Juliet, who just finished four days of three-year-old birthday celebrations has grasped onto the concept of gifts and giving. There is nothing in our house that currently goes un-narrated and back stories behind possessions are no exception.
Recently, she has noticed my ring. Christian bought me a present in the midst of his finals week, when I was shouldering more of the load so that he could go write. It is a chunky ring with an owl on it that I was looking at a few weeks ago. Owls are becoming a thing for me. (PhD pro-tip:When things get crazy, get your wife a present.) “Oh!” Juliet says. “Daddy get that for you!” I explain to her that daddy did in fact get that for me. “He get that for you, because you like it! Because he like you!” And isn’t that the truth? He got the ring for me, because I like it, because he likes me.
Sometimes I think God works like that. Sometimes you ask God for something and out of his abundant love comes a knowing grin, He says “Why not?” You like something, and God likes you, and so He gets it for you. I love moments like that. Moments when a gift from the giver are so clear and surprising and you are delighted, and he is delighted in you and you can tell. Oh how those moments make my heart sing. I love the moments and think that I miss them some days, in my business, in my ingratitude, in my looking at what everyone else gets.
Sometimes God says yes. He does, He says YES! You ask Him, and he says yes and it is wonderful.
And sometimes God says no. Sometimes, like my kids asking to get in a bath that is too hot, or open up the oven door when the cupcakes are baking, we ask for something that is not good for us and God says no. So many people have beautiful testimonies about God saying no, about God knowing better, about the amazing thing that was right around the bend and they just had to get through the no to get there and they promise, they PROMISE it is worth it!
I am reminded of this truth every time I sit in the backyard. The yard I did not think I needed. The house I had originally picked out for my family doesn’t have a yard. It is two blocks from the train station and it was wired for surround sound all the way through the house. It has a front porch on both stories and it was perfect. But some technical problem made it impossible for us to bid, and I was mad. I was sitting in the school library telling my friend the librarian how stupid these technical problems were while I showed her the pictures of the house we were not getting when she slowly rolled her head around to look me straight in the face. “Girl, God don’t with hold good gifts from us, if He don’t want it for you, you don’t want it.” I started telling her all the reasons I so clearly needed this particular house when she stopped me. “Abby, God does not with hold good gifts from us.” That conversation was over, and she was right.
I think about how right she was every time my kids run gleefully through the yard I didn’t need and I have a minute to breathe because….Because God does not withhold good gifts from us.
But sometimes, God says not yet. Not yet. And isn’t that the hardest? Yes and no have clear beginnings and ends. Yes you got it, no you didn’t, yes go forward, no make other plans. But not yet? What do you do with that? Can you be more specific? If not yet…then when? And what in the world do you want me to do until then? I think we are good at celebrating the yes, and the no. But I think we are bad at honoring the time and space that represents God saying “not yet.”
This weekend I had the opportunity to Skype with an internet friend, who is quickly becoming a dear friend. She is in the not yet. She has been in the not yet for years now. As other people move in and out of the yes and the no, move past their own not yet, there she is, waiting for the yet to become a now. The not yet is hard. It can be terrible and lonely and just brutal some days. I think we gloss over the not yet, because it requires less talking and more being. It makes me shut my mouth and stand up and walk over to stand next to, to walk along.
I don’t know very many people who aren’t in a not yet. A baby, a husband, a book that you feel called to write that has already been rejected twice…. We hide our not yets, tuck them away, protect them from harm, try to make sure no one pokes us in those tender spots. But I am starting to think that those not yet places need room to breathe, room to be. They need people who will not speak anything into them, but will just hold them for a while so you don’t have to. I think we can find the most community in the not yet; I think maybe in the mystery we also find holy ground.