Editor’s Note: Have you heard the news about our summer Online Bible study, the WayMaker with Ann Voskamp? The study is a journey through Exodus to see that there is a Red Sea Road through every impossible and that God is creating a Way through all our hard places. More than anything else, this is a study about drawing closer to Jesus, the Waymaker Himself, who “never, ever, ever, ever stops making a way to be closer to you.” (Ann). It’s going to be an unforgettable experience and we would love to have you join us! Here’s an exclusive excerpt from the companion book...
The sweetest joys and delights I have experienced, have not been those that have arisen from a hope of my own good estate, but in a direct view of the glorious things of the gospel... I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express... to be full of Christ alone; to love Him with a holy and pure love; to trust in Him; to live upon Him; to serve and follow Him. ~ Jonathan Edwards
She comes running through the door for me first, like she’s some prodigal’s father, widely wasteful with lavish love. “Your heart brave, too, Mama? Your heart brave like mine?”
Shiloh’s crawling up in the bed to kiss me, hiking up her t-shirt for me to see the raised scar from her heart surgery that parts her chest like a Red Sea Road, scars always a memory made into skin, a memory you can touch.
“Ah, baby girl, Mama doesn’t have a brave heart or scar like yours.” I’m smiling, but my eyes are searching the face of her papa coming in tentatively behind her. He’s the one who bears all my scars. I want to trace every one of the scars I’ve made, whisper sorry, beg mercy.
“But Mama? You got heart lines though, Mama, see?” Shiloh’s tracing lines and leads from screens to my chest.
“Shiloh? What’s Mama’s heart always tied to?”
And in one supernova explosion, Shiloh breaks into this dazzling smile, like she’s a morning star rising after a glacial dark. “I knowwwww, Mama, I always know.” And she dances her fingers on her chest and then flings both her hands toward me. And I’m laughing, mirroring her, fingers dancing on chest, then stretching both hands toward her, she and I both saying it in unison, same rhythm, same heartbeat: “My heart is always tied to your heart.”
She throws back her head and laughs, like she is soft light dancing over a singing brook, and I’m drenched in the loveliness of her. Hearts tied, hers and mine.
Attached, we are free to love.
“Darryl?” I stretch my arm out toward him standing in the doorway... pat the side of the hospital bed. “My heart is tied to yours too... my heart is yours too.”
My heart for yours, my walk with yours,
my life bound to yours,
till my last breath, then always and forever.
He shakes his head slowly, his eyes desperately sad, wounded. Shiloh’s pulling out books and crayons from her backpack, half-singing to herself, her half a heart beating steady between surgeries. My heart is in all kinds of failure. Darryl’s standing here, the way a man can, though his heart’s breaking slow.
“I’m sorry. I am unspeakably sorry.” I can feel it, embodied in me, with the weight of my pneumonia lungs and how hard it is to breathe: “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,” says the Word,1 destruction literally meaning narrowness, while straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to the expansive life. The way of sin is wide-open and easy, but it narrows until life becomes crushed. The way of life is narrow, but “it broadens out into the spaciousness of life.”2
- The pathway of least resistance leads to the least life. It’s the narrow pathway of great resistance that leads to the great life.
What can I even stammer but this: “I have sinned against heaven and you. I am unspeakably sorry for all the ways I’ve turned my own way, gone my own way, failed in all kinds of heartbreaking ways. Ways that kinda actually broke your heart.”
“Oh, Ann.” He sits down on the edge of the bed. “You’re not alone... every single one of us has wanted our own way, gone our own way, in different ways.”
I drop my head to his chest. And I break, a dam, and everything runs liquid, free.
I’ve been addicted to me.
My addiction is to self. It is an excruciatingly painful thing to cut open your heart and see: My addiction is me.
I have committed idolatry.
I have broken the first commandment:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. — Exodus 20:2–3
Instead of laying myself down on the altar as a living sacrifice before God, I’ve put myself, my needs, my wants, my dreams, before God, before Darryl, before my love-covenant to both. Instead of trusting God to take care of me, I have turned and gone looking for all the lying ways of this hurting old world to comfort me. Instead of entering into the sufferings of Christ, who keeps His covenant to suffer with us, I have kept looking for the way out, any way out, always looking for an exodus out of pain. And where we keep looking for a way out of our heartbreak, we only drag a whole lot of beautiful souls into more heartbreak.
