I love answering the question, “What is God doing in your life?” I love that the question implies that God is active and energetically busy, and He is involved in my life as an individual. It implies that He is interested in connecting with me, and that He is not ambivalent or far away. It implies that He communicates with me in a way I understand, and He understands what I say back to Him.

Of the two of us, He is the smarter. He is the wiser, the more capable. As Reinhard Bonnke says so gently,

“…The Christian God does it the other way around. He spreads the table for His children. And in the other religions, people always seek God. In the Christian faith, God seeks man.”

My heart needs to know I am sought-after. So many circumstances would try to convince me otherwise. Having followed God to England this past autumn, having given up life as I’ve known it and embraced to the fullest of my ability what I felt He was asking of me; having faced the unanticipated consequence of heartbreak when I left England sooner than expected, walked through the tears and challenges of putting life together again, and even as I crossed the Atlantic realizing I was coming home to begin a new life with the man who is now my fiancé – coming home a different person, the transformations accomplished bluntly as well as gently; and going from one promise to another, like leapfrogging through a gauntlet, catching a breath before engaging with the next challenge of the heart; having finally found a car but repairs are expensive; having a part time job but a check lost in the mail; having an idyllic living situation but being unable to hide from my heart; I take off my shoes at the door of this truth: the God in whom I trust is active on my behalf. He holds my heart and my every circumstance. I am His responsibility, and it is wisdom to trust Him.

And with every bite of chocolate and every flip through the Netflix catalog, my heart searches for connection with Him. With every tear of frustration and daunting situation, every misplaced expectation on the fiancé or the friends, every pick at every pore, every impulse to control, my heart cries out for Him.

And I am finding Him in my pain. It’s as if my pain were contained in a whiskey barrel, and having purchased it from me, He is content to sit in that barrel until I am ready to address it. There seems to be a difference between ownership and possession. By rights that pain belongs to Jesus, but He waits for me to unlock the storeroom, lead Him in, and give Him possession. Legally, the paperwork has been signed, and in a court of law, His title holds up. But gentleman that He is, He does not press His authority. Rather He waits for me.

I say I’ve given Him the keys to my heart, so in order to unlock it again, I ask for them back. And we unlock rooms together. We shine light into unlit places where the bulbs burned out long ago, places even the rats have abandoned because of the stench. But as much as He goes with me into those places, I find He has been there before me, waiting.

I wonder if all those tears in bottles are spent tears, or tears waiting to be spent. I find I cry to the bottom of the barrel sometimes. I cry out all that pain I denied – how it really did hurt, although I wish it hadn’t. All the pain I avoided by forgiving too quickly, as if forgiveness were a skin graft over an infected wound, rather than the cleansing and restoring it actually enables.

I’ve been forgiving too quickly. I’ve acted as if forgiveness is the antidote to pain.

If I forgive quick enough, I won’t have to feel the pain.

But in the quiet, in the long stretches of nothing; in the draining of the bank account, in the frustration; in telling the story, in the beauty of friends from whom I can’t hide, who draw out truth from me like iron filings to a magnet; in the guilt for avoiding big church meetings or not reading my Bible daily or avoiding the music room or over-sugaring my coffee; I find the truth. I find that it hurt. I find the cuss words and the names of emotions. I find He is there. I find He is helping me. I find the barrel is much deeper than I thought, but as I’ve gone this far, I might as well find the bottom. I find I’ve tipped over the edge of the slippery slope, and I’m falling head over heels down the stairs.

And there at the bottom, where I thought I would land, where the floor is hard and the corners sharp, I find I am caught. I find the safest arms I’ve ever known. I find I’m enveloped in my favorite scent. I find the most absorbent shoulder, the most gentle hands wiping mucous and tears.

I wouldn’t say faith is a crutch because it’s a challenging road to walk. It’s a river that has many put-in ramps but very few take-out points. Once you’re on it, the options are limited: cling to the boat and let the current take you; paddle to the side and refuse to go further; or address that man in the back of the boat, the one with His paddle down in the water, sitting confidently erect, yet at rest, steering with gentle precision that comes with knowing a river intimately. And as a child, or a happy Tiger Lily princess, I can sit in the front, looking ahead, looking back, looking all around. Rapids and storms and gnarly-looking critters, overhanging branches set with spider webs and abandoned bobbers, shallows and litter and slime and stench, the bits of the river that no photographer cares to capture, the un-pretty effects of a life of exchange, the refuse and fear and challenges and uncertainties, these all comprise the view.

But behind me there is Someone steering, and His eyes are up. Confident in His hands’ ability, He steers without looking. And I follow His gaze to see what He sees: the eagles circling, the kestrels in the trees, the heron on the shore poised to take flight.

And someone asks me what God is doing in my life. I pause to sort through the melange of stories, which one to tell. This beautiful infinite complexity all boils down to a kind and tender truth: He knows me, He loves me, and He is passionately seeking my heart.