I’m one of those obsessive list-makers. You know, the kind of person who has to have a list for everything? That’s me. Even my lists have sub-lists—sometimes numbered in sequence and other times scattered in bullet point form. Maybe it has something to do with being a writer and having this addiction to capturing the intangible with pen and paper. My absolute favourite part comes when I get to cross things off my list. I feel a sense of accomplishment and overwhelming satisfaction as I let out a big sigh of relief and say to myself, YESSSSSS!! I did it!
What’s on my lists? Nothing truly life-changing. Just the basic, daily life stuff like reply to a friend’s email, call the dentist, print out calendars, sketch. Most of the time my lists are a mishmash of errands, chores, and things to buy. They help keep me focused and give me direction throughout the day. So you can imagine what sort of approach I took when it came to dating and finding the right man to spend forever with. I had a list. THE LIST.
I was 17 when I drafted up my very first God-please-help-me-find-the-perfect-husband wish list. Every now and then I’d modify certain details, but for the most part it remained the same. The list began merely as an innocent tool, something to guide me through the scary, unknown world of dating. But over the years, I relied on my trusty list and even made up a code for myself to only date dudes who measured up to most, if not all, of the qualities on it. There must have been about 40 qualities I had on that thing. It was a mix of both Biblical and shallow traits, all amounting to the most idealistic life partner I could imagine for myself: loves Jesus, funny, patient, tall, sacrificial, good teeth/smile, kind, athletic, generous, creative, wise, dark hair with blue eyes, industrious, hot.
Daydreaming about my future man and wondering where he was became a daily habit. I’d ask God a thousand different questions: Who is he? Why haven’t we met yet? When are we going to meet and where? How will it all happen? The Lord never answered me in an audible voice, but the promises in His word were always reassuring. Frustrating, but reassuring. Love is patient. If “patient” is the first adjective He gives to describe love, then it’s probably the most critical, right? I didn’t know that’s what He was trying to tell me back then—that I needed to wait on Him, His timing, and His plan. I thought I knew what patience was but I didn’t. I was extremely stubborn and had my own agenda which consisted of my perfect husband wish list and a bit of prayer.
But that agenda failed. I was now almost 30 and in the midst of adding a third devastating breakup to my unsuccessful relationships roster. What was I doing wrong? Should I even be dating anyone right now? Does my list just need modifying again? Or does God think I’m completely shallow for wanting these things and therefore not blessing me with someone? Lord, have you even made someone like this before? Does such a man exist? I was full of doubt, worry, fear, and stress. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I always thought I knew exactly what I wanted in a future husband, and honestly I thought my list, combined with doses of prayer here and there, would eventually help me find him.
It wasn’t until I first met Matt that I realized what little patience I had with my Creator and how little I knew myself. For years I had all my desires written down on a piece of paper, thinking I’d covered just about every detail I could dream up about my ideal husband. And then one day, God dropped a man into my life who embodied everything I didn’t know I even needed. And it wasn’t as though he didn’t fit any of the things on my first list. It was more like God had been writing up an entire list of His own—things He wanted just for me. But rather than giving me hints or signs of what to look out for while I was dating, He simply created someone with all these characteristics and then brought us together in His own time.
There’s no competition with God. I create lists to help me form plans, but Him? He creates people and follows His own plans. Why I ever doubted His ability to provide someone specifically for me is just beyond ridiculous. He made my “perfect husband wish list” look like amateur hour. Here was a man whose character was a blend of traits and qualities that I never even considered or thought possible: strength with meekness, emotional intelligence, consistency, brutal honesty yet tender in speech, curiosity, wonder, amusement, boldness with humility, and self-control. None of these were on my original list, but they were always on God’s list for me. He alone knows me and He confirmed that truth when He brought Matt into my life. He gave me a man who was everything I desired and more.
Lists. Sure, they’re good for some things like chores and grocery shopping. But when it comes to dating? Lists are overrated. If only I could go back in time and share that piece of advice with my 17-year-old self. I would tell her to stop worrying and stop comparing men to that darn piece of paper. And I would remind her that when God tells us His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways, He’s not just saying that because He thinks and does things higher than us. He’s driving home the point that He goes above and beyond for us. He transcends our human limitations, and He exceeds our every expectation. His word will always be accomplished and we can let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that He alone is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” And in my case, list.
I despise the word “almost.” It strives and stretches. It desperately tries to convince me that it has achieved a certain status of completion when it most certainly has not. Almost is a false sense of assurance and a fabrication of hope. When Jesus was on the cross He didn’t say, “It is almost finished.” Rather, He came to earth, did what He said He’d do, and left zero room for doubt. He finished the job.
