I can hear you squeal at the thought. Of course that’s without knowing what got you there. I would have pictured that it wasn’t you dying that made this happened. I would have pictured that it was you living and speaking that made your face appear on my television screen. I picture you next to Brene Brown and Ann Voskamp. I picture you on the big speaker circuit telling stories and making everybody laugh. Or bringing the house down with one well-placed piece of advice or spiritual wisdom.
I remember thinking when you were sick: what was God going to do with this? Because you could do so much more alive. Did he know that? Maybe if I just told him he would listen. Maybe he would think my idea was good. But life doesn’t always go like we suggest or pray for, does it? Just this morning I cried over the things that I can’t change. That I can’t control. And I really, really like control. Or at least the illusion of it. Let me at least think that I can fix something that’s gone so wrong. Let me at least think that I can make an impact or change something. Just give me a little control. But it doesn’t work that way. I don’t have control over what’s currently happening in my life, and I didn’t have it over your story either. And neither did you. I tell myself how happy you are in heaven. That you don’t know our turmoil down here. And yet I remember you praying prayer after prayer after prayer. And I believe that those live on. So maybe you knew even then. Maybe God directed your prayers even then.
Maybe our only real control is in letting go of control. In figuring out how to trust a God that we cannot see. One we can only feel and know.
Pastor Mark often talks about how we struggle to believe in God answering our prayers—in believing he sees us and knows us and hears us— because we know everything we’ve done wrong. And there is no reason for God to listen to us. There’s no reason for him to know us or love us. And that is why we don’t ask and we don’t trust and we don’t believe. Because we know we don’t deserve it. And then there are the instances where we do ask really big and still don’t get the answers that we requested. Between the two scenarios it’s a wonder that we connect with God at all. But neither of those are God issues. They are human issues. They are us issues.
God has never changed. His answers are his answers whether we understand them or not. And he will and does listen and care whether we deserve it or not. Which we don’t. But that doesn’t change who He is. We’re the variable. Not him.
And that right there, Kara, is the reason you’re on Netflix. Because even as you were dying you were shouting FAITH and LOVE. You were shouting GOD IS TO BE TRUSTED. You refused to buy into the lie that God makes all things good in OUR understanding. You instead reminded us over and over again that God makes all things good in HIS understanding.
Boy howdy, sometimes I really struggle with that not understanding part. I’m currently reading in Matthew. The part where Judas betrays Jesus and the people call for him to be crucified. I’ve read or heard this passage in my life more times than I can count, but today it hit home. God’s will sure looked terrible didn’t it? His own son be begging not to die if the cup could be taken from him. God did not answer that prayer the way we would have thought it should be answered. He answered by letting his son suffer so that we wouldn’t have to.
I get it when people think Christianity is the craziest story they’ve ever heard. Because it is pretty wild. If I heard someone telling it for the first time, I’d probably think that sounds a little nuts. But I’ve had the privilege of living my life knowing God. I’ve had the privilege of seeing him at work. I’ve had the privilege of seeing him answer things in amazing ways that I never expected. And I’ve had the privilege of seeing what I thought should happen not happen.
Kara, I’ll admit it. Your story… It doesn’t feel better without you. I can’t see his purpose. Unless it’s that so many people are being impacted by you. Unless it’s that someone who walked away from God now sees him and believes him again because you were willing to shout his name. Because you were unwilling to walk away from him even in your deepest darkest painful moments. And you had those. We witnessed those.
I hope and hope and hope that those impacted by you don’t let that fade away. Because then maybe while we wait for the understanding that we will probably only get in heaven, maybe the new stories of faith can ease the pain a little. Maybe your impact can be the thing that makes sense in the midst of what doesn’t make sense.
Just so you know, we’re working hard down here to practice big love. Working hard to choose patience and kindness when it feels really far away. We’re working hard to believe with the kind of faith that you did. We miss you, mama. We miss what you stood for. We miss who you were. We miss what could be if you were here. I think in heaven we’ll have a nice long chat about so many things we didn’t understand here. And I, for one, can’t wait to hear your wisdom on that subject.
Photo credit: Good Photo * good-photo.org