The reflection in the mirror

I remember the first time I heard of a Bible reading plan. I thought it was ridiculous - how can God direct through a scheduled reading of the Bible? How does He speak into the needs of that day, if you are just marching through? Desperate for structure as a young mother, I picked up my first One Year Bible and read through it, and I found out otherwise. God has a way of exploding every box I put Him in.

Yesterday, I started a new reading plan. It's affectionately known as B90X (a take on the popular fitness "boot camp") and means reading through the entire Bible in 90 days. Fifteen to seventeen chapters (or about 45 minutes of reading) each and every day, with only two "grace" days.

Here, on day 2, He speaks loudly and clearly into the needs of this day. Genesis 22, the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham and his only son, walking up a mountain together, with wood and fire to make an offering, but no offering.
...he took in his hand the fire and the knife. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." (excerpted from verses 6-8)
I am walking toward it, the altar that comes every year, the time when I lay everything down that I am "supposed" to be doing, and walk away and trust it to others. (Ahem. God.) My children, my husband, my home, my dishes and laundry, housekeeping, and all the duties of what I have come to accept as my full-time job. And He walks me, today, this hard hard last day, through the sacrifice of Isaac.

I yelled at my kids yesterday. And again today. Something I haven't done for many, many months (maybe since last time I was really sick? July?). I can hardly stand to face up to the sin in my self as I make wounds on a day I am supposed to be binding them up, and I shut them in their rooms and the bitter tears break through the tight throat and squeezed-shut eyes, and He makes me see Grace on a day when I want so desperately to be perfect.


I still want death to be something transformational, something beautiful, to see beauty out of ashes. And sometimes all I see is the burnt remnant of the beauty that was. I see the ugly chrysalis, and no butterfly emerges.


I see the browning of the roses on the vine in the hard frost and all I see is an ending.


The lessons of the past 3 years have been to play in the dying leaves, to pick the last pink of the last rose on the vine, to watch the chrysalis in hope whether or not the butterfly emerges.


But it still stings. To walk away from the lights, the music, the dancing kids, the hopeless mess, the dirty kitchen island I see every day, the pile of coats in the entryway and the husband warm and pulling me away from the day's work every night to bed.

I open my mouth and spill anger on my kids, and I realize that I am not angry at my children. I am angry - in that heartbroken, why-does-this-have-to-happen-again sort of way - at God. Why couldn't I get cured? Or have a different kind of cancer with a different kind of scan? Why couldn't I just get pregnant and live in denial instead of loneliness? Why, why, why?

I look in the mirror, and I am shocked that I do not see a cancer patient. These two days, as the injections create a war inside my body, a hypo/hyperthyroid confused mess that my brain can't interpret, I feel the cancer. I feel the weakness, the tiredness, the hopelessness, how much harder it is to keep going instead of lay down in my pile of ashes and scrape my sores and moan (Job 2:8). I expect to see her looking back at me out of the mirror - tired and worn. Instead I see the same old me. Same old peaches-and-cream skin my dad used to compliment me on, same vibrant dark masses of hair, same bright brown eyes and full cheeks. Not emaciated. Not gray. Not bald. Not dying. Not even very sick.

And that, my friends, is what God sees in the soul I sometimes carry around like dead weight, as the dead body keeps on sinning. He sees the radiant beauty of the unfaltering Love that poured Itself out for that hopeless dying body on the Cross. 
If you limit your knowledge of God to the feel good, sunshine moments then you are missing out on the story. He's not a dancing monkey out trying to get everybody to feel good and fall in love under rainbows. He's not limited to being the Lamb of God because He's also the Lion of Judah. His concern is to bring you to a place where you know Him. You must be emptied of yourself and filled up with Him. Don't underestimate the process in which you are emptied of yourself. They don't call it death for dramatic flair. My message to the sinner is simply this: You can believe Jesus when He says that He will forgive you over and over and over and over. There is nothing you can do that would make Him walk away from you. Others will and they'll tell you that you couldn't possibly be sorry enough. That is a direct contradiction to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus...I understand that we have the freedom to make our own choices, but have you ever considered who is determining what you are choosing between? I've heard people try to explain what the Bible means regarding freedom by saying that when you live according to a set of rules, your freedom comes from not having to endure the pain of failure from breaking the rules. They say that a relationship with God keeps you from sinning and therefore you experience freedom from sin. Have we created a religion that doesn't need Jesus? That's not freedom, that's self-control. Jesus wasn't the atonement in case you accidentally sin. He was the atonement because you hopelessly sin. The freedom the Bible is talking about is not something you earn by making the right choices; the freedom is the lack of punishment when you don't make the right choices. (from Grace is For Sinners, Serena Woods, pps. 181, 185, 200-201)

I see it creeping around the corner, half-dressed in the chrysalis, just a half-beauty yet. Half death, half beauty. The good news is that the transformation isn't here yet. The death is still incomplete. The cancer patient is still the student at the foot of the Throne. Every day He gives me here is a day He isn't finished teaching me to become who He wants me to be.


I get a glimpse of her, the girl He died to save, the soul He calls out to with love, the woman He longs to spend time with. Through those tender Father eyes, I see the peaches-and-cream complexion, the vibrant dark masses of hair, bright brown eyes and full cheeks of a soul sold out for Jesus. Not emaciated. Not gray. Not bald. Not dying. No longer even sick. I fall, but I won't stay down. I lose my temper only to beg forgiveness and call back those child-souls I shocked with my ugliness seconds before. I get down on my knees in the broken glass of my favorite cup, and mop up the milk and the shards and wet the floor with my tears, and it is His hand on my shoulder that tells me He will never leave me, nor forsake me, for His grace is sufficient for me, and made perfect in my weakness (Hebrews 13:5 and II Corinthians 12:9)