for all us hope-ers: when things aren’t working out as we’d hoped

So… it didn’t work out.

You know — That Thing.

You got that letter that said no to that thing that you were dreaming of, praying for, hoping about.

No to what your heart was holding on to though your head was telling you not to, no to that dream that you kept telling yourself it was foolish to even dream but you couldn’t — for the life of yourself — stop yourself.












You opened that envelope and you stood there with that paper in your hardly trembling hands and you skimmed the words, and you got the gist of it—that you were, frankly, a little wild to ungist.

Or, you got that call and you heard the words that you prayed against, begged against, braced against. You found it hard to hear, your heart banging like a sledge hammer, trying to pound its way out.

Or… you never got a call at all. The silence about drove you mad.

There’s only about one thing worse than a no — it’s an unknown. It’s this hanging in the balance that can make you lose your equilibrium.

And it’s being deemed not even worthy of a response that can leave you with questions that you cannot gag quiet.

Waiting can feel like an insane asylum of its own.

I got a call this week, a letter, and I was wild to send the words back, rearrange them so that maybe that a secret, hidden 20 year-old impossible hope might unfold.

Standing there feeling it all implode felt like some dark roof caving in that I couldn’t stop. I choked on the disappointment caught like dust in my lungs.

For days, I distracted with this mad, futile racing to hold up my house of cards that refused to stand. At night, sleep wouldn’t come.

In the dark, in the middle of the night, it gets very clear:

He who is hurried by worry, delays the comfort of God.

You can want someone to reach over and touch your unspoken broken, your thin bruised places and smooth out the pain you can hardly speak of:

Pain begs us to believe that only action can end our ache — when actually only God can.

Action doesn’t end pain — God does.

It takes incredible courage to wait on God in what feels like a wrong place— until He gives us the incredible gift of the right action.

And the making of one’s whole life takes time. Goals take longer than you think; the ways of God take longer than you want. It takes time, a lifetime, to turn the ache of our longings toward Him.

You don’t want to know how many nights I laid there, letting the tenderness of it massage out the knots of my worry:

We can simply want our situation solved — when God simply wants to be our answer.

And the best situation — is always what makes God your best hope.

In the middle of things seemingly not working out for us —- God is working out something in us.

Do not ever fear, ever. Simply do not ever stop patiently waiting on God.

But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what they already have?

 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Roman 18:24-15)

This is the epiphany that comes straight up through a thousand dark places:

The Spirit is married to patience.

Be impatientand you drive a wedge between you and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

In a world of fists and demands and tight grips for control — patiently waiting with open hand is a radical acta radical art.

Open hands defy the dark — and testify to a radical act of trust.

Grace beyond our imaginings can fall into open hands.

New things will happen to us — unknown, unwanted, unexpected things — and we can name those things grace.

In a world preoccupied with control — the most radical act is openhanded trust.

It’s happening slowly now: I am learning to fall asleep with hands open, palms waiting and open to the willing sky.

*  *  *  *  *

One evening this spring, walking home from the woods, I’d paused to watch a butterfly slip the casing of its jewel of a cocoon.

The sun was warm on my back. I waited. I wanted.

I wanted to see wings, I wanted to see fluttering and soaring, I wanted a miracle to unfurl. I had expectations of glory.

I waited more. The sun slid down my back. The butterfly stirred, then paused, rustled slowly— impossibly, frustratingly slowly.




I exhaled. Warm breath on the waiting.

The cocoon case cracked a bit. And I exhaled again, impatience unleashed.

Each impatient exhale on that cocoon — kindled the butterfly and you can come to think that you can grow a miracle on your own timeline.

Then it all tumbled faster than life, on the kind of timeline I like — the case split open, the butterfly braved the outside — and right there was the crumpled horror — wet and wrinkled wings that the trembling butterfly heaved relentlessly, pointlessly, to unfold.

I had forced my way, my timing — instead of letting things unfold in His perfect timing, under the gradual warmth of the sun — and it didn’t bring forth life.

I’d stood there, nauseated, and I could touch the truth of it:

Impatience always inflicts injury to wings.

The wings in my palm flailed.

Wanting things your way — can destroy any way at all.

Its whole body quaked with the effort to make wet and hurried wings impossibly part and lift.

It takes courage to listen with our whole heart to the tick of God’s timing, rather than march to the loud beat of our fears.

The butterfly shrivelled soundlessly in the palm of my hand…. stilled… died.

I hadn’t known. I had never seen it as clearly:

All sins and brokenness — turn out to be watered by impatience.

Walking up through the grasses home, it’s like every blade, every leaf, ever aching, broken, hoping place knew it, murmured it:

We cannot make things grow… ours is only to grow in grace.

Ours is only to let God grow good things in us.

One could learn to walk with the palms open, walk that way in broad daylight. It could change, it could be different. When I opened the back door, that followed me in too:

There’s never been anything so far gone — that hopefulness can’t come back.

The air turned right then.

True, debates rage about abortion and Iran and racism, and Facebook streams scream with opinions and rhetoric and rage, and headlines burn with all this unimaginable and it all scalds our hearts,  and the world feels mad.

And on the margins, we touch our own wounds that no one sees, we trace the outlines of our own unspoken broken — but we rise. We all rise. 

Together we all rise. 

We can laugh right in the face of hopelessness — because we are held right in the arms of God.