It’s hard to finish things. Right now, I can think of a dozen things in my life that need finishing—the laundry, dishes, that oil painting outside on the patio I started four months ago, the edits for a documentary project, birthday gifts that need to be wrapped and sent overseas, my fitness transformation, my business plan for a new stationery and paper products line, etc. It seems that the more things I start, the more things I’ll need to finish.
But it’s always that middle bit, the time in between the start and the finish that no one really talks about. Maybe because when you’re still nearly there but not quite, it’s completely frustrating. It’s the almost. Yet the almost season is where the greatest of transformations happen. It’s oftentimes a very ugly season full of awkwardness, heavy change, deep struggles, and a series of mental, emotional, and spiritual pains.
I can’t help but recall one particular almost season. It was the one just prior to finishing my first book. My personal decision to quit a secure, full-time job to write and illustrate a book caused somewhat of an uproar among a select few family members who took it upon themselves to whisper and gossip behind my back as though I was some selfish, ignorant girl who cared nothing about helping her husband with paying off the mortgage. On top of that, my relationships with my immediate family back in California were growing distant and strained, and I felt like the only person backing me up was my own husband, which for some reason at the time didn’t feel like enough. What better trick from the enemy than to make me feel isolated?
For months, I doubted, feared, and hesitated. Was this not the right decision? Am I being selfish? Should I forget about pursuing this and just get a normal job so I can help pay the bills? As the self-interrogation mounted, I lost focus and confidence to continue. But if the Lord had put this desire in me, all I needed to do was trust He would be here to help me finish it, right? Isn’t that what He says He’ll do? Yet it wasn’t that simple. How could I get to the point of trusting Him when all I felt in my heart was pain?
No one does trust better than Jesus. It’s one of the tightest bonds He has with the Father. I didn’t know it yet, but Jesus was about to show me that it’s the kind of bond He wanted with me. I was reading the Word one day and it occurred to me that Jesus showed no hint of hesitation about going to the cross until He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. That’s the time when He asks the Father if He will let this cup pass from Him. Even in this, Jesus says that not His own will be done but rather the Father’s.
But what stood out to me as I read this passage was the moment just after that—the Word says an angel appeared to Jesus and strengthened Him. Strengthened Him? Dear Father, where was my angel? Couldn’t You have just sent me one when I needed strength during my almost season? Couldn’t you see the pain and pressure I was enduring? But that’s not what this passage was about. As I continued to read, it says Jesus started to sweat blood. Yes, blood. And that was after the angel already came to strengthen Him. Yes, after.
That’s when it hit me.
At no point in time is it ever easy to finish something good. Even for Jesus, finishing came with its own set of challenges and pain. It’s only now that I can see how He too, endured a season of “almost”—but His escalated into hours of physical torture, spiritual torment, the fullness of brutality, and all of mankind’s sin before He finally reached the moment where He could say, “It is finished.” My season now seemed so insignificant compared to His.
But what He did when He was here on earth, the life He lived, and what He finished on that cross wasn’t meant to diminish my life and make me feel like a big wimp. Rather, it’s for me to cling to, to relate to, to connect me to Him so that when I’m going through my own personal struggles and life throws crap my way, I can turn to Him and know that He actually gets it–He gets me.
That’s the truth He wanted me to grasp. He knows exactly what it’s like to experience fear, stress, and anxiety because He himself endured these things. And in the end He conquered that season for Himself; but more amazingly, He conquered it for me.
Pain and suffering are sure to come in the midst of my almost seasons. The Word pretty much guarantees it. But now I know I can put my full trust in the Father and although He may not send an actual physical angel, He did give me Jesus. With Him, all things are possible and to me that means I’m capable of enduring whatever comes at me, and nothing can stop my journey toward that glorious and beautiful finish.
Father, I learned something new yesterday from my optometrist. During my eye exam, she told me that there appeared to be a slight scratch and tiny deposit on the outer layer of my cornea. She seemed so casual when she mentioned it so my initial fear of it being a serious issue quickly subsided. So I asked her about it and she explained how each of us has a very thin outer layer that protects our eye and whenever this layer gets damaged, it sheds itself, disposes of the waste, and regenerates, thus creating a fresh new layer all on its own. I was so amazed by this small thing and at the same time, just in complete awe knowing that this is just one of the many beautiful and complex systems you’ve set up. How small is this process and yet, it’s so technical and necessary. All these years, I never even knew that our eyes had the capacity to do such a thing. But there I was yesterday, listening intently like a little school girl as my optometrist explained all these things to me and I couldn’t help but experience child-like wonder and say out loud, “Wow. That’s so cool!”
Every day, you show up. And even in the small things, your handiwork is a reflection of your intellectual creativity.
Father, I don’t deserve him. And I certainly don’t deserve You. But here he is, and here You are–both, so very real and so very present in my life.
