I didn’t know when Norah started learning to walk that first she would have to learn how to fall. When she started taking her first steps, she did the strangest thing. When she would lose balance and start wobbling, she would stiffen her body straight like a board and lean backwards. Yes, just like the “trust fall.” It was terrifying! I thought, this can’t be normal, so I emailed our pediatrician, in my I’m-a-new-mom-and-everything-concerns-me way, to make sure Norah didn’t have something off in her head. She assured me everything was fine and Norah would figure it out. In the meantime, stay close.
That’s all I could do? Stay close? Our pediatrician is the best, but I was hoping for more than that. She is trust falling onto our wood floors!
So I took matters into my own hands. I tried to teach her how to fall. Hilarious. That didn’t work. So, I just stayed close, but never close enough. Norah took some pretty intense-looking falls. Straight back, head hitting first. I thought after the first fall, well, now she knows that falling like that hurts so she will stop falling backwards. She didn’t.
It took more than a handful of painful head-first falls, but eventually she started falling forwards. And then I realized, I can do everything in my power to protect Norah, but her own experience and pain teaches her best. I can put plug protectors in our outlets, I can move dangerous pieces of furniture, I can put toddler locks on our kitchen cabinets, I can install a baby gate on the stairs, I can walk around with my arms extended behind her ready to catch when she falls, but I can’t prevent the inevitable. Norah is going to take some falls. She is eventually going to get her tiny, cute little finger stuck in a drawer. She is going to slip and hit her forehead on the side of a kitchen chair (she did that yesterday). She is going to get bruises, bumps, cuts, and scrapes. And she is going to be okay. Actually, she is going to be great! Dan and I will stand beside her, praying for her, believing for her, and encouraging her to get back up and learn from the pain.
That’s what Jesus does.
One of my new favorite singers, Laura Hackett, sings this song:
He’s brought me into the wilderness so I would learn to sing; And He lets me know my barrenness so I would learn to lean.Beautiful Mercy, do what you have to do.Jealous Lover, do what you have to do.You know the best way.
As I listened to this song the other day, I was reminded of what God says:
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor [trouble] a door of hope. Hosea 2:14-15
For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you…O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires…no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed. Isaiah 54:7, 11, 17
Beautiful Mercy, Jealous Lover…do what you have to do.
Sometimes He has to let me fall. He has to let me go my own way. He has to let me take the wrong turn. He has to lead me into a place of loneliness, wilderness, barrenness so that in desperation I will press in to His love and His mercy.
If a season in the wilderness forces me to encounter His tenderness and find hope, that’s His Beautiful Mercy. If affliction pushes me to the one who will strengthen and restore me, that’s Beautiful Mercy too. If every weapon formed against me leads me to press into Him, who holds the victory, that’s my Jealous Lover. Even what is meant for evil against me, He means it for good, because if, in the face of evil, I choose to press in, in Him I find the highest good!
He could prevent me from ever experiencing pain if His goal was my happiness. But it’s not. His goal, from the beginning, was always His own glory revealed. He will do whatever it takes, in His sovereignty, to manifest His glory in all the earth. He would not achieve His purpose by only giving me pleasure and always preventing me from pain. And that’s the most loving thing (despite how it feels), because He knows the fullness of my joy can only be found in Him and the manifestation of His glory. He will do whatever it takes to get me into His fullness. There is no higher love.
So I will take the pain. I will press in. I will learn from it. I will find joy in it, knowing that He stands beside me, in the fullness of His glory, believing the best for me, encouraging me, strengthening me, and releasing deeper and deeper revelation of His love and His mercy to me. And when I press in, I encounter a love that satisfies. I hope that the love I give Norah will mirror His love enough to point her to this everlasting love that satisfies, too.