The setting of these days was a beautiful cemetery in the desert. The soundtrack was the rising cry of worship from a woman who had felt as though she had just encountered the life of the Messiah for the first time.
When grief threatened to take over or fear offered the temptation to numb out, I consistently fell back on the fact that God did not want me to walk though the grief cycle. There was no normal next step for me. I had no road map, no one to look to who could show me what the daily living out of this journey was supposed to look like.
No one but Jesus.
In Him I found my model of what it looks like to walk through the process, present in all the emotions, while always holding onto an otherworldly hope. With Jesus, I found a friend who had gone before me, a man who had wept at Lazuraus’ tomb even though He knew He was going to raise His friend from the grave; a man who was aquatinted with sorrow and anguish of the soul, a man who asked for the cup of suffering to pass from Him even though He knew the purpose of the pain. Jesus showed me how to walk the narrow path. How to stay present to the pain and the hope, how to keep my heart. He dignified every human emotion, and taught me how to feel the pain without indulging in self-pity and getting side-tracked by other’s expectations of my process. He was drawing me so close, pulling me in close to His chest until my heart was learning how to beat like His. He was giving me His shoulder to lean on until I could see what His eyes could see. He was teaching me the language of His heart, the beats of His story.
As I began each day I would ask the LORD to show me what to think, what to feel, what to pray. I had no preconceived notions of what this journey was to look like. If it was to go anywhere, He would have to show me the way. I didn’t even know what to feel, let alone what to do, without His guidance.
And as I asked for Jesus’ thoughts to become my thoughts, His prayers to become my prayers, I began to find myself meditating on a host of verses that spoke of clothing and covering.
At first I found this odd, almost out of step from the rest of what He said. But I was determined to keep my heart and mind open to His leading, I needed to available for Him to course-correct me, to mold the path for this river to go through. If I had been wrong in believing that God would raise Ethan from the dead, my only hope for a future and life of purpose was to stay open for Him to be able to correct my faith if it was misplaced, and set me on the right path for His glory. So if He wanted to talk about clothing and covering in scripture, I would listen, even if it seemed like it didn’t have anything to do with all that had come before.
Soon, I discovered He was offering me an invaluable tool through these “covering” scriptures. Whenever I felt the blackness of grief pressing down on my soul like a shroud of death, I would take the verses He had brought to me about covering and speak them out loud, one after another.
I would say out loud, “I am clothed in the garment of praise” (Isaiah 61:3) and amazingly the heaviness would begin to lift and I found I could praise Him a little more.
I thanked Him for covering me in “robes of righteousness, in garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10).
I grew emboldened, declaring that He was “clothing me in strength and dignity” (Proverbs 31:25),
My heart was kindled toward my eternal purpose and renewed in the dignity of faith as I recited that I would be clothed in “fine linen, bright and pure” (Revelation 19:8).
My voice grew stronger as I grew sure that I was “clothed in favor” (Psalm 5:12) and “power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
But the greatest power came when I would declare aloud that I was “coved in the Blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:11). With that statement, I could quite literally feel the darkness flee, leaving me alone and free to worship my God.
But there was one covering that I was having a hard time coming under, “the wings of the Redeemer” (Ruth 2:12, 3:9).
The statement and the invitation from God to come under “the wings of the Redeemer” directly hyperlinked me to the night of Ethan’s car accident. It hurt too much to look directly at the night and all that God had said to me.
I couldn’t fathom why God had chosen the same moment in time to radically enter my life and speak to my heart with more clarity and power and love than I had ever known, saying “This is it Makaila! This is what you were created to do! Get under the covering. Submit and show the world My heart.” Why did God choose that moment to radically lift the fear that had been the greatest obstacle in my relationship with Ethan—a fear that Ethan was committed to helping me overcome through prayer and the grace of his love. Why did God let me believe that I was to live this commission out with Ethan when He knew that Ethan was moments from dying. (To read the full account of this, see Ch 11).
