Joni…Joni…Joni… Can you hear me calling you? Can you see me sitting so close here by you? Joni…Joni…Joni…
During my year in North Carolina from summer 2005–2006, I was miserable most of the time, and I don’t remember God ever being so close to me. He sustained me financially and with friends to assuage the persistent loneliness, but I could not receive his presence. I knew he was there, and other people who peered into my life saw him there next to me, too.
I remember one night being at a small group meeting. A friend sat beside me on the couch after the formalities were concluded. We were praying for each other, and she said she heard his voice like honey calling me, Joni…Joni…Joni.
I knew it was true! And in that moment I smiled and fell over on the couch groaning, like some guy that I kind of liked but didn’t really think was all that special had just shown up with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me. I know he loves me, I thought, but what is he going to do for me? He doesn’t seem to do anything except say, Here I am.
As lightly as I took it then, his persistent presence infuriated me day to day. How can you show up here over and over again and do nothing? Don’t you see how unhappy I am? I know you can change things for me, so why don’t you do it? Other people don’t seem to struggle the way I do with the simplest things. Why does it have to be so hard for me? What did I do to deserve this kind of life? How can you just sit there and not do something? I don’t want you here if you’re not going to help me.
I felt he owed me something, that he was holding out on me, as if he were a deadbeat father that was years behind in child support payments, showing up with the means to make things right, but instead he just wants to tell me that he loves me. This was the way I saw things. So rather than enjoying the intimacy that was available to me, I was angry and pushed him away over and over again. I wanted his help, not his love.
I was like Martha meeting Jesus after the death of Lazarus: If you had been here, my brother would not have died (John 11). When Jesus clearly tells her that her brother will live again, Martha thinks he’s trying to change the subject. Her brother had physically died, but she suspected that Jesus was trying to talk to her about the resurrection of the dead on the last day, when in fact he was talking about physically raising Lazarus from the dead.
But he saw her heart. I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this?
With his consistent presence, he asked me the same question. This life you want that is so much better than the one you have now… Don’t you know, I am the life? Here I am.
It reminds me of the a hymn we sang at my church growing up: Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me… O for the wonderful love He has promised, Promised for you and for me! Never pressing, never yelling, never striving with me, just his presence inescapable, relentlessly gentle, wooing me. And he would not let me talk him out of loving me. ~ Joni
Your Turn: Do you hear God calling you now? What is your response? Do you think he is put off by your reaction to him? ~ Breath on Paper