I am a little behind, so I’ll talk today about Chapter 5 (Sunday’s discussion) of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp and on Friday? about Chapter 6—both are being discussed at the Bloom Book Club with video discussions with Ann.
Chapter 5: what in the world, in all the world, is grace? Digs very deep into the hard, angry, ugly Why’s of the pain of this fallen world that make death and decay intertwined with life. In this chapter Ann weaves the story of the morning she found out that her son had put his hand through the fan and the same day finding out that a thirteen year-old neighbor boy was killed in a farming accident.
‘Why in the world, everywhere I turn, every page, always death?’ p. 82
But Ann also finds as this all occurs after her One Thousand Gifts list is complete, that giving thanks for the seemingly insignificant, little things prepares her for ‘the hard eucharisteo’ that must be given in these moments that make no (earthly) sense…the ones that break our heart.
But what perspective sees good in dead farm boys, good in a little girl crushed under tires of a truck right in front of her mother’s eyes, good in a brother-in-law who buries his first two sons in the space of nineteen months—and all the heinous crimes and all the weeping agony and all the scalding burn of this world?…
…I won’t shield God from my anguish by claiming He’s not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he’s a lion on a leash and the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David-hearts who pound hard on His heart with their grief and I can moan deep that He did this—and He did…
And I can hear Him soothe soft, “Are your ways My ways, child? Can you eat My manna, sustain on My mystery? Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world—because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched?”
There was such a part of me that was ready for this chapter. Maybe it’s the gold refined of a strong Reformed upbringing, but something in me is angry with a world that asks all convenient and without pain of God and He isn’t thanked but suddenly He’s the one to blame when anything goes wrong?? But I know He has everlasting patience with this…as I have lived the same so often.
This world is NOT our home. Every ache we experience reminds us that we long for a Heavenly city. And He is not the first in the line of a genealogy of fallen-ness. He is the Last Adam, the One come to give all the potential to be redeemed, as He is seen in the midst of all things.
I think of one of the most beautiful conversations that I have ever had with anyone. It was with my cousin late last fall. His life knows great pain, much where he was an innocent victim. He has lived his life angry, running, falling. But not now. He shares his story and the God who has picked him up and step by step, choice by choice and grace upon grace is giving him freedom from his past. He is touching many young people and offering hope.
One of the many things he shared was when God really began to pursue Him in this season of in many ways first time walking truly with God. It was the day another of our cousins was killed in a car crash. He was with our aunt and uncle, our cousin’s brothers, sister, niece, wife and kids. Late in this same day he remembers our uncle praying and ‘thanking God for this day.’ His first reaction was anger. How can you thank God when your son is dead?
As he began to open Himself up to God and entered community, the Lord wove together men like my uncle and my dad who have lived before him as men that praise God in all things. He is Worthy. He is God. His ways are higher…they are NOT our ways. He is in the darkness, as He was on the Cross at the darkest hour of all time, to carry us through it and touch it with Himself. All things redeemed…for our good. Mystery. Manna. His. Mine.