I bear heartbreaking witness to the way of my ways: Nothing destroys a life like idolatry. Nothing destabilizes a life like centering self. Nothing will turn your life into a colossal mess like turning inward. All your incurvatus in se will leave you begging for a cure.
Though the roads will look different for each of us, always: The only way out and through is to enter into the sufferings of Christ. Only the One who keeps His covenant to suffer with you can carry you the whole way through.
- Always: The only way out is to turn outward, love reaching out to God and others.
- And always, always, always: If you don’t set yourself apart for a SACRED way with God, you set out to tear your own life apart.
I’m wild to go home and tear out that clematis, that was my own wayward, turned-inward heart, that was just about the death of me, and I am desperately ready to die to self to wake to the one SACRED life I always dreamed of.
When I look up, everything is swimming and blurring, and my chest feels like a narrowing vise.
Instead of gazing on the beauty of God Himself, we’ve all kept gazing on a way, a dream of another life without suffering that we’ve made into some kind of god to us. Instead of turning toward God, we all keep returning to the garden to go our own way and eat the damned apple, and then try to convince ourselves and all the world that it tastes divinely sweet, when the truth of it is, we have never chosen to taste and see the eternally satisfying rich goodness of God.
Each of us has curved our own way and away from God, rejecting His ways through suffering, His way of wooing us through heartbreak, His way of taking care of us through everything, when it’s only His way that will make the most fulfilling way.
I brush my cheeks with the back of my hand, look up into Darryl’s eyes, and I can read God. God doesn’t break attachment and abandon those who break His heart in a thousand ways. We break God’s heart, and God calls us beloved; we’ve gone our own way, but God won’t let us go. We run, and God seeks romance.
I loved him…
I took them up by their arms... I led them with cords of kindness,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke
on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them...
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?... My heart recoils within me,
my compassions grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy... for I am God and not a man.
(Hosea 11:1, 3–4, 8–9 ESV)
- There is no way God will ever abandon us; there is no way He will ever give up on us.
He can only give us hesed-lovingkindness. The way the WayMaker’s heart beats toward every struggler, and sufferer, and straggler wandering is nothing less than:
My compassion grows warm and tender. — Hosea 11:8 ESV
“God in whose hand are all creatures, is your Father, and is much more tender of you than you are, or can be, of yourself,” assured Puritan John Flavel.3
The clematis may curve and attach this way and that, and our hearts may curve away and grow cold toward God, but God says, “I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (11:9 ESV). The WayMaker’s ways are not our ways, they are higher, with stratospheric covenantal commitment, meteoric compassion, heaven-high hesed-lovingkindness. It’s not our perfect ways that persuade God’s heart, but it’s our imperfect ways that make His heart passionate for us. The WayMaker works in ways far higher and kinder than ours, and He never stops working to take care of us in ways that are working more good for us than we ever dreamed: “With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?” (Romans 8:31–32 MSG, emphasis mine).
“I desire steadfast love [hesed] and not sacrifice” is what God says (Hosea 6:6 ESV). “For trust did I want, and not sacrifice and knowledge of God more than sacrifice.”* God, who gives us only hesed-lovingkindness, desires faithful, hesed-attachment love from us—that we trust the ways He takes care of us, that we acknowledge how He is more than a good Father, that He is a loving, kind Father, and that we are safe to go His way.
Cheap faith says one has only to believe. But the truth is: Real Christians aren’t merely the believers. Even the demons believe (James 2:19). Real Christians are actually those who turn, faithful followers who keep turning and turning, to be the faithful trusters. Christianity is never only the mental assent of faith in Jesus, without requiring the lived attachment, trusting faithfulness to Jesus. Why in the aching world don’t we give our trusting, hesed-faithfulness back to a God who hesed-loves us like this? Because we don’t intimately yada-know Him. To truly know Him is to truly trust Him. To bear witness to an honest revealing of God’s heart is to only find God’s heart for you appealing. It is a “misapprehension of God [which] is at the root of all hostility to God in the human soul.”4 If we really knew God, how could we ever have a divided heart?
How often do we want God to divide some Red Sea for us, yet we are the ones with a divided heart?
2.G. Campbell Morgan, Hosea: The Heart and Holiness of God (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1998), 19.
3.John Flavel, Keeping the Heart: How to Maintain Your Love for God (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Heritage, 2012), 57.
4.Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018), Hosea 6:6.
Excerpted with permission from WayMaker by Ann Voskamp, copyright Ann Morton Voskamp.
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Join us for the 6-week WayMaker Online Bible Study! Come share with us who you are inviting! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily