The journey of faith reminds me of an old radio. There are periods of silence, a quiet stillness, and a deafening lack of noise. Are you there, God? Can you hear me? Is this thing on?
Then there is the static. Turn the station, wrong channel, white noise static. Where are you God? Why am I here? Can you hear me?
Then at last, just like the channel that finally clicks into place, there is the music. Soothing, calm, clear. Perfect harmony. Perfect faith. The mountaintops of our Christian walks and the melodies we try to remember when all we hear is static. This is beautiful, God. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.
I live in the static more than anything else. The noise, the clutter, the constant knowledge that I’m not there yet. A frustrating place of trying to find the perfect channel, trying to hear God clearly, and knowing that I’m botching up the whole process again and again…and again.
When my pastor approached me and asked if I would write a few posts for the season of Lent, I was thrilled. Followed shortly by the massive knowledge that I don’t know what to say. Living in the static is a hard place to hear God. Living in the static is a hard place to want to worship, want to sacrifice, want to say something worthwhile.
For those who know me well, I am a closet poetry junkie. I devour old English like it’s my lifeblood. With that being said, John Donne is one of my literary heroes. He wrote a poem called “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward”, which, if you’ll indulge me, ends with these words:
Oh Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;
I turne my back to Thee, but to receive
Corrections, till Thy mercies bid thee leave
O thinke me worth Thine anger; punish mee,
Burne off my rusts and my deformity,
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou may’st know me, and I’ll turn my face
Over 400 years ago a man wrote words that resonate with my heart and with my faith to this very day. I pray and cry for change, “I’ll take the pain, God, if only to look more like you.” I long for the old me to be so burned away that only the image of Jesus reflects off my face. There are periods of my faith, in the static, when I feel the rust burning and instead of feeling a euphoric sense of relief… it is so painful. I cry out, “God, where are you? This hurts! This is terrible. Maybe I don’t want this after all.”
Is change possible when we live in the static? Through the lens of marriage, I see where I need to change to better my relationship with my husband. Through the lens of faith, I see just how desperately I need to change to better glorify God.
But God, it’s hard.
My entire life has been a culmination of events, set patterns, habits, and moments that have created the person I am today. The triggers, the pet peeves, the less-than-Instagram worthy fits of frustration. How do I push those aside? How do I become the best version of me when I am so comfortable in this skin I wear. How do I change, when I can’t even commit to 40 days without sugar?
If Lent is a short-term change, one I struggle with; do I really believe that God can change me for the long-term?
Even more convicting: do I really believe that God can change other people for the long-term? The abuser. The addict. The gossip. The bully. The people I hold at a distance because it hurts too much to let them too close. I give God a lot of credit, He can do great things, but when it comes to people…I’ll take a moment to be real and say, “Ehhh, the track record isn’t the best.” Because people fail. They choose not to be changed. They reject the promises of God and choose harder roads. And we blame God when people fail. Doubt creeps into the picture when humanity stumbles and with all honesty, we question, “Can God really redeem a picture like this?”
Sometimes, in writing, I dig holes I don’t know how to get out of. For three days now I have come back to this question over and over again. Can God really redeem a picture like this? My heart says yes, but I have no words to sooth over the message. I have no idea how or why. I want to say no.
Can God really redeem a picture like this?
The sin, the depravity of mankind, the crime, the heartache, the violence. We live in a world of social unjustness, racism, sexism, impurity, and utter darkness. Why would anyone want to save a picture like this?
In the static, I cry out over and over again, “Change this channel, God. Let us hear You better.”
Through the static, it is clear to anyone who listens: God has created the music if only we have the ears to hear. He renews the tired hearts. He comforts those who mourn. He transforms humanity by the renewing of their minds. God redeems, over and over again, He redeems.
We all know that one person who has changed dramatically. The bully who now asks for forgiveness. The substance abuser who now leads groups in recovery. That one person who broke your heart time and time again...but now they’re trying to heal it. The before and after’s we often get to witness are enough for me to say, “God can redeem.” It is painful, it can take a long time, but it is not impossible. I have seen the goodness of the Lord, and it is incomprehensible.
I used to think that I could never understand why people don’t change. Why the abuser keeps abusing. Why the addict never stops. Why mankind doesn’t get their act together. Why God doesn’t fix it right here, right now. But then I think of myself, and the painfully slow process of transformation. We have been offered redemption, but we have to choose it. This journey is not a one-sided process on the behalf of God. He requires us to die to our old selves to live in Christ. Change is possible, but it is a daily commitment.
The static cuts in and out. This journey is stuttered, fragmented, and frustrating. This growth is painful. I don’t want to be more patient, forgiving, or more understanding. But the music is playing, just one station over. A few notes cut through the chaos of the static, “Be kind. Forgive. Be understanding.”
So I try, and for a minute, I hear music.
The static may begin again, but for a brief moment in time, the music of Heaven cut through and my heart changed. Soon, the moments will stack on top of each other one by one. Until one day, I will wake up to a new station, a new test of faith, and new static. Even then, when I will have come so far from who I am now, I know that softly, gently, the process will continue, “Change.”
We worship a God who does not change. We worship a God who transforms his people and equips us to become who we were created to be.