Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why We Need to Have a Party for the Stuff We Never Celebrate

How are you? she asked. 

We were at church. She's one of the few who knows the real guts of my life, a sister who knows that behind the lip gloss and tall boots hides a woman with a story that is anything but fashionable and pulled together. 

I replied with confidence, not with fear of relapse or false hope: I feel change in my heart. It's happening. It's slow but true. 

She smiled, her face revealing the sincerest gratitude for me. And then she encouraged me to write it down, to journal the gifts of change and growth, to acknowledge and celebrate that God is at work. 

I know that God can snap his fingers and heal on the spot. Sometimes He does. Usually He doesn't. 

I'm finding that He uses an often-overlooked instrument of healing: Time.

We underestimate the healing salve of time. Often I think of it as some disconnected abstraction or as annoying accountability. I check my watch. I jot something on the calendar. My heartbeat quickens or my face grimaces when busyness eats into my precious margin. Too often time feels like a tool that I wield to govern my days.  

But time does not belong to me. It belongs to the One who created it. We talk of how God created the Heavens and Earth, how He's the author of faith, hope, and love. 

But what about time? He created it too. And though He is not bound by time in the ways we are, He uses time in remarkable, miraculous ways. In our speedy, instant-gratification culture, inefficiency can feel like an enemy. Waiting feels like punishment.

Even within the church, we applaud those who are quickly delivered from addiction or varying forms of licentiousness. We leap for joy over those who are instantly healed from disease or disability. We cry and Hallelujah and call it a miracle. And it is. It is

But what about the rest of us who feel stuck in the eternal waiting room? We're still in counseling. Our internal workings are still more broken than we want them to be. Our relationships and our very lives are still a mess and isn't there a clean-up crew who can help with this already?

What about the marriage that is in the process of healing but that process takes years? Issues are processed and forgiven only to give way to more issues that have to pass through the same, grueling cycle. 

What about the young mom who is balancing babies and carpool and forgiveness? She knows she has to. Theoretically she wants to. But those deep wounds coupled with her pride combined with the rigors of the day-to-day? She's getting there, she's making progress. She's learning and growing and finding healing even in the midst of her crazy life, but daily she's tempted to despair because complete change isn't hers yet. The process feels terribly slow and the pain of the past weighs her down. Still. 

Healing in one area but not yet another doesn't mean failure. Conviction and awareness that come incrementally doesn't mean you're losing. 

It means God is at work. 

The Bible uses many different metaphors for the Christian life: a long and grueling race, a seed that is planted and cultivated, a branch that is grafted onto Christ Himself. He is referred to as the author and perfecter of our faith, one who promises to complete the good work He began. 

He is faithful over generations

All of these images and promises reveal that God is not in the same kind of hurry we are. I could go into great detail about every one of those metaphors, how a seed has to die and remain dormant, how long it takes for a fruit tree to actually bear fruit, the physical and mental obstacles of completing a marathon, how generational promises took and still take centuries to fulfill.

But the imagery speaks for itself. They all require time. 

Slowly, I'm learning that time is not an enemy; it is one of God's good gifts. 

For reasons I may never understand, He uses time itself to heal and time as an incubator in which we heal. 

Our visions of what complete change and healing should look like are not necessarily wrong. But I for one have a tendency to focus on the complete instead of the change. And why wouldn't I? After all, we were made to be complete, made for a garden of perfect wholeness and fellowship. Our souls will long for perfect healing and sweet consummation until our time on Earth is through. 

Longing for wholeness is not wrong; it simply points us Heavenward.

Until then, we journey seemingly circuitous routes, trod treacherous paths, and live with broken hearts. We hurt others and are hurt by others. Wounds mire us in the deep, sometimes for years. Change can feel so slow, we wonder if we've moved an inch.

I can only truly speak for myself. The story I know best is my own. And I've decided that I don't want to put off celebration and remembrance until healing is "complete." I want to acknowledge every bit of incremental heart change, every wound that hurts less than it did, every new grace. 

