Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The shaking and shaking

I was home from college the weekend of the earthquake. It was my boyfriend's (now husband's) birthday, and I drove the two hours home to celebrate with him. We spent the day and evening together, and he brought me home around midnight. About four hours later, the shaking started.

I had learned in Physics that there are two common types of earthquakes, ones made of "S" waves, and ones made of "P" waves. S waves rolled and undulated, slowly building and then fading away like a wave of water rolls through your feet at the beach. Born and raised in Southern California, I'd felt countless quakes such as these during my childhood. They were unsettling, not terrifying. But that January, it was not an S type earthquake. It was the less common P type, made up of shocking, violent, side to side jolts that start suddenly, mercilessly.

It was the middle of the night. And though the violent jolting lasted several minutes, I believe it was God's grace that I didn't wake until I heard my dad trying to work a path through my furniture to reach me. All of it had overturned against my bed. The next thing I remember is being left alone in the car; someone escorted me to the passenger side and placed the dog on my lap, both of us shivering in the January night. Everything was dim and glowing orange from the streetlights. The rubber tires of my car were excellent communicators of the way the earth continued to shiver with me without relenting.

It seemed an eternity until dawn. I went back inside to find my dad slowly pacing the house with a video camera, somberly documenting. I remember his monotone sound as he digested the damage, gravely pacing through each room, listing and describing and digesting. Everything was wrong and out of place.

The china hutch that had been bolted to the wall for this exact reason - in case of an earthquake - was ripped out and flung across the room. A large piece of a wall hung lifeless and separate from the rest. And the kitchen left us speechless. I could see over the half wall and sink area that every single cabinet door was thrown open and every single shelf was empty. I stared, so confused at the blank wood. It was empty like when you first move in to a place, except when I rounded the corner, I saw a sea of broken glass instead of a floor. And the sea had a strange and horrible stench because the fridge had been thrown open as well, and every bottle and dish inside had exploded onto the floor too. The scent of vinegar dominated and soured our senses to match our hearts.

Our house was given a "red tag," noting the highest degree of damage and warning us to enter thenceforth at our own risk. That was the last night we slept there. So much more was ruined and exploded and reduced to rubble. And not just the material things. But my family members and I were all safe. Disasters have a way of boiling down what matters most. And we all plainly saw that what mattered still remained.   

That was almost 20 years ago. But I've felt some violent quaking lately, and not in the earth. I keep hearing this verse:

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Hebrews 12:26-28

What that means to me right now is that sometimes God issues some shaking for a two-fold reason: so that the shakable can end up in a rubble heap, and so we get a long hard look at that which is unshakable.

Typically, we go about our business living the Christian life, praying and whatnot. We may feel convicted now and again, perhaps on Sundays. But on occasion, there are seasons when God allows a shaking in our hearts, followed by more shaking. And then more. He says, "It's time, my child," and He sets new expectations, reveals new garbage that all the while He's graciously tolerated. It's exposing and somehow lovingly unrelenting.

The shaking season is rough. I more clearly understand now the term "refiner's fire" that I learned in church at a young age. And clearly, I'm in that season. He's set out to clean house a little in my heart, and in my marriage, and in my parenting, and in my family. And maybe tomorrow somewhere else. In the last month alone, He's revealed so many new things to me that need attention and spiritual work. Do you know those times? It's like my heart's in-box is stacked with folders of things to pray over and surrender and process. One more time:

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Hebrews 12:26-28

God lets the shakable things fall away just so you and I can see what remains: that which is unshakable. It is hearty food for my soul to be reminded lately of what is unshakable.

First of all, God's love for me is unshakable. It is deeper than I could ever know.

His good plans for me are unshakable. He plans to give me a hope and a future.

His provision, His ability and willingness to meet ALL of my needs are unshakable. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

His loyalty and companionship are unshakable. He will never, ever leave me.

His desire to be in an intimate relationship with me is unshakable. I can't do anything to make Him stop wanting me.

And His promise of heaven is unshakable. One day, I'll be with Him in perfect peace.

So when I look at that list, a list which could go on and on, I'm okay with the shaking. I see a purpose in it, even when it hurts. God knows what He's doing, my friends. If you're in a season of being shaken, I'd encourage you to stop being afraid, stop trying to just make it stop. Look at what you might let go of, a habit, an attitude, a right, a desire, even a relationship if necessary. If it's something shakable, let it fall.

The unshakable stuff is what you really want anyway.



  1. Oh my friend, I am praying for you. Praying for glimpses of grace as the earth shakes, praying for his purposes to be revealed and refined in your life.

    Praying for peace for you today, in the middle of it all.

  2. "the unshakable stuff is what you really want." true. so true. i'm learning a lot lately from job. job was righteous, had health, prosperity, and made sacrifices just in case. but God... still allowed his "earth to quake."
    ultimately there was no rhyme or reason, just that God is God. i'm finding that "God is God" is the only unshakeable thing i can count on.

  3. "God lets the shakable things fall away just so you and I can see what remains: that which is unshakable." Wow, I so needed to hear these words today. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow. Exactly what I needed to hear today. I definitely feel God shaking me lately. Thanks for the reminder of His "refining fire".