Someone once said I live a charmed life.
I’m not sure, even now, how to respond to that except to laugh. It’s not a bitter laugh, but it would’ve been once upon a time. My childhood bordered on blissful, if you discount the fact that I’ve always been hard-headed. I was loved fully and unconditionally, though I probably should’ve worn a helmet for all the times I rammed into my parents’ reasonable expectations. Somehow, God poured His grace into my wonderful parents and gave them the wisdom to hone my spirit into passionate conviction, and teach me to use my willfulness to set trends rather than follow blindly.
A lemming, I was not.
And then someone called me an oak. I took it as a compliment. An oak of righteousness, a tree planted by the rivers of waters, a young woman so solid in her convictions that she didn’t waste time toying with distractions.
He meant it as a challenge. I liked a challenge. But I wasn’t up to this one on my own, and the Lord let me find out the hard way. I fooled myself into thinking (as I am terribly wont to do) that my strength was enough to face my contender. Little by little, he wooed; I trusted. He pushed; I questioned. He upped the ante; I called.
Stupid, stupid decision. Too late, I realized I’d crossed lines I said I’d never cross. And when I said I’d go no further, he gently–awfully–shoved me the rest of the way.
I crumbled. I couldn’t look my friends, my family, anyone in the eye anymore. I broke down, and I sought refuge. When I found none, I made my own.
Fast forward a few years.
The Lord brought in a demolition crew, and we worked together to tear down my self-made prison. Stone by stone, we destroyed the wall, and I found freedom. I just didn’t know what to do with it. Surely the Lord loved me. He’d proven it time and again. He’d gifted me with support, accountability and strength. I could move on, grow, let that knowledge–those gifts–be enough. Couldn’t I?
No. I wasn’t the same. I was marred, possibly even unrecognizable to many who had known me before. It was one thing to know the certainty of the Lord’s love. Believing He still had plans for me was another matter entirely. But then he showed me this:
“Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you. I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make [emphasis mine].” Jeremiah 18:2-4
He has most certainly used me–and in ways I’d never have imagined–but my journey hasn’t been charmed. There haven’t been more than a few miles here and there without pain. Still, I wouldn’t take a different path for anything. I relish the true joy and contentment the Holy Spirit pours out when I comfort others with the comfort I myself have received. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
Fast forward fifteen more years.
I sit in a chair and listen to a broken young woman tell me she’s given up hope. There’s no point in caring or in trying. “Why,” she asks, “would God allow me to go through such awful things? Did He turn His back on me? Am I broken beyond repair?”
I blink. I search the flecks in the ceiling for an easy answer, but I know there is none. I refuse to be trite. I refuse to try to explain away something and Someone beyond our understanding with clever words.
Instead, I choose to answer with confidence, because I know the hands of the Potter intimately. I am reformed, and He is sovereign. I stand on this, and she can, too. “No. No one is beyond repair.”
I offer a glimpse into my own past. I take a moment to whisper a reminder that Christ promised life would be full of suffering if we choose to follow Him. But, I point out, there’s a truth we’ve got to remember in those moments when we wish He would step in and fight for us. It’s this: in our greatest need–the sinful, detestable heart in each of us–He has intervened in a way we can’t even fathom. He’s provided reconciliation and redemption. And in our other needs, He provides strength. He provides grace. And when we need them, He provides companions for the difficult road ahead.
Softly, I speak to her. “I know how you feel, and I can tell you that He has not turned His back on you. He’ll continue to love you and strengthen you. And I am here.”
I offer a hug if she wants it, and she clings to me. Her pilgrimage will be different from mine, some steps similar, some terribly different. But I’m in this thing with her, because that’s who I am.