I want to look Time square in the face and say, Thank you for being so patient and doing your thing even though nobody ever acknowledges what you do. 

I want my marriage, my family, my church, my tiny circle of influence to be places in which we celebrate the "small" and "incomplete." We only see a single brushstroke on the canvas. God sees the entire work of art and, as any artist knows, a masterpiece takes time. 

I have such a long way to go toward the healing, wholeness, and change I desperately desire. But as I look back, I'm able to see that Time is both a patient healer and a gentle place to simply be. Rest {"the art of doing nothing"as I like to joke} is bringing renewal. Faith and Hope are taking shape in tiny but tangible ways. 

Most of all, Love is winning. That sentence makes me cry every time I read it. I think it's because only I can really know what a supernatural thing that is, that Love could win in a such an unlovely story.

So for my own sake, I think I need to redefine "miracle." I love the instant kind. And I still pray for it. 

But Love that grows out of that which was dead, whether it takes ten days or ten years, that's incredible. 

Forgiveness that requires a thousand small deaths over five months or five years, that's amazing. 

Beauty that slowly rises out of the ash-heap of dysfunction and baggage and self-righteousness, that's crazy. 

And repentance that perseveres through bouts of pride and pity, anger and waywardness, well, that invites the fanfare of Heaven itself. 

Let's resolve to make much of the grace at work in our lives. Sometimes that means we just need to take a moment to reflect and give thanks. Whether we roll it around in our heads for a bit, chat it out with a friend over coffee, or scrawl it down on paper, reflection and remembrance have a way of giving birth to gratitude-induced hope. 

Or maybe we need to have an actual "party" of sorts:

A date with your husband because even though marriage isn't perfect, you haven't given up and maybe you're even getting help. 

Ice cream with your kids because even though you still haven't stopped losing it with them, you haven't stopped asking them to forgive you and you haven't stopped begging God for grace to change.

Dinner out with a sweet friend who knows where you've been and also how far you've come.

A few quiet hours to yourself to simply celebrate, in your own uniquely personal way, the great work that God is doing in seemingly small ways over His time. 

Twenty months ago I couldn't have written this post. Now I can. And that is something to celebrate.


  1. You know how I like to sometimes pull a special line from your post and highlight it here? Well, today that would require pasting your ENTIRE post in this comment section! I won't do that . . . I will simply say that I so wish the whole world could have the blessing of reading this one. Every.Single.Person (well, above the age of twelve or so.)

    OK. I AM going to highlight one. "Love is winning" made me weep as well."


  2. Thanks for this, friend. I recently lost my grandmother and have been snapping at any and all who have told me that "time heals". I've felt for the past week-and-a-half that I've been losing my mind, quite frankly.

    But your words have somehow gentled me in this moment. Thank you for just acknowledging that the mess sometimes lasts longer than is comfortable, that sometimes all we want is a clean-up crew. I hope that at some point, I can say with you that Love is winning...

  3. Celebrating with you my sweet and beautiful friend.
    I love you...

  4. YEE HAW!! Celebrating with you.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this beautiful post.

    Funny thing. As I was typing this comment, I saw below the comment box your message: "Thanks so much for stopping by. Please say hello if you have the time!"

    Of course I have the time. Except that I don't. Of course I don't have the time. Weird, isn't it? We all have the same amount of time and most of us are short on it.

    But you're right about it: it's a gift from God. One day maybe he'll tell us why he set it up the way he did, with the days and nights and seasons and all. Somehow I expect he put a lot of effort into creating it. One thing's for sure: He's using it for good.

    Love you!

  5. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty and perspective. This is a real encouragement for me where I am right now.
    I am currently reading through Ephesians and it teaches us we get to experience the blessings of being alive with Christ now, but we have some time to go before completion of his work in us. So a call for patience while God is shaping us is a helpful thing!

  6. Willie Nelson sings a beautiful song: "Those Healing Hands of Time" - your post reminded me of it.


Share your thoughts?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin