There has been a small spiral-bound notebook sitting beside my comfy red chair for the past year. On the outside, it is as ordinary as any Target impulse buy. But inside? It contains all the tender hopes and beliefs of a small village.
Last year I chose the word believe as my anthem for the year. There was one thing I was specifically hoping for and believing God for in my own life, but I knew I wasn’t the only one out there with a God-sized dream. So I asked the people around me: What are you believing God for this year?
The responses cracked my heart open in all the best ways. My friends’ hopes were beautiful and vulnerable and achingly real. Some of these people had been rubbed raw from years of agonizing waiting; some were voicing their quiet hopes for the first time. But all of them were united in their bravery, in the guts it takes to bring big dreams into the light.
I didn’t take it lightly that people were entrusting me with something so precious. I wished I could wave my magic wand and give them what they longed for, but I couldn’t. So I did the only thing I could to honor those tender shoots of hope: I wrote their dreams for the year in my notebook, and in the mornings I sat in my red chair, coffee steaming my in hands, and asked God to intervene. I believed on their behalf.
I wish I could tell you that after a year of my crash course in believing, I have it all figured out. I don’t. In fact, the nature of belief may be more of a mystery to me than ever. Some of the things I believed God for were answered in miraculous ways, and other requests—just as valid, just as earnest—were met with silence.
- I believed for a baby for four of my friends—women who were made to be moms. One had a baby before year’s end, and one is currently pregnant. But another friend miscarried, and one is still in the agony of waiting.
- I believed on behalf of three beautiful friends who long to be married. One had a whirlwind romance and got married last fall, and one is dating a good man who treats her with the love and honor she deserves. But the third one, for reasons that are lost on me, is still waiting for her turn to come.
- I believed on behalf of two talented writer-friends who are hoping for a home for their books. One has a book contract, while the other one continues to send out submission after submission, to no avail.
I saw miracles last year—some that unfolded slowly, like the gentle healing of a marriage, and some that happened all at once, like the long-awaited job offer. But there are other miracles that seem notably absent: the parents whose adopted children are stuck in layer upon layer of bureaucratic red tape, the daughter whose liver is failing, the loved one who continues to run from the Father-love of God.
To my surprise, it was much easier to believe for other people than for myself, and to have them believe for me. At first I felt guilty about this . . . why couldn’t I trust God with the things closest to my heart?
But as the year went on, I started to see that this is part of how God wired us. We’re not meant to do faith alone; we need each other. When we get weary, we need someone else’s hope to cover the gap for us. And when we see God at work in other people’s lives, it can give us renewed hope, a down payment of sorts to remind us of his power and goodness and love.
In the midst of the answers and non-answers from 2017, I realized that we all have a need greater than whatever it is we’re longing for. We need our God more than we need our miracle. And we need each other along the way—in the celebrations, when the answer is yes; in the heartbreaks, when the answer is no; and in the agonizing middle, when the answer is wait.
It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are. . . . It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own.