When I was a child and would ask my father the definition of a word he would never give me the answer. He would present me with another question.
“What do you think it means?” he would ask me.
I would reply “I don’t know. That is why I am asking.”
His next statement was always the same, everytime. “I will use it in a sentence.” After doing so he would pause and after a moment he would ask again “What do you think it means?”
I despised this routine. I just wanted him to tell me. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t want to have to figure it out. I just wanted the answers given to me. But I thought as a child. My father knew that I would learn the word better if I figured it out myself. He knew that he was training my brain to think. Though he could have given me the answer he gave me something even more valuable – the ability to find it myself.
When I became a mother and my oldest child first asked me a meaning of a word without even thinking I looked at him and said “What do you think it means?” I heard my father’s voice as I spoke his truth. The awful, wonderful, frustrating tradition continued.
When I find myself facing struggles and difficulties I will often ask God what does this mean? Just like my other father, He never just tells me the answer. He doesn’t say “My child, you are to learn to love well” or “I am training you to be strong for something else entirely that I know you will face” or “You need to show this person who drives you crazy who my Son is.”
God sits silent and in that silence I hear Him say, “What do you think it means?”
So often in life I am still very much like that child only now my father’s voice is my heavenly Father’s voice. I try to not ask him “why” something is happening. I learned long ago that the answer does not come and even if it did, how would that make any of it any better or the pain any less potent? Why was my child born with special needs? Why did my husband kill himself? Why must I raise my boys void of a father-figure?
Somethings must be born from the struggle. I am convinced struggle is a different soil. When watered with tears and sweat it will bear fruit that would, simply, not come to fruition any other way.
I zero in on the “What does this mean?” and “How will this define me?” and “How can this transform me?” questions.
I suspect that God wants me to truly, earnestly, and vehemently learn the lessons that He will bring out of horrible, difficult, impossible situations. Romans 8:28 is a Bible verse we who follow know well.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
But we often stop at that verse perhaps because it fits neatly on a coffee mug or book mark. However, it is the next verse that, to me, solves the mystery of what I am supposed to learn and exactly why and how God works all things for good…
29 For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
To be conformed to the image of His Son…
He doesn’t work all things for good so that we can have nicer cars or promotions or Facebook perfect lives. The answer to the “what does this mean” question is never something my flesh would crave but something my spirit desperately needs. It is so that I will be more like Jesus. The kicker is, I have to let Him. I have to be willing to zero in on things of eternal import.
Why was my child born with special needs? I do not know. What have I learned from it? Patience, resolve, kindness, perseverance, how to choose joy, unconditional love, and the list goes on. Why did the heartache of my husband’s death pass through God’s hands and why did He allow it to happen? I do not know that either. What have I learned from it? God is faithful. He is close to the broken hearted. He is the defender of the widow. His promises are true. He restores what was lost, perhaps not in the way we expect or desire, but we are blessed by the restoration. That list goes on as well.
I believe that God sits in silence sometimes even when I am the child demanding answers precisely because the answer must be attained so that I can learn it on a soul level. It must be ingrained into who I am so that it is natural for me to take what I have learned and utilize it with confidence because it is mine. I have ownership. I can use it to help others and I can allow God to use it to transform me ever so gradually into the image of His beloved Son. As Christians, that is the ultimate goal after all…to hear our Father’s voice and be transformed, glory to glory.