We live in a broken world. Sometimes the 'Happy Ever After' - the fulfillment of the promises - don't come on this physical earth. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Our faith is that we believe that He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him, clinging to our Deliverer without scripting our deliverance, without dictating what that reward looks like, be it a restored marriage, a prodigal's return, a healed loved one, a baby's birth, mended broken relationships, things just back to NORMAL. Personally, that's so hard. I'm just sure I have the perfect idea of how to "fix it" - how God could best glorify His name. Then I'm reminded of the 'though He slay me yet will I trust Him faith' of Job. That the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith is filled with people who were still "living by faith" when they died. They did not receive the things promised - they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were "foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Like C.S. Lewis so aptly explained, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." But the rub is that some of those heart yearnings and poignant desires of ours remain as we watch others who are frequently ungrateful, squandering, and reckless, freely enjoy these undeserved joys in this life. This wreaks havoc on my sense of justice and the desire for fairness in the game of life. You too? It's upside down! Grace wins! I love love love that for myself, my loved ones and for those I unconsciously deem "worthy" but sometimes I find it extremely hard to swallow when that same grace is served to some others - be it personal enemies, serial killers, or the laborers who came at the eleventh hour. For them, I am kind of fond of Moses' Law over Christ's grace. True confession. My precious mom was still boldly, courageously living by faith when she died. She was sooo crazy about her grandchildren and sooo wanted to be here to see them walk through life's milestones. It literally makes me ache thinking of how she would love seeing and being with my 3 baby grands. But ultimately she was longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Stepping back into the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith, I marvel at the shining-by-faith patriarchs and individuals who walked on holy ground and lived the miraculous - babies rescued, seas parted, walls crumbling with shouts of praise, kingdoms conquered, lions' mouths shut, fiery flames quenched, edge of sword escapes, weaknesses turned to strength, women who received back their dead. Wow!! It is so bright!!!!
But then I turn and struggle to adjust my eyes to the dark corner: "There were others..." Now, my eyes are watering. I'm trying desperately to refocus, blinking away my blurred vision. "There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). Flogging, chains, stones, saws, swords... My Pollyanna mindset wants to turn away but there's no denying it - they are all in the Hall of Faith. They are all there (those who experienced miraculous rescues in this world and those who were sawed in two) in the Hall. They are "all commended for their faith". Actually, they all died "without fully receiving in this world" what had been promised, since God had planned "something better" for them...and for us. Perfection and complete promise fulfillment doesn't come this side of eternity. (See Hebrews 11:39-40). I'm a champion of a Happy Ever After. I eat up the "Based on a true story" that ends like a fairytale! I love the goosebumps of sitting front and center to a miracle and am quickly unlacing my sandals to step on " holy ground"! My heart cries out "I believe Lord!", while praying desperately, "Help me in my unbelief!" I am often literally bursting with desires and pleas! I am straining, stretching, reaching for the hem of His garment! In the darkness, often I find myself wrestling with God, hanging on until He blesses me and my loved ones. Such STRONG desires and such soul wrenching longings!!! "Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (C.S. Lewis). Worrying that I want too much...waking to muddy hands and a realization that my heartfelt desires are actually too weak. Carefully dictating to my Father the ingredients of my mud pie while oblivious to what He has in store for me, and for others... unable to even imagine a holiday at the sea. I am far too easily pleased. Zeroing in on presents while He offers His very Presence. Looking around the room, whispering into the hallowed Hall, "Though He slay me yet will I trust Him"...repeating and refocusing over and over again. Delighted in God's gracious gift of His Spirit within me. Delighted in a foretaste of Heaven, while welcoming His promises from a distance and willingly admitting I am a foreigner here. This is not my home. Sometimes it just feels STRANGE. And I guess it should.
Thank you to my beautiful American friend, Gina Paglialonga, who penned these words in the early morning, whilst contemplating some broken pieces, and praying for many friends and loved ones in dire need of a miracle.