"How do I even begin to introduce Stephanie?" Lindsey chuckled and said, "Plain and simple: an amazing human being." I smiled, knowing she was right. "But she's also a fantastic writer, editor, mother, and one heck of a friend." Lindsey could see my predicament. How do you introduce someone who has made such an incredible mark on your life?
Here's what I can tell you: Stephanie Gates is the real deal. I hardly know another person with faith so genuine and mercy so wide. She teaches Lindsey and I both, by the way she lives and loves those around her. We are lucky to be included in that bunch.
Grace is messy,
From the basement in the suburbs of Kansas City where we stayed with friends, I could make it to the International House of Prayer’s 24-hour prayer room in 25 minutes. I can still smell the gardenia-sweet incense in the coffee shop next door, still picture the fervent young people pacing the room during the Intercession hour. For six months we prayed in that room with hundreds of others nearly every day.
On the way home, I would yell at God.
I was supposed to be pregnant. After years of waiting, I’d carried a baby just nine weeks before a miscarriage upended everything I ever thought I believed about the way God works. We deserve to be parents! I would yell at the sky. My husband and I were as devoted to one another as we were to God. God had no right to take my baby from me. He owed me big time.
If this was a test, I was failing.
That year I was bitter, angry, weepy, uncertain. Every time I entered God’s presence, I did not find peace or hope or patience. Instead, I came face to face with my own biting disappointment, and the God who had let me down.
I would love to say God changed me, that I gradually came to a place of healing and acceptance. It would be a lie. I stomped and shouted at God for ten straight months, until at last I had what I wanted, and I finally held my tiny son.
That was nearly ten years ago. That beautiful baby is now in third grade, and he is a big brother. Yet if I’m honest, I don’t think I ever let God completely off the hook. In my old stream of faith, life circumstances and faith and God was a riddle I had been assigned to solve. If I could just figure out the secret - the thing I was supposed to learn, the ways God was “refining” me through hardship. It seemed to me that if I could hurry up and be more holy, more faithful, more patient, God would make good things happen again, and I go on with my life.
These days, I see God very differently.
To be honest, the past four years have been the hardest of my life. My mother and husband both suffered life-changing consequences to brain injuries from different incidents that occurred less than a year apart, and my entire family watched as my toddler son died and was resurrected in front of us. If God owed me a baby ten years ago, he sure as heck owed me a little less trauma and heartache now.
Only, I no longer think God owes me anything. I’m no longer the girl yelling at the sky on the freeway, not because I’m above being angry at God, but because I no longer think God and I are at odds.
Some days I’m so mad I can barely form words around it - the injustice of losing so much in a condensed period of time, the brutal randomness that can dramatically change our lives forever. Some days I still yell at the sky. But I no longer blame God.
God is not causing harm to my loved ones so He can shape my character. Our lives are not a divine jigsaw puzzle that must click just so and one day will make sense. I am angry because the world is not as it should be. Things are not right here on Earth, where babies can wander away and die. When I find reality intolerable, when I curse and rant, I am experiencing what God already knows: everything is not alright with us.
That’s why He sent Christ. He agrees with me, the world is not as it should be. And while Christ does not alleviate my present hurt or anger, He does give me a hope. Everything is not okay on earth, but our lives on earth are not the end of the story. God joins me in my hurt and my anger. He feels it too, and He agrees - in some ways, life is all wrong. But some day, all will be made well. Life will be restored. I am free to grieve now, because I know grief is not where this story ends.
Stephanie Gates writes, edits, worships, and raises a bunch of kids in Denver, Colorado. You can find more of her writing on A Wide Mercy.
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