I have a friend who will have an empty seat at his Thanksgiving table this year. That seat belonged to his father, who died recently. A few days ago, a doctor told another friend that his dad probably wouldn’t live to see Thanksgiving next year. I have yet another friend who was in a car accident and is in the hospital with serious injuries right now. He will be having Thanksgiving there.
Several years ago in my hometown, a man was driving down the highway with his wife when a tree fell down across the highway, landed right on the cab of their pickup truck, and killed them both. Later that week, I was in a church service in which the pastor referenced the freak accident and said, “Do you think that kind of thing happened by accident? There’s no way.”
I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing when, at nine years old, I was baptized by my father in a river – and I'm OK with that. There are people who think nine years old is premature for a person to be baptized. I'm actually surprised my parents didn't have me do it sooner.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” says Scripture. A lot of us feel sick with unmet hopes and unanswered prayers right now. I know people who are waiting on jobs, babies, marriage, healing, and restoration of relationships, among other things. The needs are as unique as the people and their circumstances. I’m in my own race right now, and yesterday I wrote some thoughts to put words to what it feels like. Maybe you can relate.
“Gross.” That’s typically not the word I think of when contemplating a miracle Jesus performed, but there’s one exception.
I have this one childhood memory that used to haunt me. When I was in first grade, a careless adult did a great deal of damage with very little effort and it seemed like the hurt from that incident couldn’t be undone.
One Sunday morning when I was in my early 20s, my mom came up to me after church and said something that stuck with me: “I notice you always pray to Jesus. You should think about calling God ‘Father.’” I thanked her for her input but it agitated me a little. I was more comfortable keeping things on a first-name basis with the Lord and starting all of my prayers with “Dear Jesus.” I didn’t like the way it felt to address God as my male parental figure. I already had a father-son relationship and it was complicated.
Ten years ago this month, I started the day by getting on my face before God and saying, “Lord, I’m getting down on the floor because if I get up, I’m afraid I’ll do something stupid.” I had good reason to be concerned.
One time I was at the bus stop and I saw a woman take her daughter by the ponytail, pull up, and force her to move down the sidewalk. As the girl walked forward, she tried to reach up and pull her mother’s hand away, to no avail. As the little girl cried and begged her mother to stop, a man standing nearby laughed about it, and the mother began laughing, too.
I was five years old when I walked into my mother’s bedroom and told her I wanted to give my life to Christ. We got down on our knees beside the bed and I asked Jesus into my heart. After that, I proudly told everyone that Jesus had saved me, but my pride slowly diminished over the years.
Seven years ago, I was having a conversation at a birthday party when I suddenly felt like I was in a dream. My voice felt far off, the room looked two-dimensional, and I couldn’t get my eyes to focus. Fifteen seconds later it stopped, but that episode was only the beginning. I started having a variety of other bizarre experiences. Sometimes it seemed like I was watching a scratched DVD — other times I would lose my words mid-sentence or forget how to type.
The other day my seven-year-old daughter said something I wasn’t expecting: “Daddy, I know a bad word.” Oh no, I thought, my worst fears about the D.C. school system are already coming true. “Oh really?” I said casually. “What word did you learn?” “The S-word.” I cringed.
There are a lot of people out there who are waiting for Big Things and they can’t seem to get a breakthrough. I got the chance to hear from some of those people this week when I shared an essay at Boundless called “So Grateful God Made Me Wait.” Many responded, some whose hearts are aching as they wait, others who are grateful the wait is over.
Last year, God finally answered yes to my years-long prayer request for the “Big Thing.” It doesn’t really matter what the Big Thing was. Maybe it was healing, a financial breakthrough, a reconciled relationship, a job or some other change in circumstance. Whatever it was, my waiting experience was like that of so many other people: a constant fight with the lingering fear that God was punishing me for wanting it too badly.
I’ve always enjoyed the holidays, but as I got older, I began to realize how painful this time of year is for so many. There are so many dashed expectations, so many hurts that we all hide behind the sometimes-fake smiles we force while singing Christmas songs or attending the office party.