But the world denies You. And they try to convince me that You don’t exist. And they wake up every morning and use the breath that You give them to spread lies about You. Who are we to put You on trial and question Your existence and sense of judgement? By now, I would have broken my promise to mankind and flooded the earth once more. And I wouldn’t have cared. But You are merciful and give second chances, and part of me feels ashamed when I can relate with Jonah’s frustration at Your grace.
You keep their hearts beating but they divert their thoughts away from You rather than toward You. They constantly distract themselves, filling their minds with discoveries, possibilities, and what ifs in the midst of Your evident glory which shines through every sunrise and the sunset. And they bask in it with softly closed eyes, soaking in every ray of Your light and eternal beauty. SNAP! They take a photo of Your art, selfishly lay claim to it as if they themselves made it, while others in their shallowness say thoughtlessly, “Isn’t Mother Nature clever?”
A plane went missing in the middle of the ocean, and we have all the best knowledge and science and experts and power and yet, the world is still lost, confused, and searching. Why? How is it that mankind can be so intelligent and confident, yet we remain so incapable of providing simple answers to questions like, “Where is the bloody plane?” What of our pride now? Our boasting and our arrogance?
The whole world is watching. We’ve been on the moon; we have satellites in outer space; we have the technology to measure the deepest parts of the ocean; and at the same time, we’re being told that an airplane can’t be found. Why am I expected to believe all this information and accept it as truth? But You tell me in Your Word that You spoke stars into existence, and I know that the world is quick to dismiss and reject the idea altogether like it’s absolutely ludicrous.
“Well maybe [this] or maybe [that],” I often hear them say in a desperate attempt to try to explain things. But “maybe” is a dangerous word. It is the neutral zone which has no absolutes. It is obtuse, ambiguous, and quickly leads to a self-destructive desert. It is a disease that spreads false hope and praises potential but never provides definitive answers. The lost, the striving, the insecure, the confused, and the just plain stupid–they thrive in a world of maybe.
But “maybe” is a curse. It is the grey area where he told me he could no longer remain. I remember it clearly. His lovely blue eyes looking directly into mine, with a face so handsome and intent, I couldn’t help but feel a level of conviction and a slight pierce to my heart. This was the moment of clarity for me. Clouds of confusion would dissipate with his one proposition which required an absolute. And because he spoke in black and white, I was able to respond decisively without hesitation. “Yes.”
Sometimes I wonder if “maybe” is the lukewarm You speak of in Your book. If lukewarm had a colour, would it be grey? Grey is the intermediate between black and white. By its own definition, it has “no hue” and “transmits only a little light.” And I know that goes against everything You are and everything You call me to be.
Help me navigate through this ocean of uncertainty and its many maybes. Help me never lose sight of Your light, Your love, and Your presence. Thank You for being absolute in everything and for never hesitating about Who You Are. You alone are the ever present and ever relevant I AM. You are my beginning and my end, and in You and with You, I have all the answers that I need.
“Human character evermore publishes itself. The most fugitive deed and word, the mere air of doing a thing, the intimated purpose, expresses character. If you act, you show character; if you sit still, if you sleep, you show it. You think, because you have spoken nothing when others spoke, and have given no opinion on the times, on the church, on slavery, on marriage, on socialism, on secret societies, on the college, on parties and persons, that your verdict is still expected with curiosity as a reserved wisdom. Far otherwise; your silence answers very loud. You have no oracle to utter, and your fellow-men have learned that you cannot help them; for oracles speak. Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice?”
- from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essay on Spiritual Laws
They’ve made another movie about you. Are Christians excited about it? I’m not. Does that make me less of a Christian?
All I know is that one thing remains constant each time a new movie about you gets released: they perpetually portray you as a fair-skinned pretty boy. But the Word in Isaiah 53:2, when predicting your coming, described You like this:
For he grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
Why must people continue making dramatizations about your life and misrepresent you? And to top it off, they profit from it.
Perhaps you never expected us to constantly turn you into some sort of icon or movie hero because the whole reason You came in the first place was to be our every day, real life hero. Do they think it’s art? Do they think they’re doing You a service? Do they see this as a form of ministry?
Why does it seem like Your word is never enough for some people? Forgive them for they know not what they do.
(in no particular order except what simply came to mind)
I just received some very sad news from my friend that her grandpa passed away. She’s absolutely heartbroken but even more so is her grandma who he has now left behind. He was 92. Some of you may have heard about it on the news today. Her grandpa was Harold Camping.
I had no clue. Living in Australia tends to do that to me. I’m totally out of the loop on things happening back in the U.S. But this–this is different. It’s not just news. It’s something I’ve thought about so many times in my life. It’s a moment I once dreaded and a moment I sadly confess, I once hoped for–that Harold Camping would go away.
