I don’t blog like I used to, and I’m truly grateful to those of you who still humor my occasional tirades and gabfests by stopping in from time-to-time. Some of you may not know it, but in its heyday this blog was decently well-read. My inbox was filled to the brim. I don’t think I ever caught up (I just wrote a book). We–my handsome husband and I–were called to the front of our local church to pray for hurting marriages. If you wanted to encourage an on-the-brink couple, you–the evangelical internet–might have directed the wife to my blog. Thousands of you did, ’cause we had a testimony. And in case you’re not familiar with the lingo, testimony means, “Something really bad happened, and then something wonderful happened to make all the bad seem worth it.”
For the past few weeks I’ve been looking again at Abraham’s story. I love Abraham. And I mean him no disrespect, but I love how intrinsically flawed he was. He wasn’t like Noah. The dark splotch on Noah’s record is a night of I-am-literally-alone, loneliness induced drunkenness. Are you gonna say you blame him? But Abraham, Abraham was a witness at his own wife’s wedding–twice–just to save his own skin. That’s pretty hard to live down. And the way I read it, Abraham prayed the way for the Ammonites and the Moabites. He begat a family feud (though we can blame that one on his wife). These are immensely consequential bad days. Though, of course, God had a plan for all of the bad days. Despite what might look like a marred record, Abe lived a life of unimaginable faith.
Abraham died without seeing the fulfillment of all that God had promised, but he died still knowing he would see it one day. Faith, not miraculous blessing, is what Abraham’s legacy boasts. Abraham’s testimony is faith for the journey; it is not the destination. If I ever get the chance to really sit down and talk with Abraham, I don’t want to hear about the day Isaac was born–not right away. And it’s not that I don’t hold tight to the pertaining promise, but there are other things I want to know before I ask about the ram in the thicket.
I want to hear about that long, grueling walk to the top of Mount Moriah. I want to hear about the day he told the king of Sodom to take a hike. I want to know what was going through his mind as he readied servants to fight kings. I want to hear about the years he spent waiting for Isaac. I want to hear about Ishmael; I want to know all about Ishmael. And I want to hear about the day he sent Ishmael to wander away.
So please, stop. Stop telling me that God is good because of how He’s said yes to your prayers. It makes a great story: how He saved you from the fiery furnace. What makes it a true, lasting testimony is that He strengthened you to stand in the flames. Yes, God gives us good things, and of course we should tell people about them; but the goodness of God is not defined by what He gives us. Judging God by His blessings is like judging an earthly parent by the birthday presents they give. Good parenting is made in moments of disciplining, teaching, training, and late-night heart-to-heart talking. Presents are just a bonus.
So if you’re one of the few still stumbling upon my old posts and gleaning encouragement from my testimony, please glean encouragement from this: I still believe every word. I’m still standing (usually smiling) and trusting. God is good–all the time–in sunshine and in rain.