Nourished by the Mysteries

I needed privacy and tissues.

The receptionist’s voice brought me back to real-time, “What are you reading today?”

I had to choose to breathe instead of sob my reply, “One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  I’m on page two and a baby just got killed.” (Sniff)

My friend tells me it’s been really popular but I hadn’t heard anything about it.  A couple of weeks ago I  was searching the library catalogue for my next batch of reads and stumbled across it.

My doc can run quite late so I keep a book in my bag just in case.  On Friday I had almost an hour of reading time in the reception area.

“In the November light, I see my mother and father sitting on the back porch step rocking her swaddled body in their arms. I… watch their lips move… with please for waking, whole and miraculous. It does not come. The police do. They fill out reports. Blood seeps through that blanket bound.
“Mama… holds my youngest baby sister, a mere three weeks old, to the breast, and I can’t imagine how a woman only weeks fragile from the birth of her fourth child witnesses the blood-on-gravel death of her third child and she leaks milk for the babe and she leaks grief for the buried daughter.”  (Voskamp, Ann. One Thousand Gifts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.)

As a mother of two little ones, my heart has been taken captive by this book.

I’m thinking about the terrible pony accident that happened with our eldest and her best friend when they were two years old.  They could both be dead.  Gloriously, they only had bone bruises and skin lesions and there are no enduring issues.  Still, my stomach gets tight at the memory of that day.

I’m thinking about how both our kids were born with health problems.  Our amazing Children’s Hospital gave us top-notch care and God clearly touched both kids and those issues are behind us now.  Still, my heart gets heavy when I think about the days of questions and waiting when we didn’t know what the future would look like.

I was changed by those days.  I am marked by those wounds and the scars are still thin and fragile.  And I gained a layer of fear.  A default to caution and worse-case-imaginings.

The surrender of those fears and the confession of my sin of distrust is a daily part of my life.  And over time I am accepting the forgiveness and freedom that was instantly given by my Abba Yahweh.

Ann Voskamp’s journey is deeply painful and I am grateful for the chance to know it.  Each page stirs up my heart and touches issues I had let settle mostly unaddressed.

This is a good time for me to revisit these old pains: As I wrestle with my own health battle and the possibility that my sweet little family may have to each face the battle too.  There is an umbrella question that covers it all.  A grievance: Why does the goodness of God seem to be scarce in the lives of some?

To be clear: I know God is good.  He causes the rain falls on the just and the unjust. (Matt 5:25)  His goodness is constant and pervasive.  We all live immersed in His goodness.  Without His goodness, I can’t even begin to imagine the state we would all be in.  This world would not keep turning.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

Even so, I crave more goodness from my good and loving God.  To be honesty, I desire a life of no pain.  I desire full health, abundance, prosperity and goodness from Him.  His Word is so full of promises about these things.  And my flesh sure hates discomfort, pain, lack and anything less than perfect goodness.

Thank you Ann Voskamp for slapping my face with truth.

“Isn’t this the human inheritance, the legacy of the Garden [of Eden]?”
“I believe the Serpent’s hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn’t good… That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us.”
“Doubting God’s goodness, distrusting His intent, discontented with what He’s given, we desire… I have desired… more.  The fullest life.”
“I look in the mirror, and if I’m fearlessly blunt – what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I’ve got – this simply isn’t enough.  The forked tongue darts and daily I live the doubt, and ask: Does God really love me? If He truly, deeply loves me, why does He withhold that which I believe will fully nourish me? Why do I live in this sense of rejection, of less than, of pain?  Does He not want me to be happy?”
“Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate.  And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude.  Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.”  (Voskamp, Ann. One Thousand Gifts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.)

I want to keep typing and include the whole chapter here because each sentence contains so much to think about!

The book moves on to introduce a new family member: Ann’s brother-in-law.  He and his wife have lost two young babies to a genetic disease.  Ann questions his positive outlook.  He responds with an affrontive statement about God’s blessing and the wonderful time they had with their sons.  He is, to me, remarkable.  He seems to know the goodness of God in a way that I weakly grasp for.

Ann talks about the beauty of the Manna God provided in the wilderness.  She has grabbed my heart once again.  It is a section of the Biblical Histories that I am totally in love with.  It is my most precious personal study passage and my most favorite teaching and sermon to share.

She talks about the “mystery” that nourished the people.  They didn’t know what it was but they ate it and it nourished them.

“I think of buried babies and broken, weeping fathers over graves, and a world pocked with pain, and all the mysteries I have refused, refused, to let nourish me.”  (Voskamp, Ann. One Thousand Gifts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.)

Oh.  There are times when I have let the mysteries from God nourish me.  And there are many times when I’ve refused to let mysteries nourish me.  Hmmm.  This is good to think about.

I am enamoured with this journey I am on as of late. God sure is doing some deep demolition and reconstruction in my heart.

Now I need to have the courage to devour these current mysteries and let God nourish me… instead of being afraid of what He is preparing me to endure next.

I do believe; help me overcome myunbelief!” Mark 9:24

Have you read One Thousand Gifts?  What has God spoken to you about His goodness?  What is your journey to deeper trust?

Want to read through the Bible with me?  Today’s readings are Psalm 89; Acts 2:1-13

What do you think?