Through Every Step

It’s this odd in-between season, in which there has been a lot of time for reflection, quite fitting for advent to fall right in this time in my life. As Christmas beckons, and so does the New Year, the end of a huge chapter of my life also finished last Thursday as I completed my Master of Divinity program.

This is the first time I have not been in school since those little beginning years of life. Particularly so, these past three and a half years have not only been ones in school, but full of changes as I’ve gotten married, moved (twice), and changed jobs multiple times. James and I have been able to travel not only to Mexico for our honeymoon, but also to India, Israel, Turkey, Greece, and Rome. There have been mountains, those spiritual highs that everyone talks about, but most often, visited with deserts, valleys, wilderness.

These past handful of years have been ones full of adventure, but more than that, years full of stark awareness of my desperate need of Him.

Crossroads Turkey Greece Rome-Day 07 Philadelphia Sardis-0009.jpg

I was driving to deliver some cookies to a friend and prayed out loud, asking the Lord to help me to not forget that I need Him. I also, instantly laughed.

This past year alone has found me in the books of the Bible I used to always avoid, Ruth and Esther, simply because they are so typified as the books you read if you are a woman. I always assumed that Ruth and Esther are those hyper-feminized stories of princesses and happy marriage, and of course the over-quoted, out of context, “for such a time as this.”

I have been surprised by these books. Both of them lack mentioning God, almost whatsoever. Both of them involve women who are pushing and breaking barriers, risking their lives for others, yet still vulnerable, nonetheless bold.

The “just so happened” that I’ve talked about before in Ruth I have now seen echoed again in the persistence of Mordecai to mention that deliverance will come from His (or someone's) hand. Even commentator Debra Reid says of chapter four’s climax:

In a perplexing way, God is most present and most absent in this chapter in which his presence seems to be suppressed. In this critical scene where questions of destiny meet human response, the author appears ‘hard-pressed to write God out of the story.’

A lot of what I hear on a regular basis are these statements that all follow this similar thread, of “it feels like God isn’t near,” or even, “I don’t understand why He is allowing all of this to happen.” Many ask about what they need to do in order to “feel His presence again.” I’m positive most of us have felt or asked these things ourselves.

As I look at the past three and a half years of finishing this degree, I look at many times where I simply asked why, wondering what was going to be next in a climate in which a woman’s voice doesn’t seem to be heard or valued. This life, although an adventure, is not without hardship, suffering, trial, and doubt. I do not “feel” God all the time.

Yet, as I take the time to finally pause and reflect, taking a look back, remembering, I feel like the corny “footprints in the sand” author because truly, God has carried me, sometimes dragged me, through every step. He didn’t bring me this far to leave me, and He continues to be faithful.

We don’t have to know everything at once. We just do one thing at a time, as it is given us to do.
— Madeleine L'Engle, A Wind in the Door

These times to simply recount His faithfulness have left me in awe of His goodness in the middle of the wilderness, left simply thankful for his abundant kindness and favor. It would have been enough to simply be called His child, and yet, He is gracious even beyond saving this life. He includes me into His beautiful and grand plan, and even when I don't know He is there and active, His hands are changing me. I am left with words similar to Mary’s in her brilliant magnificat, and I pray these words continue to mark me in whatever next steps He brings me to.

Praise be to God that He is exactly who He says He is, and those are things we can trust in beyond our feelings and circumstances. Praise be to God that He can use us failed, flawed, feeble human beings. 

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
— Luke 1:46-48