Day 25: Adonai Shama // 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness
Hi there! This is day 25 of a series I’m writing this October called 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness. You can find the entire series here: 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness.
I found the photo below the other day from the prehistoric vault, y’all. Yours truly is in the middle (somehow a brown dress and silver eyeshadow made some kind of sense in 2006). Just look at these babies at their senior prom. Bless their hearts. They did not have YouTube makeup or hair tutorials which enable high schoolers of today to completely skip their awkward phase, which is criminally unfair. (Attention People Born After 1995: If I couldn’t escape body glitter and crimped hair, you shouldn’t be allowed to either.) We went to David’s Bridal with our moms to shop for our floor-length prom dresses, back when $200 was an insane amount to spend on a dress for a dance, and teenagers did not have credit cards or iPhones to snap pictures back and forth to their friends. This photo was taken on an honest-to-goodness disposable film camera! I carried it in my tiny satin clutch purse next to my keys and my frosted lip gloss that had a little mirror built into the cap. Oh, high school. I don’t miss you one bit.
Let me tell you a story about the girl in the middle.
It wasn’t too long ago before this photo was taken that I had met Jesus and started to get serious about my walk with Him. My high school years were full of character formation in Christ, inhaling Scripture like a sponge, and wrestling against some pretty intense doubt and spiritual anxiety. My salvation story doesn’t really feature one exact moment I can point to and say “There! That’s when I was saved.” It’s been more of a journey. The trouble is, when you’re 14 and vulnerable, and carrying some emotional damage from having one of your parents skip out on you, the promise that God is a good Father who will never leave is pretty difficult to wrap your brain around.
I swung violently between two crises of faith during my first years of following Jesus. The cycle went like this: I would begin to have doubts about whether God had really saved me, since I would hear others talking about how their salvation was a very clear-cut, obvious experience wherein they felt different or cleansed after saying a particular prayer. I would think, oh, maybe I need to also pray this exact prayer to make sure I’m saved. I’ve been praying and reading the Scriptures and trying to invite Jesus in, but maybe I’m not doing it right. I would then pray some version of The Sinner’s Prayer™, not feel any different, and wonder if it “took.” There was a time when I was accepting Christ 40 times a day just to be on the safe side. It’s kind of funny now, looking back, but it wasn’t then. So many thoughts swirled in my mind. Maybe I didn’t feel any different because God was rejecting me like my dad had. Maybe He didn’t want me on His team and I wasn’t invited.
At some point I would become reassured of my salvation and then the next part of the cycle would inevitably begin: I would begin to doubt whether God was even there. Some of you know I did not grow up in the easiest of circumstances. I questioned whether God cared one smidge about what was going on in my life, or if He was even real at all. If He was, why would He allow me to hurt so much and be so stuck with no way out? I remember very vividly collapsing onto my bed in my dark bedroom under the weight of so many sadnesses, and crying out to God through deep sobs:
Does anybody hear me?
There is a story in the Bible in which Ezekiel envisions a city where the Lord will live with His people. He calls this city Adonai Shama, or The Lord Is There. The Jewish people were no strangers to questioning whether God was with them or not. I wish I could tell my anxious high school self that her questions place her in good company. In the wilderness and full of fear, they doubted God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and whether He cared about them at all. They wondered aloud if they had been rescued from slavery in Egypt only to be left to die in the desert. Their history is one of immense suffering and persecution, but also numerous demonstrations of God’s salvation and mercy. In the fallen and broken world we live in, so many things seem to weasel their way in between us and God. The enemy of our souls attacks, and our faith wavers or even crumbles. We wonder if God understands what we have been through, and if He even cares.
Until we arrive in the city of Adonai Shama, there will always be a bit of wondering. Until our faith is sight, there will always be the need for a little faith. Because we cannot always see it in this life, we must remind ourselves continually of Adonai Shama – God is there.
In truth, you don’t need to wonder if He really knows about what has happened in your life, because He was there.
In my bedroom while my heart was breaking, He was there.
In the worst and bleakest moments of your life, He was there.
All your tears? In His bottle. All your moments? In His book.
He did not abandon you. He did not have anything better to do. He was there.
He didn’t promise that we would not have trouble, but He did promise us Himself.
Whether our darkest nights are behind us or ahead, may we preach the truth to ourselves and remember Adonai Shama. God is there, and His presence is real and protective, even when we do not feel it. May we deeply hold onto how held we are, and clearly see how seen we are. He has been there for every second of your life, from diapers to prom and everything since. It is not in God’s heart that we should feel forgotten. He cannot forget us – we are written on the palms of His hands.