Because you see, I used to be a strong believer in his teachings. I would cling to his every word, his interpretations, his mathematical equations, and his predictions. I believed them to be truth because they were, according to him, based on God’s truth. But when Jesus didn’t come back in 1994, I started to question everything. About God, about myself, about truth. It was only years later when I left to attend Bible college that I even thought to question Harold.
Some of you may wonder what took so long. Perhaps it’s because I’ve only always known him to be a family man. A family man who runs a radio station. And that radio station is the reason my parents became Christians in the first place. My father often recalls the story of when he was flicking through the radio channels in the car and stumbled across Family Radio and from that point on, he never switched the dial. It’s been on ever since.
In our home, I grew up listening to Family Radio and could always recognize Harold’s voice. It was familiar, gentle, and comforting. Oftentimes, it would put me to sleep–mostly on Sunday mornings when I’d be sitting in one of those stiff, cold chairs in that vacant, echoey building draped with oversized red velvet curtains as a backdrop. How often I would day dream during those moments but look forward to open singing time when he’d let us choose our favourite hymns and lead us all through a half hour or so of solemn worship.
Some of the best times of my life have been with Harold and his family. My best friend was one of his granddaughters. She and I were inseparable. Every July, we couldn’t wait to meet up at Mission Springs for Family Radio Bible Camp which was an annual tradition started by this man and his ministry. I absolutely loved it–it was the one week I would look forward to all year, every year–even more than my own birthday. It meant I got to see my best friend, run around freely, go to classes on my own, eat watermelon and ice cream, sing songs, make crafts, go on hikes, and just be a kid. It shaped me. And quite honestly, I don’t think I’d be the same person without all those summers at Mission Springs. And it’s all thanks to Harold.
But as I got older and the teachings got a bit, well, let’s just say less theologically sound, I started to really dislike him. I hated knowing that my parents were being taught something so out of line with God’s Word. I hated knowing that so many thousands of others were being misled as well. But mostly, I just hated knowing that he thought he could calculate my God. The One he’d been teaching us was so infinite in wisdom, so omnipotent, and so powerful. How the created could reduce the Creator to a mathematical prediction boggled my mind and filled me with the most incredible amount of resentment toward him.
Yes, the same man who I found so endearing. The kindhearted and inviting old dude whose family I often joined for summer camping trips at Lake Del Valle and other random holiday gatherings. Him. How did I ever reach the point of wishing him dead and gone?
Today it happened–Harold is gone. He’s left us. And how do I feel? I don’t know. If you were to ask me the same question in December of 2010 when my parents sat us down near the Christmas tree and basically told us, in all seriousness, that this was in fact our last Christmas together, I would’ve had a different reaction. But so much has happened since then. So much has changed. And not just with Harold but with me.
They say time heals all wounds but I don’t feel as though anything has been healed. Not with the passing of time nor with Harold gone. To the world, all that’s left is the memory of his life so full of Bible study, controversy, and media attention. But what does it mean for those of us who knew him? Who grew close to him? Who were welcomed into his family?
He was a real man with a real purpose. He had a wife and a family he loved. He cared for people. He had a passion for truth and longed for others to know it. He loved reading God’s Word and sharing what he learned with others. And boy could he sing the shit out of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” every year at Christmas service. These are the things I’ll remember. These are the things I hope others will, too.
Lord, I’m grateful for Harold Camping. And I want to thank you for the love You showed me through him. Because of him, I was able to draw closer to You, to Your truth, and to Your realness.
The other day I was listening to a song with my husband that brought me to tears. It was as if it had been written just for me and the author knew my exact situation, all that I’d been going through over the past year with my family, and the incredibly heavy toll it had taken on my heart.
The lyrics, the melody, the flow, the escalating verses and chorus–it all came rushing through me and then with all calmness it brought a tender hush to my tortured mind, gently whispering soft comforts to ease the disquiet of my soul. Perhaps the song wasn’t written just for me, but I’d like to believe it was. Because to me, it is absolutely perfect.
How is it possible to feel so understood by someone you have never met in person? The words written could not be any more fitting–they are the emotions I have experienced time and time again, but never had the energy to express; they capture the thoughts which have filled my mind but could never say aloud; but now, they are here. So perfectly composed and so well delivered.
I couldn’t ask for a better gift at this time of the year. It reminded me that I’ve made it through those dark times. It propels me toward the next thing and motivates me to fix my eyes on what’s ahead, and to quit treading through the old. And so, I’d like to express my humble appreciation and thanks to the One who gave life to the world’s greatest poet and paired him with a talented Australian musician to create such a beautifully moving and soulful song.
Lord, your timing could not be more perfect. And for that and so much more, I want to say thank You.
Copyright © 2014 Josephine Dayco