There was this moment in which all my fears twisted into something tighter and heavier than I could hold. David and I had just collapsed into bed after an exhausting night of packing, and our conversation tipped into all of the Unknowns. Less than two weeks away from filling our moving truck, we were about to make the scariest change of our lives. Our hearts were quaking. So much sorrow pressed in, so much loss, so much grief, and hope and dreams. And here we were, late in the night, uncertain that we’d made the right choice. No job awaited him, no home awaited us. The weight of six children who depend upon us for their lives crushed us into silence. Had this been the most foolish decision? All the planning, all the saving, all the preparing – here we were, and would it be enough? Would God come through for the lack?
Could anything good come?
Philip found Nathanael and said to him,
“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote,
Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!”
Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him,
“Come and see.”
For a month I had been hedged in by John chapter 1, sitting with it line by line in my early mornings, finding my solace in the humanity of the disciples and in the Rabbi with whom they cast their lot. Suddenly there in the dark an understanding dawned that the question at the center of my heart was the same as Nathanael’s. Can anything good come? Could anything good come? Was it possible?
“Oh Jesus,” I said. Laughter began to shake my frame. Tears ran down my cheeks, shaking out of me as sure as they shook my husband awake. “What?” he asked.
“It’s just like Nathanael,” I said. “It’s just like Nathanael’s question: Can anything good come? And you know what the answer is, Babe? Come and see. That’s it. Come and see. That’s what we’re doing. We’re coming and seeing. We’re responding to the invitation God has placed in our hearts. We can’t see it from here. It’s okay. It’s all okay. It’s going to be okay. We’re okay.”
And we are.
A few days later we secured the perfect house for our needs. Work came, though we had to wait for it a long time. It came at exactly the moment we most needed it – the very day David’s army contract expired – and when it arrived, it wasn’t what we had hoped, not even near.
Nathanael was pretty incredulous. Nazareth? Nazareth, the backwoods of Israel? Nazareth, rough and undereducated, mean and course? Nazareth, the heel of puns and jokes? Nazareth, a place of underdogs and filth? Hardly a place for the Son of God to call home. Was Philip actually claiming that the Messiah – the fulfillment of all the Prophets’ prophecies and the Sacred Law-Giver’s laws – might actually have come from there? Pretty high claim. One can almost hear him spit. “Ha. Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
The Elemental Questions
There are very few questions that scrape the bottom of our souls, if you think about it. Close your eyes for a moment and go there. After you work through all the surface chaos, plumb the depths and you will probably find that the questions in your deepest heart of heart are very few.
Am I loved? Am I seen? Am I known? Do I matter? Am I wanted? Will good come? Can it?
All of our fears, anxieties, hesitations, cowardliness, hiding, loneliness, confusion, pain, brokenness, anger, poor choices, broken relationships – all can be reduced to questions like these. We want know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are personally known, intimately loved – and, I believe, we want to know we’re known and loved by the One who made our hearts yearn for Him. Dare we hope? Does this One come to us in our meanest and most foolish state? Is there good in store?
The elemental questions echo through all the other questions we ask in our lives.
Can anything good come from this cancer? From this fractured marriage? From this looming unknown? Can anything good come from this disability? This illness? This empty faith? Can anything good come from our wasted years, from wandering in the proverbial wilderness of our lives?
Can anything good come from this set of harsh realities? This set of poor choices? This exhausting season of life? Can anything good come from my inadequacy? From my shattered vision? From my hurting heart that’s left me lost and alone?
Can anything good come from my wayward son? Or my child playing with her soul?
Can anything good come from financial devastation? From death? From divorce? From ashes? From burn out? From the garbage of our lives and the lives of the ones we love? Can anything good come from the abuse in our stories? From the issues of our past that follow us still? From the fears we harbor of our future? From the sin we can’t seem to shake?
Can anything good come from this deep, overwhelming pain? Can anything good possibly come?
Can anything good come, even from our dreams?
Nazareth had nothing. Nothing. Its reputation was cemented. Nothing good came from a situation like Nazareth, and everyone knew it.
Everyone, apparently, but Jesus. Jesus, the great Ignorer Of How Things Are Supposed To Be.
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world,” John says, “…he came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory…full of grace and truth.”
Nazareth was the place he picked to call home. Nazareth was the place he chose to manifest his glory. He could have chosen any city in Israel to dwell with his entire, glorious Being, but he chose the one village everyone else wanted to forget.
This hasn’t ever, ever changed.
This is where he still meets you.
We can’t pretend our Nazareths away. We might try to forget they exist, but let me tell you, your God never pretends, never forgets. He does not rest until he’s gotten right to the source. He calls it like it is. He sets up camp right at the root of the cancer that threatens our hearts and lives; he makes his dwelling place in the deepest heart where the brokenness and pain hurt most. He knows the awfulness of our Nazareths better than anyone, and He moves into them and calls them home. He meets us there.
“Can anything good ever come?” we quake. “Can anything good ever come?”
Come and see. Come and see.
Come and see.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
This is a Wednesday in the Word post, where bit by bit I am writing through the Gospel of John. Thank you for reading! Do you want to see previous posts?