A Little Post About God: Constant and Consistent

I don’t know about you, but consistency has been a theme I’ve wrestled with a lot in 2020. From the way we have been advised about Covid-19, the public policies that have been <arbitrarily> enacted and revised, the election and political debate we are ensnared in, and even the strange rhythms of life… where is there any consistency? And why do I long for it?

There are some verses that have been swirling around in my head recently that are, at the core, about God’s consistent character. I’ve been using them as mantras in the last few months when I feel anxiety start to build. I wanted to share how they intersect and why they matter to me.

“The Father and I are one.” John 10:30
I’ve been thinking of this one in tandem with the way God showed himself to Moses and Elijah. Those guys were the big miracle players of the Old Testament and some of God’s biggest demonstrations of power were accomplished with them and through them. In both cases, despite the big miracles, these men were exhausted by their circumstances. God knew when they needed tenderness, and not just another demonstration of power, so he allowed Moses to “see” him (Exodus 33:17-23) and he ministered to Elijah with food and the gentle wind (I Kings 17 and 19). I am mesmerized by God being intimate, reigning in the mighty to be gentle. It’s almost more awesome to harness power than to unleash it. So in John 10:30, when Jesus says, “The Father and I are one”- that means Jesus is the same God that comforted Moses and Elijah. He mirrors that same tenderness and power. He demonstrated it when he commanded the wind and sea to calm for his disciples (Mark 4:35-41). His actions were consistent with his words.

“Jesus is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow.” Hebrews 13:8.
If Jesus and God are one, and he has the same power and tenderness that was demonstrated to Moses and Elijah and to the disciples on Sea of Galilee, then that is also available for me. For today. For tomorrow. ALWAYS. It’s consistent eternally. The powerful and tender character of God is constant over the span of hundreds of Biblical years between Moses, Elijah, and the disciples. This verse tells me that it is still true.

“God can be trusted.” I Corinthians 1:9
I came across this one today. I was reading the first chapter of Corinthians, and the first and last bits of Paul’s letters are not always theological, sometimes there’s just a long greeting and some administrative stuff, so I was skimming until this jumped off the page at me: God can be trusted. Many translations use “faithful” instead of “trusted,” and they’re both meaningful words. Trusted means “proven to be true,” and it lines up with the two previous verses and the message God has been teaching me. God has always been trustworthy. Always faithful.

When nothing is consistent; when the circumstances don’t seem to line up in any pattern that makes sense, when the people that I love and care about act in ways that depart from what I thought was true of them, when I’m rattled by the tension of decision making and little seems constant and true, those are the moments I seek God. I am desperate for an anchor that hasn’t changed and isn’t changing and won’t change. He is constantly consistent. He is consistently constant. The God of creation is the source of remarkable power and tenderness. He has proven to be so for generations. And he can be trusted today, tomorrow, and always.

Romanticizing

Paul and I were at the ocean the other day, seemingly hypnotized by the relentless surf reclaiming the beach, when a thought burst into my head. How much time will pass before we start romanticizing this Strange Time we are in? I’ve already seen the memes on social media celebrating this idea of families gathered around the dinner table each night, kids playing outside and all the busyness seemingly stripped away so that relationships come first. But we who are here now, in this moment, we know it is much more complicated.

It’s natural to romanticize our memories, isn’t it? We lived in Canada for four years. I complained about the weather every single day that we lived there. I missed my family back in the States. The expat experience was one in which I didn’t know what I didn’t know and it frustrated me regularly. And yet, that experience was so good for our family. We learned to rely on each other and to enjoy each other-just the four of us- in ways we could have never learned back home in Georgia. The kids attended an amazing school. We built community and lifelong friendships. And now, I only remember the good. Sometimes I will comment, “I miss Canada so much.” My husband will smile at me indulgently and remind me that winter was a 6 month affair and I am a person that needs a blanket when the air conditioner is running. All true, but I do miss the good things.

I hear people wax nostalgic for bygone eras. Simpler times, they say. Simpler maybe, or maybe just innocent or naive to the weight of what was going on. I think of the 1970s of my childhood as “simpler” times, yet the country was polarized from racial tensions, the Vietnam War, Watergate, energy shortages, high inflation, and high unemployment. That didn’t touch me personally because I was a child, completely cared for by loving parents and not in any way directly impacted by the heaviness of the world outside my small town.

All of these ruminating thoughts ran through my head because I want so badly to process this experience in such a way that I can hold the tension that there were good things about this global pause, AND there was also restlessness, grief, fear, anger, and uncertainty. People lost jobs. Milestones went uncelebrated. We collectively held our breath for the vulnerable in our society left in tenuous situations. That has to be lamented as much as any silver lining about playing in nature and family suppers.

Later that day, I picked up a novel, The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins. It’s a wonderful book, but this exchange between the protagonist, Grace, and her foster mother, Mama G, seemed to speak right into the vacuum of my thoughts.

Grace had to laugh. “I suppose things were different back then.”

“You have no idea.” Mama G sipped her hot cocoa, a faraway look in her eyes. “It’s odd- when you look back, things seem simpler, but they weren’t.”

“Really?”

“When it’s a memory, you already know the outcome, so we believe it was an easier time. Looking forward is much more uncertain, and so it feels more complicated. But I don’t think it is. Not really.”

The Book Charmer. Karen Hawkins Gallery Books 2019 page 268

I’m not a psychologist but I would imagine that retaining good memories is what keeps us going forward into the uncertain. It has to be a component of the resiliency of the human spirit. As we go into the future, unsure of the outcomes that lie before us, we rest in the confidence of our personal history that whatever happens, there will be good with the bad. We need only to look back and remember that it all, somehow, worked out ok.

In some ways it seems such a waste to set aside some of the struggles in order to hold onto a silver lining narrative. These are strange times, and there is much to be lamented. The history books will hold the facts about the science and policy. It will be up to each of us, collectively and individually, to hold the bitter and the sweet together, and allow it to shape us as we go forward.