After These Things


I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the stars.

It started years ago, when I was given a small, plastic telescope that I would drag out across our backyard late into the night. I convinced friends to sleep outside without a tent so we could stare at the stars. I was heartbroken when, after doing renovations to our house, I lost my beloved skylight that enabled me to see the glistening lights of the country sky.

We’ve always had a love affair, the sky and I. But I fell in love with him on the other side of the ocean, where I would climb onto the roof and spend my evenings under the African sky. I fell deeper in love with the stars the night I went back to Senegal, showering under a full moon in a tin shanty with a bucket full of rain water.

But I fell truly, madly in love with the full moon and stars when I realized that they were a symbol, a love letter, between the God that I love and the God who loves me. 

The thing is – I forget. I forget, over and over again, of His faithfulness. I push it aside in the dark times, and I am quick to respond in fear when I long to respond with trust.

But the full moon and the stars keep appearing. They are the thin place, the sacred ground, where He and I meet, and I whisper to Him heart cries and He whispers to me faithfulness.

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The very first words in the story of Abraham and Isaac are three words. After these things. Up until these past few months I had skipped over them, barely noticing their place in the story. Abraham and I, though, we keep meeting. We meet in conversations. We meet in words. We meet in names. And I have spent these past months sitting with those nineteen verses, and they have come alive to me. Some day, maybe, I’ll write the story, but for now, this is what needs to be said:

those three words –

after these things

are so important

They aren’t meant to be stepped over – prodded over – pushed aside.

They tell you what has happened and what is to come.

We can’t fully understand the story of Abraham and Isaac until we know the story that was before. And those words – that idea – is as important to us as readers of Scripture as it is for us as doers of Scripture.

Don’t disdain your story. 

Do not disregard the journey it has been to get you to the place you are. The broken pieces, the heartbreak, the loneliest and darkest of nights. All of those things, summed up in three words – after these things.

Before,

during,

and after –

He is there. It’s the only way we can understand who we are:

when we understand who we have been.

And so I keep going back to the stars, and the full moon, to remind me of His faithfulness. The tears I have let fall before Him. The whispers of faithfulness in return.

And I am ever thankful –

that after these things – 

the moon still rises, the stars still glisten,

and He is in the midst of it all.

 

 

 

(Im)Perfect Eyes

When I was six or seven, I used to curl up on the scratchy brown couch, the television turned to the local Christian network, and I would watch as the televangelist laid hands and healing came.

I’d close my eyes, the broken eyes as I’d come to see them, and I’d pray that when they would be opened, they would be healed. I wouldn’t need the glasses, words would appear clear, I’d be better than I was a moment before.

The eyes always opened, and each time, the healing didn’t come.

My childlike faith wasn’t shattered, but there was always the question – why not me? Why didn’t God reach down His hands, touch my eyes, and let me see? Was my faith too small, minute, or my words not enough?

I sat outside under the stars tonight, as I always do every evening I can. The stars up in the sky were blurred, the astigmatism letting light be reflected in different directions. The stars weren’t perfect to my eyes. But even to my imperfect eyes, they were glorious.

I thought of those prayers uttered decades ago, unanswered. Sometimes I think it’s so easy to see what’s wrong instead of looking through the lens of what’s right. God made me. He knit me together, each bone coming together and each limb forming. He knows the number of hairs on my body, even the ones I do my best to destroy. Each curve was His design. The pointy nose? He formed me that way. The heart that feels deeply, that loves hard, the eyes that will never see perfectly but know how to weep? The ones that open wide to what’s behind each gaze? His design.

The hands that swell red and wave with chubby fingers? Those hands He designed to hold.

The laugh that I hide too easily because of its high pitch? He delights in that laugh. 

Those were His design.

I am in awe these days that He is a God who sees,

a God who remembers,

a God who designs.

And sometimes in the moments when I pray for change to come, and when I pray for my problems to find their answer, I set my sights on what is wrong and miss out on what is right. God. The Designer. The God who says He works all things together for my good. God who says,

“I see you. I am with you. I uphold you with My righteous right hand.

You are not forgotten. 

I choose you. I have chosen you, and I will keep choosing you. Over and over again. In your worst moments,

and in your best,

in the moments you choose Me, and the moments you turn your face away.

You are chosen,

beloved,

known,

and seen.”

And in the blurry sight of the eyes His hands formed, I watch the stars He hung and named. I am reminded of who He says I am, and tears form in the broken – yet perfect – eyes. Because He’s found in each imperfection, for it is I who call them that.

He, the great I am, calls me chosen.

And I choose to listen to that name, instead.