Fourteen years ago, sometime in the earliest hours of the morning, I was sitting on my mother’s lap when she said, “he’s gone.”
I’ve never forgotten that moment, never unlearned the pain of losing someone I love.
I don’t think my grandfather would have ever imagined that such a little girl would carry a silly, wrinkled, ice cream obsessed man into even the smallest spaces of her life. But I did and I still do. I still think about him every time I see a peppermint, turn on a computer, or flip past the tv show Jeopardy.
Lately, my mind has been taking me back to the days when I thought God was big guy with dark black hair and a blue sash.
I thought He sat in a blue wingback chair and wanted me to be successful and smart.
But if you were to ask me what I believe about that now, I would pour you some coffee and tell you that I don’t really have the answers I thought I would have by now. That night, fourteen years ago, I would have hoped I’d have figured my life out by now.
If you were here next to me, I would tell you about a man who had a faith that I could see, but never got the chance to touch.
He never tried to offer answers, never in my childhood did I hear him trying to beg or convince others to believe. But he lived with a quiet, steady belief of a God who is not easily explained. I loved that he never tried to explain Him, and yet, somehow I always knew my grandfather believed.
I think even as a child, I knew that you couldn’t have joy like his or overcome the fear he’d battled without some sort of rooted belief that God was there, that He hears our prayers.
Welcome to the whirlwind.
The storm that will hit you when you finally have to admit to yourself that you don’t really have all the answers. When you realize that fourteen years later, sometimes your view of God is not as steady as it used to be, back when you thought He was the Big Guy in Blue.
Sometimes, He is quiet. He rarely explains himself.
I’ve started to think He’s okay with the quiet parts of our faith. With the wrestling and wondering about how we got here, where we’re going, and where He stands in the middle of all of it.
My faith isn’t always loud, doesn’t always have words and I think He’s big enough to work with that.
I don’t think God is bothered by the fact that I ask so many questions. Or that sometimes I don’t have the strength to ask them at all. I think He’s okay with that fact that some days I just want to learn the art of a perfect latte, or walk aimlessly around department stores.
He never put pressure on me like I thought He did. He doesn’t sit up there waiting to use me if/when I become smart & successful.
And days of wandering, smaller paychecks, and messy hair don’t make me a failure.
I think He can handle my mediocrity. I think He can handle the sigh I make when I slam the snooze button and pray to forget the hard things.
There’s a lot of change that has been happening and I don’t really know how to make sense of it. I don’t have any idea how to take some of the steps I’m going to have to take. In this moment, I wish my grandfather could be here, so that I could ask him about what it takes to move on, about what it takes to swallow your fear and decide to keep walking.
If I could, I would make you a fort in my room, the way we did at my grandparents’ house. I would give you vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup, and pop in Beauty and the Beast. I would refuse to let us fill our time with worrying about how it will all turn out. We would just love the moments of our lives, not knowing that the day will come when people we love will be gone. I wouldn’t tell you that we might wake up fourteen years later with a life that looks nothing like we planned.
Because most of the time, God doesn’t want us to figure it out. He just wants us to live.
If He had told the nine-year-old me that my grandfather would die, I would move to a different state, and given me the daily contents of my life at twenty-three…I’m certain I would have panicked.
Because I wouldn’t have been able to see or know the good in all the other days. I wouldn’t have known all the people who have stepped in and taught me how to stand, the laughter that steals the breath right out of me, the plane rides that take me to places I never knew existed. I wouldn’t have known about the late night eating of cake, the long talks in the kitchen, the days when hope holds my bones together.
Because the fear tries to steal the joy. It tries overshadow all the goodness in our days.
We’re not going to figure it all out.
And I don’t think it’s worth trying. We just have to live life, enjoy it, wrestle through it, love the people around us fiercely. We have to realize that our lives impact people. That a 73-year-old man can be branded on the heart of a 9-year-old girl, and he can forever change the way she sees the world.
We have to stop demanding that God give us the answers we desperately seek. Because He knows our frame is too small to hold the knowledge of all that is in front of us.
We have to know that there’s goodness. Even though I know there will be sadness, pain, loss, days when I wish I could hold people that are no longer here. Still, there is such goodness ahead.
We have to learn to be okay with quiet faith, with being human, with plans that might not make us look smart or successful. We have to learn to love the process, the days that make up the years, the joy we are privileged to hold when new babies are born, weddings are celebrated, autumn is welcomed once again.
We have to trust His goodness, even and especially in the unknown.
We have to know that God’s always had us, and He will always get us through. We have to trust that there’s joy and good living ahead of us.
If I would have asked my grandfather then, and I think even if I could ask him now, he would tell me this: I can bet on a belief that says there is so much goodness I’ve yet to see.