September 24, 2005, I was sitting wide awake in the wee hours of the morning on the floor of my grandparents’ home in West Monroe, Louisiana, watching the weather channel. I knew we were in trouble when one of the main forecasters for the Weather Channel appeared on my tv screen standing 1/2 a mile from our home. The wind was so strong that he was standing at a slant. I could hear the trees snapping all around him in the darkness. Last night, I laid awake for a different reason entirely. My husband has brain surgery this morning. I found myself feeling very much the same as I did watching Hurricane Rita make landfall…a bit restless, anticipating what life will be like after such a significant day.
If I believed in coincidence, this correlation would just be strange and entertaining, but I don’t. I believe in providence, in an all-knowing God who orchestrated the events of 10 years ago to coordinate perfectly with the events right now. You guys, when I saw the date in writing, I started laughing that laugh that comes when something is so spectacularly and obviously laid out before you that you cannot ignore it.
A decade ago, Hurricane Rita came whirling through our city and knocked a massive white oak tree onto and through our house. We lost our home and most of what we owned. It was a drastic act of God that moved us from Louisiana to Texas, where Jesse was commuting for seminary once a week to get his Master’s degree. We had no job, no income, no home, almost no furniture, barely any clothing, no connections to people. We had two very young sons who needed a roof over their heads and stability. For the first three months following Rita, the kids and I lived in my parents’ living room while Jesse lived on people’s floors and couches and good graces. We moved to the greater Houston area in January of 2006 with hardly any possessions and a badly damaged marriage. We were 5 years and 2 kids in, and the weight of church ministry and raising children had taken its toll. I vividly remember being in our rental home in League City in the middle of an explosive argument with Jesse. He was following me down the hall talking when I whipped around, took a couple of rapid steps toward him, and shouted through gritted teeth: “I don’t know you! And I don’t know if I want to know you!”
I’ll never forget the expression on his face. Utter defeat. I remember feeling the way he looked. It was a rough road of self-imposed fighting and anger and bitterness. We struggled for months to make eye contact, to be near each other. We didn’t wake up one day and find ourselves suddenly skipping gleefully alongside one another either. We fought for our marriage, at first because we felt ashamed and obligated, later because we wanted our marriage to be what God intended it to be…a reflection of His relationship with us.
As I sat awake again in the wee hours between night and morning, writing all of these words, reflecting on the infinite nature of God and the finite nature of self, I found myself overwhelmed, astonished even, at the grace of God who would wreck our lives with a hurricane to restore our marriage, and wreck our lives with a tumor to answer prayers spoken in the midst of our brokenness so many years ago…”Father, restore our marriage. Use us for your kingdom. Let our story of restoration and redemption be one that is used to show your grace and power to others. Use our brokenness for your glory and our good.”…it’s a prayer I prayed more times than I can recount. And friends, He is doing just that. He is answering prayers we have been crying out to Him for years and years and years. He’s allowing us to see some of it too, to see Him at work. He is showing us how intricately our past is woven into our present and our future, how He moved in our lives through a horrific storm a decade ago to move in our lives in this moment. It is no accident that Jesse’s surgery was delayed until this day. God sustained us through the damage of a hurricane, tenderly restoring us to Himself and to each other for the purpose of using us today. If you are hopeless today, overwhelmed by brokenness in your marriage, in your life, with your children, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, anyone at all…know that there is a God who loves you enough to strip you down to the simplest version of yourself, taking away your comforts and conveniences, your distractions and disillusionments, your misconceptions and false perceptions, and replacing everything you think you are and think you need and think you will be in the future with everything He knows He made you to be and have and do. Surrender. Surrender. Surrender. You will surely not regret it. I am still chuckling at the absurdity and beauty of it all. What a good God! What a story He can tell with a couple of broken sinners. There is such hope in Him, such unmatchable hope!
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
–We’re checked in, waiting to be called back. Hands open, friends. Big tumor. Bigger God.