Yes, it’s true that I had reason to believe that God would bring Ethan back to life (see Ch 21 & Ch 22). But at that point in time, I was very much a product of my culture and generation—a 21st century, western-Christian who by and large had been taught that miracles no longer happened, and that they were more the exception than the rule. My faith muscle was incredibly weak, and easily fatigued.
And so I went to war over feeling that God had betrayed me on the night of the accident. I couldn’t find the nerve to let myself think about everything encompassed for me in the statement “wings of the Redeemer”. For awhile, I refused to include that statement as one of my “covering” verses.
It hurt too much to look directly at the way God had taken me soaring on such glorious heights while at the very same moment Ethan lay dying. I couldn’t understand why God had chosen that moment to make me so sure of how much He was pleased with and had purpose for my relationship with Ethan. Of all the moments to rain the undeniable glory of heaven on me…to give me reason to say no to all my fear…a reason to push beyond any and all uncertainty about making life with Ethan…and a purpose in marriage to know and make known the heart of God. I felt like God had given me the most glorious gift my heart had ever longed for, specifically, intentionally, and then rapidly, violently took it away. Maliciously crushing the dream He had birthed in me.
My soul was still suffering the whip lash from it.
I thought I could only go on, trusting God, as long as I kept myself from looking directly at the book of Ruth and “the wings of the Redeemer” and everything God had spoken to me that night. I kept telling God, that if I had gotten His direction wrong in my relationship with Ethan, there were nicer ways to redirect me.
But I hadn’t gotten it wrong. If I know anything in life, I know God’s presence and words that night. No one could ever convince me otherwise. There was no mistaking it. I knew what He had said, what He had meant—He made sure of that.
I was angry that God had given me no time to process—divine purpose spoken, divine purpose crushed beyond a hope, all within the same hour. God had told me that I was created for this, a plan that He had let me believe Ethan was essential to, and then Ethan was dead within the hour.
No, I didn’t want anything to do with the “Redeemer’s wings”. I hated any reference to the book of Ruth. I never wanted to think of that night. I didn’t think I would ever be able to understand it nor have peace about the way God had handled my heart that night.
And there came a point when He would no longer let me run from it.
(He is too kind to let me go on thinking that I trusted Him, when clearly I did not).
Person after person from all different places of my life, even complete strangers over the internet began telling me how I reminded them of Ruth from the Bible. Ethan’s mom gave me a necklace inscribed with the words, “under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4). When I asked for prayer, on a number of occasions, friends kept praying that I would be able to “come under the wings of God”. Which was an odd thing to pray, I thought.
Yes, there was no mistaking it, God was chasing down this rebellious place in my heart, the place that believed He had betrayed me.
He loved me too much to let me run away from this one.
No, I could not be selective in what I liked and didn’t like about God. I couldn’t pick and choose the words I wanted to take in and the ones I wanted to chuck across an ocean. He had a point in every word spoken, in the timing of every event. He knew what He was doing then and He knows what He is doing now. He would not be derailed. I, of course, had the choice to continue to resist, but He wasn’t going to let me get away without me clearly hearing from Him and consciously choosing to reject His direction. He knew how to make Himself heard. If the first mention of the “wings of the Redeemer” was too easy for me to push away, then He would offer a second go at it, and then a third and forth.
He is a good shepherd who comes for the one lost sheep. His rod and His staff comfort me because they keep me on the path. He was not going to let me derail by accident, if I chose to reject this strategic point of the plot He was writing, it wouldn’t be because He didn’t make Himself heard. I knew I needed to soften my heart and come under the Redeemer’s wings and even if it was painful, I needed to trust that I would find His goodness there.
I began to attempt to soften my heart then, but this one was going to be a long process. I hate when it is my fear and distrust that drag a painful thing out into an even longer operation. But I am so grateful that even then, even when I am weak and slow and afraid, God is there in patience, healing my faithlessness with His unfailing love.