The Slow Ache

Dear Lord, You know I have done these things for You, and no doubt about it, You have taken good care of me.  I’ve always had enough.  Enough.  How I hate that word.  Yes, I’ve had enough of food and shelter and caring friends and family, but have I DONE enough?  That is what comes back to plague me time and again, my loving Father.

And so You know it, but I will dare say it to You again.  This is the wound.  I wanted so much for my life to be a life of seeing others find new life in Christ.  I longed for it, yearned in the deepest corners of my spirit, prayed for it and trusted You.  Do You remember all those years of wild faith?  You would do it.  You would. 

And so I went out to the mission field, strong and courageous and failing, but trusting You, Lord, in You.  And again and again and again I saw You take care of me when the struggles were too difficult, but I didn’t see the people turn their lives over to You.  And I longed for it.  And then, gradually, after many disappointments, I stopped longing for it.  I just grew used to the ‘no’.

But still it was a wound.  A deep wound.  Between You and me, Lord.  A wound and a why?  Why, Lord, can I not see what I long for, what seems according to Your word, what is for Your glory, not mine.  And You know how often I’ve said, Lord, if it is my pride that has gotten in the way, well, surely You can get past that to change souls for You.  Surely I can not be that big of a hindrance.  Oh, Lord, why?

Souls, for You.  Changed lives.

My life is changed.  I have seen You.  But there is still a deep, deep wound.

Or I could call it the slow ache.

That’s how I feel sometimes.  I’m going along okay in life, and I see You at work in my life on a daily basis.  Then something happens, and I get that slow ache way down in my soul, the spaces that I seldom visit.  The tender spots that cause me to wince when touched. 

Spots like the sales of my books.  I am writing and enjoying and then I get the notice—one of my books has been taken out of print after so short a time.  And that ache.  That fear that it’s true; I’m not really very good at this writing business.  It’s the same feeling I had as a kid.  I’ spent years riding horses and playing the flute, and someone younger who had been at it less time, zoomed past me.  And it hurt.  I was just left behind a little bit.

I used to feel that way about my French.  I wanted so much to be fluent, and expected this from myself and felt sad and ashamed that I wasn’t nearly as good as I had hoped.  And there went all the others zipping past with better accents and vocabulary, and I ached.

These are not life and death matters.  But they are soul matters because they are touching part of me that I value.  I know You allow these aches and You teach me through suffering, small and large.  But how I don’t want to grow dull, Lord.

I believe the ache is a real testimony to Your Spirit’s work in my life.  It is the reality that my hopes will not be fully met here on earth.  It is me groaning along with all of creation, as it says in Romans 8.  Groaning for You to inhabit all, in all and through all and over all.  You alone. 

But it isn’t yet.

And so I ache.

Admittedly, often the ache is self-centered—I needed to see results to know I was doing enough for You.  Hmmm, that isn’t exactly Scriptural.  Or, to put it more biblically, I wanted to produce much fruit, because that is what You promise to those who abide in You.

So have I not been abiding for all these years?

Honestly, Lord, I think the problem is once again with my heart and my hearing.  My heart sometimes refuses to accept Your over-the-top crazy love for me, so I get caught up in the ‘doing’, the fruit-producing, the trying.  And I miss out on the resting in You and letting You do the work. 

So I pray today that my heart will just embrace You as You embrace me in all Your glory and splendor. 

And with my hearing, I pray I will practice hearing the truth and shutting out the subtle and insidious lies that whisper ‘not enough’ and ‘failure’ and ‘you’re getting passed over again’.  Because in the reality of spiritual mathematics, I have been counting all wrong. 

Goodness, if I let myself just relax and listen to You, what I hear is, “Oh, great job, Lizzie!  I love how you went out and met with the prostitutes in spite of your fear and the yucky weather.  Thanks for showing up.”

And “I know you’re tired today, Lizzie, because all those kids crowded in your home over the weekend, but I just want you to rest in the knowledge that it was so worth it.  More memories made, kids coming closer to Christ, fellowship, teaching, and silliness and baking and the house overflowing with you and Paul’s hearts of love.  Really good job.” 

And even, “Lizzie, I love the stories you tell.  I really do.  You are using your gift so well, and please just enjoy my praise.  I know how hard the business of writing is on you, but don’t worry.  I’ve given you Paul and Dave and Chip and your father and others who are walking in that part of the writing world, and they will take care of a lot of the headaches.  Trust me to keep giving you ideas and don’t worry so much about sales.  I know that is so hard for you, but let’s try, you and me together, to not worry as much for these next novels that are coming out.  Let’s just enjoy the fact that they are being published, okay, and that lives are being changed by me as my Spirit touches those who read your words.  Okay?  Remember, these are only your words.  They are not My Word.  But still, I choose, in my extreme bounty, to use them.  And I am so pleased with what you are doing.  I really am.”

And finally, “Just rest and enjoy and let me fill you up again.  I love you, Lizzie.”

As I let You love me, the slow ache changes—still a heart-wrenching one, but of joy and anticipation and great thankfulness that You would allow me to be a part of Your plan.  I get to live out my faith in faithless France and write stories that point others to You.

What a privilege, what a joy, even as I ache for what is not yet, but will be.  Soon.