There is something about an ampersand. I’ve been fascinated with them since I was little, and remember sitting for hours practicing the special way they are formed. Mind you, I am not talking about a symbol that’s merely a modified addition sign, or the one that looks like a fancy capital E to replace the French word “et.”. No, the bold beautiful ampersand – with it’s hearken to infinity and its sweeping up and around and down and around and finishing flourish – is the only one that has true beauty to me.
For years, I just thought it was simply the design that captivated me because it felt like dancing on the page. But the ampersand is more than a simple additive. It doesn’t just connect two things – it marries them together in a precious partnership that says “two are better than one – and both are fully valued.”
Literally, ampersand means “and this too.”
Oh, sweet love. Our God is the God of the ampersand.
Some mornings break gently, but not this one. The Central American air was oppressive that day, and it weighed hard on every heart. We had already seen so much pain, and the passion to right every wrong was warring with the poverty of our own power to do anything. It was the “beautiful awful” reality of this place – the helplessness and hope that grab our hands in a tug-of-war threatening to destroy us at a moment’s notice.
I watched as she walked away from the crowds, the tears flowing. She was the one who always stood resilient, the one always comforting others, the one who always had the words for me when my own voice was gone. She was the only one who was unafraid to know me when I was spiraling on the inside while being strong for everyone.
But this day she was crushed. Because this day, she felt the weight of choosing – of the “or.” This wasn’t a choose good over evil or a do right over wrong choice. This was beauty for beauty, divinity for divinity. She had been given a glimpse of a future ahead of her that caused her to believe she would have no choice but to sacrifice her present. One God-given gift for another. On that hard-pressing morning, she felt God saying, “give your present-day love to Me.” And she heard another voice hiss, “and He’ll never give it back.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever return here.”
And standing beside my friend as she wept and raged, I heard that voice too. Because the hope of the future can darken even the brightest goodness of the present, pitting the two like enemies. My fumbling, frail trust in the Creator who imagined me, hand-crafted me, and embossed His hands with my name was exposed that morning – for I saw Him as one too weak, too limited, too small to carry more than one delight for His own. The same hissing voice was there that day for me. “Certainly your God demands only sacrifice.”
But God is the God of the ampersand.
He is the God of the “give me your child, and I will give you family.” He is the God of “give me your army, and I will give you victory.” He is the God of “give me your portion, and I will give you the whole.” He is the God of “give me your life, and I will give you life lived fully.” And that morning in Central America, He reminded us of His “and this too” story. We prayed, held each other close, celebrated. Though we had no idea what His “and this too” might be, we believed He was kind enough to provide one.
That morning was three years ago. She gave God her passion to care for the struggling in one country, and He gave her arms that hold the struggling daily in her own home and around the world.
There have been many more stepping away moments for both of us – more moments that feel like “or” and sound like hissing. She gave God the comfort of a home church, and He gave her the riches of a church home. I gave God job stability and benefits, and He gave me childhood dreams come to life through ministry to the vulnerable.
I should know His “and this too” voice so well by now, and should find strength in His ampersand love. And yet, trust is still translucent at times, still so frail – and I still wonder if He is too weak, too limited, too small, too demanding. I wonder if this will be the time I give back what I have been given, and be left wanting.
Today, I am struggling to trust God. Today, I hear the hiss.
Today He speaks – and this is what God says.
“Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.” (Malachi 3:10)
He says, “Come expectant, arms eager to offer what I’ve asked you to give. Come knowing that My desire is your great joy. Come believing that I want to give you more than you could ask or even think. Come trusting that I will complete what I have begun in you – and that all that you are and all that you will be is part of My story in you.”
Today, I may not know what His next “and this too” story might be. But today, I will believe once more that He is kind enough to provide one. So I will hold out my arms to offer the next thing. And then I will raise them high to receive whatever comes. Today, I speak the words I need to be reminded.
Oh sweet love. Our God is the God of the ampersand.
Will you hold out your arms too? I see His ampersand in you, you know. There is an “and this too” for you.