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some thoughts on revival


photo: Sarah Thomas Baldwin/Asbury University 2023


The year I turned thirty was what I thought, at the time, the hardest of my life. We started foster parenting that year, which was an immediate rough and painful transition. I spent many evenings crying in my teeny upstairs green linoleum bathroom.


The year I turned forty was what I thought, at the time, the hardest of my life. We gave up foster parenting that year, and it was an immediate rough and painful transition. I spent many evenings crying in my teeny upstairs, unfinished, dysfunctional bathroom.


The year I turned forty-two was what I thought, at the time, the hardest of my life. (This one might be true.} I gave up all my expectations of what I thought my life would be that year, and it was an immediate rough and painful transition. I spent many evenings crying in my downstairs, mostly finished, semi-functional bathroom.


The year I turned forty-three was what I thought, at the time, the hardest of my life. (This one might also be true. 2021 and 2022 are toss-ups, frankly.) I learned to lean into the very hardest of days, and while it wasn’t an immediate rough and painful transition, the pain from the previous year just continued. I spent many evenings crying in my upstairs, semi-finished, always messy, and overrun bedroom.


The year I turn forty-four, this year of our Lord 2023, might be the hardest of my life. I hope not, but it’s early on. However, this year is the year that I don’t particularly care about. This year, I am leaning into things being done in my life and my family’s lives. A year where we might spend many evenings crying in our bathrooms, our bedrooms, and our living room, yet we do not grieve without hope. Because this year? We are willing to live publicly into the fact that we’re in the middle of a revival.


Revival is in the news, at least the “Christian” news, and I only have one thing ringing in my ears…the same phrase of the same song that has marked the nearly four years I’ve spent in my forties so far.


“While you pray for revival, I’m already living in one.”

The definition of revival that pops up first when you look it up does not recall white tents, hellfire preachers, and lengthy worship services. That is the essence of one of the definitions, but it’s further down the list. The preeminent one: “an improvement in the condition or strength of something.”


That’s the revival brewing in my home and heart right now – the same one brewing for nearly half a decade. In the middle of the darkest years of my life, of my children’s lives, God was doing something and improving something. Strengthening our weaknesses. Repairing things long destroyed. Bringing healing to things long broken. Pushing us toward others, towards the work of restoration.


Instead of answers, questions.

Instead of certainty, doubt.

Instead of cynicism, hope.

Instead of betrayal, belonging.

Instead of rejection, inclusivity.

Instead of harm, love.

Instead of bondage, freedom.


This isn’t a word for or against the phenomenon the culture is calling revival. This is simply a word about my own. About the revival in my family. Not some supernatural fix-all. Not some “God works everything for good” cliché. Just a simple “improvement in the condition or strength of something.” We’re better. We’re stronger. We’re moving outwards towards others and restoring the world in which we live. We’re being revived.


Before you completely check out because of the Jesus-y bit, I should explain some things. In no way do we believe our faith is magic. We are not, despite all my woo-woo tendencies, “name it and claim it” people. We love science in this house, and I, as someone whose health depends daily on scientific advancements, give thanks for it every day. We believe in therapy and medication. We even mostly believe in the government because we know for sure that the “government” is made up of people who, by and large, are trying to do their best for the people around them. (Ask me how I know.) Above all that, we are learning to trust ourselves. The self – body, spirit, soul, gut – is made good in the image of God, and that means we can learn to listen to our own selves.


This move has not been easy. Moving forward means leaving some things behind, and we have experienced extreme grief over that during the past four years. We’ve moved on from things we never thought we would. We’ve moved into places we never expected. We’ve willingly given things up, and we’ve been forced to give things up. The things I thought I knew for sure ended up not being the things that sustained me in the end. Certainty proved to be bondage, and my doubts led me to freedom.


What I know for sure? I am a living revival.

My children? The same.


We’ve made, as a family, some extremely unpopular decisions over the past while. I would be lying if I told you I knew with absolute certainty that I am right in every decision I’ve made. But today? As I think, over these years? The grief and sorrow we’ve come face to face with and the joy it takes to heal? The literal, tangible evil we’ve encountered and the work it takes to combat it? The bondage we’ve experienced and the ferocity it takes to break free?


It's bearing good fruit. Good, good fruit. The kind of fruit that doesn’t just transform our personal lives but leaks out to others around us. It pushes us into the paths of others who are hurting and need love, healing, and justice. That’s what I’ve long prayed for in my life and my kids’ lives.


Oh, it’s not been pretty, and we’ve not always done it well. We haven’t arrived, but it turns out that ‘arrival’ isn’t accessible to anyone living anyway.


We’re broken, yet still wholly good, people living in a broken, yet still wholly good, world, serving a broken, yet still wholly good, God.


It’s both. It’s and.

It pushes us beyond ourselves and out to others.


It’s all.


That’s revival.




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