pain for decades. She has endured and overcome much. She does not act like a victim. She acts like a survivor. Somehow she has kept the faith and submitted herself to God’s will and has lived in such a faithful way that I crave the spiritual maturity she has.
She hasn’t written a book or spoken publicly. She has so many unanswered questions and detours in life that we scratch our heads over and think “What the heck, God?!” She hasn’t wavered in her faith. Even when there are tears in her eyes when she tells me stories from the past, she always ends with “God will keep all His promises to me.” She is firm. She knows.
Recently God answered yes to a prayer she had prayed for 20 years. When so many of us had given up hope and accepted things as they were, she never stopped believing. Her faith was unshakable. I watched her cry as the answer to her prayer came to her as a letter in the mail. A frail 81 year old woman in a chair with tears streaming down her face…. She looked like a beautiful giant of the faith to me. She was more a hero to me than all the flashy pretty faces of accomplished women selling books and speaking at conferences about what God can do for us.
If you are in a valley… When life doesn’t make any sense, and you wonder if God even has a use for you on His team, let me tell you something. I’m in the same place as you. But people like my grandmother take me by the hand and say, “This life most often DOESN’T make sense. It will often hurt, and we won’t understand it all of the time. But we’re only seeing the story from this side of eternity. God WILL keep His promises to us. Until then, we will not be moved. Walk with me in the valley and in the quiet of the unglamorous day to day life of faith. Take my hand and keep going.”
As a fellow weary traveler, I say now to you… “Even still. We will serve and believe and never give up. Walk with my grandmother and me and all those steadfast quiet servants of God who believe in advance what will only make sense in reverse. That’s how God will use us to change the world… Quietly… One by one… Weaving a story as we live out our faith day by day, year by year, decade after decade…. Influencing the little worlds we live in, one person at a time… even when there is pain and things don’t go our way… EVEN STILL.”
“Most of the time, we scratched our heads and wondered how the matted mesh of threads in Romans 8:28 could possibly be woven together for our good. On earth, the underside of the tapestry was tangled and unclear; but in heaven, we will stand amazed to see the topside of the tapestry and how God beautifully embroidered each circumstance into a pattern for our good and His glory.” -Joni Eareckson Tada
Happy 82nd Birthday, Mimi. Your life is a lighthouse to me, and you point me to Jesus in the sunshine and the storms. I love you. When you stand in eternity and finally see how it all makes sense in a beautiful completed tapestry, one small thread in your story will be mine. You will see that your granddaughter stood firm and sought hard after God her whole life… because of YOU.