I grabbed a hair tie from the bathroom while Darla showered. From the other side of the curtain, “Mom? Oh, good. I was just thinking about things to ask you.”
I paused. 10 yr. old Darla is much like me in many ways,
one being that she likes to use all the hot water in the tank while she mulls over her thoughts.
“I’m worried, Mom.”
I pulled my hair up; half listening, hoping the conversation was a quick one. “Why is that?”
“Because people say most teenagers don’t follow Jesus. People say you usually don’t follow Jesus your whole life but I want to obey Him my whole life. What if I don’t? Can I help it? Can’t people just decide to obey Him? Do you think people stop believing on purpose or does it just happen?”
Clearly this wasn’t a quick conversation. I leaned against the wall and cracked the door to let some steam out.
“That’s garbage, Darla. Of course you can follow Jesus your whole life. You won’t do it perfectly but you can choose to follow Him no matter what.”
“That’s it? Just that easy?”
“No. No. There is nothing easy about it.”
I paused, grasping for a tangible example.
“Remember when Blackberry and Puff died?” (The devastation of losing a rabbit and chick in a 24-hour period is real when you’re 10.) “You believed God is good and in control of all things. You believed Blackberry and Puff were gifts from Him. When they died, you asked, ‘Is God really good if He let my heart break like this?’ Remember you said, ‘If God is in control then it’s easy for Him to save animals. Why wouldn’t He do that for me?’ It was hard.”
“Mom, I cried because I even PRAYED that He would keep Puff alive. Then the very next morning he was dead.”
“Exactly. We prayed God would comfort and help you think through those things. We looked at what the Bible says about our imperfect world and God’s goodness. We told God we didn’t understand why He didn’t intervene the way we asked. We declared we trust Him. We asked Him to use it to grow us and for good.”
“And then we got Eleanor and I love Eleanor. She’s the best chicken.”
“Mmhmm. Darla, my point is throughout your life you’re going to come up against things that are hard and heartbreaking. You’re going to wonder why God would allow certain things. You’re going to wonder if God is holding out on you. You’ll be tempted to do life your own way. At every crisis and in every stage you have to choose to wrestle it out with the Lord. You can let doubts and discouragements sit and fester or you can face them. You can choose to walk away, you can slowly drift away, or you can grab onto Jesus.
When you become a teenager you go through changes in your brain and body–“
“Ugh. Mom!” (It takes next to nothing to embarrass her.)
“Ha! But listen, Darla. When you go through changes, your faith goes through changes, too. There are a lot of voices–lame cliches telling you to follow your heart, the world saying you're your own goodness, or the Bible where you hear God's voice. New voices and experiences will cause you to revisit things you thought you believed. You’ll have to find them true all over again.”
I had talked enough but as I headed back down the hall to tuck the boys in, I thought of the disciples. They answered, “yes” to dropping their nets and following Jesus. They trusted that He was worthy of following and worth abandoning all else for.
It wasn’t as straight–forward as they may have expected walking with the God of the universe would be. Opposition came even from religious leaders. Surely it was disorienting and confusing. Some parables seemed to contradict what they thought they knew. I’m sure their heads hurt as they tried to put pieces together, trusting yet needing answers, needing Jesus Himself to reassure them.
How hard was it to watch Jesus tortured and crucified? How tempted would I be to solve my own problems and run at that point? It looked like there was nothing left to wrestle out. Belief? Ha! Trust? Ha! God is good and sovereign? I’d feel foolish professing such a thing from the limited perspective on Golgotha. Everything the disciples believed was dead. Literally. End of story.
Ah, but what we often think is the end of the story is actually the mid-point.
Jesus rose and the story continued. The resurrection presented another opportunity for the disciples to run to Jesus or head back to their fishing nets. There were enough mysteries and confusion to send everyone to bed with ambien. Ugh. Too hard. Sleep it off. Chalk it up to "that weird stage of life where I followed a guy named Jesus" and move on. Instead, the disciples chose to wrestle it out, to touch the wounds. Peter chose to return, to repent, and to reconcile with Christ. They weren’t afraid of what they would find if they asked, pushed and sought. Their God was big enough to answer and worth surrendering to.
It was never easy. The moment of dropping their nets to follow Jesus was a commitment but it was only the beginning of many choices to lean in, or to give way to doubt and self. Seeking God wasn’t a quick, one-time decision. It was a lifetime of God revealing Himself, of truly working out their beliefs. They humbly turned to Jesus for healing instead of growing bitter. They laid down their own ideas of how things should play out and grabbed onto Jesus’ words and who He is.
The disciples were martyred. They didn’t see the sweet, eternal, happy ending on this side. Yet the one who died full of regret was Judas. When he screwed up he chose to take things into his own hands. He grabbed what he thought would make him happy and made himself miserable. He resolved his desperation through suicide instead of surrender.
It’s hard to cling to the Truth that God is good and sovereign when we feel tricked, hurt, and confused. It’s hard to keep revisiting the same questions. It’s hard to wait for the end of the story to unfold instead of growing calloused in the meantime. It’s easy to want answers over wanting Jesus Himself.
By the time I got around to tucking Darla in I had finished formulating my thoughts.
“Darla, you’ve committed to following Jesus. He is committed to holding and preserving you. You will have many opportunities to run to Him or away from Him. You won’t always get it right, but the coming back part is what it is to follow Him.”
I’m praying Darla will spend her life running to Jesus’ feet with her heartbreaks and questions, vulnerably laying her soul out for healing and for Him to reveal Himself.
Today I’m also praying for our town and students. One of our loved teenagers was killed in a car accident this week and others were injured. Grief and shock have sent many reeling. It’s a painful mid-story moment when we survey the wreckage, observe tears on each other’s faces, and make a decision. Will we run to the Lord with our pain...or away from Him?
“My soul, wait silently for God alone,
for my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
the rock of my strength,
and my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:5-8
Just throwing myself out there a bit...