Grief comes in waves, and this was a big one, threatening to crush me and drag me under. Fear, shame, disbelief, hopelessness, and tears. The overwhelming circumstances magnifying the weakness of my flesh, the doubting in my spirt, the anxiety in my mind. A baby in my arms, a toddler at my feet, three little boys running through the house, my dinner preparation interrupted by the phone and doorbell needing me simultaneously. In a moment of frustration and anger, I held up my wooden spoon in the air and yelled to God, “If you are going to be a Father to the fatherless, now would be a very good time to start!” And, as if just waiting to be invited, God’s presence filled my little kitchen and brought me to my knees, sitting on the floor with my children who had gathered. An unmistakable, warm, weighty blanket of love, comfort, peace to my troubled heart and life. His presence, accompanied by his laughter.
It has taken me many years to comprehend and experience the truth of the presence of God. The “I AM” and the “I will” of God that was the answer to my grief that day. The laughter of God that sees a victorious future that we cannot see sometimes. That despite all the facts of my natural circumstances and all the lies screaming in my mind, “You are alone, this is impossible, this pain will overwhelm you, you will be defeated”, the truth remained, as expressed in God’s presence, I was not alone.
And, as grace would have it, God didn’t come when we were all dressed up in our “Sunday best”, pretending to have it altogether, saying “I got this God”. He came into my broken, desperate, real life, with a sink full of dirty dishes, crabby kids, torn apart marriage, exhausted body, and broken heart and said “I have you”.
The gift of his grace poured out the first time I received Him was for my Salvation. While we were yet sinners God died for the ungodly. And then, His grace poured out again and again every day since that time. In my heart, I sometimes substitute another word for sinners… while we were yet….stubborn, hurting, anxious, fearful, enraged-- His presence, his unmerited, undeserved grace and favor comes again and again.
Thus, by God’s invitation to join him, I took my first tentative steps to know and experience God, as Father to the fatherless and the God of all comfort. Countless times, in practical and ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary ways, we experienced the unrelenting love, the fierce protection, covering, and provision of God. And, as I experienced the gift of the presence of God, the answer back in my heart, “It is you, Lord and thank you” a thousand times.
And, he had so much more of himself to give and show and teach us about-- so many more ways to express his character. I think of the verse from John 17:3: And this is eternal life that they might know thee the only true God. And, as the years unfolded, in our needs, in our crying out to God, it seemed his pleasure to reveal himself. Need direction? The Good Shepherd. Wisdom? The Wonderful Counselor. Lack? Provision. Grief? Comfort. Anxiety? The Prince of Peace. Sin? Our Righteousness.
When I think of Advent two things come to mind, the remembrance of Jesus first arrival as our Messiah, Jesus at Christmas; and what we wait for expectantly now, the Advent of his Second Coming. Yes, but also the Advent—the arrival of God into my heart and life circumstances today. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, your life and grace into this situation today. In the season of Advent, when I hear the Name of God, Emmanuel, my heart resounds with Joy, “Yes, you are with me”. The present of the Presence of God is with me.
And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.