Why can't we know truth, and accept truth, without having to live through the reality of its existence?
For example, why is it that my children know, in their brains, if they say inappropriate words I will punish them, but they don't really commit the knowledge to their hearts until AFTER they use a certain word and are promptly punished within an inch of their lives for it? Now they have the heart knowledge. Now they understand that what I said to them was true.
Why did it take that pain to truly bring them to acceptance of truth?
Why do they begin remarking on how near they are to starving to DEATH an hour before meal time? They know, of course, that I plan to feed them, and that I have yet to allow them to die of starvation. They trust me, I think, to care for them...but still, 11 a.m. rolls around, and the "what's for lunch?" "do you know what time it is?" "are we going to have lunch today?" questions begin.
I want to respond, and sometimes I do, with; "Are you kidding me? I always feed you. I always take care of you. You can trust me. You know this. Now GO PLAY and I will call you when lunch is ready!"
I arrive at my wits end with my children on a regular basis. Because I know that they KNOW the things that are true and certain in their lives, but most of the time they act as if they don't really understand, and rely on, those truths. They need to have tangible proof.
But aren't we all that way? Don't we wonder, and question, and worry, and remind God of a need, or a hurt, or a fear, as if He doesn't know or has forgotten or has just decided to let us struggle through on our own for a while?
We know who He is. We know what He has done in our lives in the past. And even if we don't know, He has given us a vivid, rich, thriving picture of Himself in His Word, so that we cannot possibly misunderstand.
"All the Lord's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection."
(Psalm 18:30) This is just one verse about His promises. There are so many more.
He tells us He's faithful.
He tells us He's a strong right hand to save us.
He tells us He loves us,
He cares for our needs,
He calms our fears,
He catches our tears,
He sends angels to guard around us.
There are so many truths that the God of all creation says about Himself in His Word. We know them, if we are His followers and have devoted time to reading His words to us. And still...still we don't really, truly KNOW the truth until we have experienced it firsthand.
For example: I have been a follower of Christ for almost thirty years. Childhood faith has taken root into a walk that, while never perfect or anything glorious to speak of, has been true in my heart and life since the beginning of the "Lord, I believe in you and I thank you for washing away my sins" prayer on the night before my 7th birthday.
I have read the Bible, all the way through, at least three times.
I have studied the Word.
I believe what He says about Himself, and about me, and about everything on which He speaks. I know He is good, and faithful, and true, and holy, and loving. I know it.
And still, still there was a morning, not so many years ago, where I sat in the floor of my living room, having a panic attack, gasping for air, unable to calm down, and all I could say was "Don't leave me alone. I can't be alone."
My sister was dead. The reality had been true for 6 days. The numbness of memorial services and relatives coming in from out of town had faded. Time off work had come to an end, and suddenly, suddenly I was faced with the horrifying reality that my husband was leaving for his job, and I would be alone with my children, who, at the time, were 8, 6, 3, and 5 months old.
"You can't go," I gasped through my terror. "I can't do it alone. I'll die."
I've never felt such fear. I knew, I just knew, that if he left me and went to work, I wouldn't be able to breathe. How was I supposed to love my children well when I couldn't feel anything but agony? When all I wanted to do was sleep, because at least in sleep I could forget, for a while, that my sweet little sister had died, unexpectedly and tragically, a million miles away in a hospital bed on the mission field.
What happened next must have been a God inspired move on my husband's part. If he had come to sit beside me, or called into work, or tried to calm me down...I might never have understood, really KNOWN, what I knew in the next few moments.
He walked into the room, holding my Bible in his hand, and he set it on the floor beside me. He kissed me, and he said "You're NOT alone."
And he went to work.
And for a few heartbeats I was shocked that he had gone, with my gasping, and begging, and the tears I didn't even know were running down my face.
But then self preservation kicked in. I couldn't breathe. I was drowning. I had to find a way to survive...and in that moment I reached for the Anchor.
I opened to where I had been reading the week before, before my life, my family, my heart and soul and spirit changed forever, and when I began to read...
"Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land. The wind had risen and they were fighting heavy waves. At three o'clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the water...the disciples were terrified...but Jesus spoke to them at once.
"Don't be afraid.
I am here." (Matthew 14:24-27)
And I swear to you, in that moment, I was the disciples. I knew I was going to drown under the weight of my storm. The wind robbed me of stability, the waves stole my breath, the blackness of the night had caused me to lose my way.
But Jesus came. Walking on the water. WALKING INTO MY STORM. Unafraid of my panic, or my terror, or the angry words I would eventually hurl at Him.
And He spoke.
"Don't be afraid." And my panic began to ease.
"Take courage." My tears flowed silently now, without the gasps.
"I. Am. Here." I felt the words inside my chest like a bass drum, resounding in my heart.
And He climbed into the boat with me.
All the years of knowing that Jesus calms storms and walks on water, all the readings about the promises of God and the faithfulness of His word, all the songs sung about all of the truths I had known and understood and even spoken to others...
All of it paled in comparison to that moment. When Jesus climbed into my storm with me, and I truly, truly KNEW that I wasn't alone. That I had never, ever been alone.
Now, almost 6 years later, when I have the privilege of speaking to a person in great pain, I remember that day. Every time. And when they gasp and rail and panic and cry, and when they are afraid and angry and lost...
I tell them: "I know. I know." And then I tell them: "But He is with you."
Knowledge has turned to understanding. The lesson I could only really learn in my moment of pain has settled so deeply into my heart that it has changed everything, EVERYTHING else.
I'll need to be taught again, I'm sure. I'll forget to remember that I know He is with me.
But He will remind me. He will climb into the boat and sit with me. He understands that we need the lessons over and over, and even if we know the truth, in our heads, we need to feel the truth in our hearts.
And because He's so loving,
and all the rest...
He will be there. With me. With us.
"So take heart. Let His love lead us through the night. Hold onto hope. Take courage again."