Hours of careful effort had etched the colorful chalk drawings into the sidewalk. They were there to brighten the day of the neighborhood and the mail carrier. They certainly brightened my day. A small gift from the hands of the artist.
And then they were gone. Washed away in a pop-up thunderstorm that ran the color into the ditch and down the drain.
Just like that only grey sidewalk remained.
Why is it that the things we want to stick around never seem to, while the things we want to wash away always seem to stay?
Regardless of whether we’re talking about people, events, or emotions, the good times seem so fleeting, while the challenges seem to endure. Anger, rejection, sadness, anxiety – negative thoughts and bad habits – these things cling to us like dark chalk on sticky fingers. The more we try to brush them away, the more they seem to cover us.
I cry out with David and the prophets who pleaded with God across the pages of the Old Testament: How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
The answer may surprise you.
Because the answer is that He has already answered us. The problem is that we might not always like His answer.
First, He answers us with His forgiveness. That part we like. But then He answers us with change. Not the change of the situation that we were hoping for, but a change of us that we may not have seen coming.
Like drops of rain chiseling into stone, we may find layers of what we once held dear washed away along with that which needs to go. There may be layers of color and layers of grey. There may be flashes of sunlight and coverings of darkness. We hold our sin-stained hands to Him, again and again. We let His promises and His works do the washing that we ourselves are powerless to do.
It does not feel good.
The Bible tells us that weeping only tarries for the night (Psalm 30:5), but oh what a long night it sometimes seems! It feels as though the darkness will never end. It feels quite the opposite of God’s promises – indeed it feels as though joy is fleeting and hardships endure.
But all of this is allowing for the deeper and ever more beautiful creation to be revealed.
There is joy in the very center that God is helping us find. He is teaching us to cling to His promises like the lifeline that they are. Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed. His mercies are new every morning. Joy itself will come with the morning (Lamentations 3; Psalm 30).
I’ve asked God many times how to actually do this. How does one cling to an invisible God? How does one believe when unable to see in the dark? I do not have a perfect answer, but here is what I am learning:
- Some nights I fall asleep gripping my Bible in my hand.
- Some nights I sit on my bed and write scriptures on my wall.
- Some nights I read pages after pages in my Bible, underlining the word love.
- Some nights I plead with God to do all the things I cannot, including telling others all the things I can no longer say to them myself.
- Some nights I write out every verse I can find that tells me something about God’s character.
- Some nights I write out questions to God.
Every night I am waiting. I am waiting for God to fight my battles, restore my peace, and fill my spirit with joy.
You have been washed, the Bible tells me (1 Corinthian 6:11).
And I continue to be washed.
Special thank you to C. J. for sharing her artwork! Photo credits J. Canino. Used by permission.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly, who recently passed away but is not forgotten. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.