Growing up, I was that girl. When I wrote in my school planner, I used a different color pen for each class. Whenever our English teacher gave us a new paperback novel, I would secure it in a Ziploc bag so that the edges wouldn’t tatter in my backpack. I always placed the shampoo bottle in my shower to the left of the conditioner—with the labels facing out. In my room, not only did everything have a place, everything had an exact place.
I was a textbook control freak, and my little brother knew this. Because I had the uncanny ability to walk into my bedroom and know within seconds if someone had moved anything, my brother would sneak in, rearrange a few things, and then hide under my bed with a stopwatch to time how long it took me to notice and fix everything. This charade always ended the same way: I would hear him laugh, drag him out from under the bed by his hair, and then take a scissors to his favorite cassette tapes when he wasn’t looking.
Needless to say, I thought I was in complete control of my life. I had a plan and a place for everything, and I lost my ever-loving mind when anyone tried to mess any of it up.
Then, one morning a few days after Christmas, my parents gathered us in the living room to tell us they were separating. I was in 9th grade, and I know for certain I didn’t put that on my color-coded Christmas list. But there it was under the tree anyway.
Like a book dropping on a Lego house, pieces of my meticulously constructed life went flying everywhere.
The divorce was long, ugly and expensive. I changed high schools, bounced back and forth between my parents’ houses, ran myself ragged trying to be a perfect student, and (bonus!) realized my dad was an alcoholic. Meanwhile, my brother spiraled into a drug addiction that would wreak havoc on our family for decades.
One night three years later, in a frightening confrontation that ended with a police officer protecting me from my dad so that I could gather up armfuls of the-house-is-burning-and-you-only-have-time-to-take-these kinds of things, my world faded to black.
Nothing made sense. Everything—and I mean every thing—was out of place. The only thing I knew for certain was that I needed something out of this world to help me in this world; I needed a heavenly father to do for me what my earthly father couldn’t: Be there.
A few days later, I asked a friend if I could go to her church. The high school students met on Sunday mornings before the service, and my first day there we sang a song called I Have a Maker.
I have a maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in His hands
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call
I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go
And just like that, I knew I wasn’t abandoned; I was loved. That morning, during that song, sitting in that church, my story began to shift.
I went on to spend four years at Arizona State University, during which time I did the excruciating, sanctifying work of forgiving my dad. I married a pastor, had two surprise babies 13-months apart, moved to Minnesota, adopted a daughter from Ethiopia with my dad’s help, and planted a church in Las Vegas that God used to bring my brother to Jesus—all in time for the two of us to see our dad through a 9-month battle with pancreatic cancer to Heaven.
Along this wild, winding way I learned two irrefutable things:
- God can be trusted.
When life upends you and nothing makes sense, you can be sad and you can have questions but don’t you dare panic because God can be trusted. He knows your name. He knows what’s coming. He knows how to protect you and how to lead you and how to get you safely to dry land.
Psalm 33:4 says the word of the Lord is right, and all his workis trustworthy.
All of it. Even and especially the work he’s doing in and through and with your life. No matter who hurt you or how you’ve screwed things up or where you find yourself today, you can trust him to be there to shield you in danger, to lead you through chaos, to guard you from evil.
“The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen and guard you from the evil one.”
~2 Thessalonians 3:3 2.
2. Your story can still be beautiful.
Regardless of what kind of chaos you cause or experience or are asked to endure, your story can still be beautiful.
When God was turning my life upside down, I wish I’d known that’s what he does. He’s a turning God; he turns broken, scary, brutal, unfair things into beautiful things.
We were dead, Paul tells us in Ephesians 2, but God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, made us alive with Christ.
So, just because your circumstances are temporarily broken doesn’t mean that you permanently are. From the very beginning of time, God has planned to turn your fractured story into a tale of great reversal. As Bo says, “You just have to trust him with the pen.”
When you do, you’ll see that God writes straight with crooked lines.
He’s taking you somewhere on purpose, but it’s not always going to feel or look that way. And when it doesn’t, remember: He doesn’t see a mess; he sees a masterpiece.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” ~Ephesians 2:10
If little makes sense today and most everything else seems out of place, know that God is nota punk little brother hiding under the bed messing with you, your stuff or your life. He’s preparing you for something else, for something more. He’s not holding a stopwatch, waiting for you to fix everything that’s wrong. Instead, he’s pointing you to his son Jesus and asking you to trust him. When you do, I promise he’ll turn your biggest setbacks into the biggest setups for him to reveal his glory and his power through your one, bright life.