Two tiny words that form a transitional phrase and a conditional clause. They are the bridge between cause and effect and the signaling/ushering in of another season. A continuation of one season as it simultaneously prepares for the next. “So that” can explain part of the ‘why’ in life as you look back over the circumstances they bridge to the outcome, purpose and result.
The only problem with the “so that” bridge is when God is still building the bridge in our lives we can only see the “so” part. It doesn’t make sense yet – and that is exactly where I am right now. I’m in a season of wrestling. Wrestling with serving/loving/living fully in the now as God pricks and prepares my heart for the future. He is stirring things in my heart I don’t understand and don’t know how to put into words yet. My heart is breaking for things it never used too. I long and ‘weep as a man, longing for his Home’. I see God working and moving pieces in my heart but not how they connect.
Some days I feel on the outside looking in – it’s as if I’m reading the full story of my own life as it is being written, while other days I’m acutely aware of only the one or two words in front of me. My life is a paradox– in some areas I have a sense of knowing or glimpsing part of what the end will be – where He is leading me but with no idea how I’m going to get there. In other areas I just have no clue at all. There I can only see the cornerstones of the “so that” bridge in front of me – while also knowing that all the stones and pieces probably aren’t there yet to complete the bridge.
But here’s the hope: the bridge will be made complete. The Lord’s teaching me that the “so that” in this life has a reason and purpose. I’m very much in a season of the “so”. I don’t have a “that” to go with it yet – but I will. The Lord never leaves a job half done and if we let Him, He will “complete the good work He began in us.
Interesting thing though, the “good work” or the “so that” bridge the Lord is working in us is twofold. The Lord does things so that we may grow, learn and benefit from them but it never stops there. He also does it for benefit of others whose lives we will touch. Purposefully or inadvertently, the lessons we learn affect others if we live them out.
Take Abraham. He is the very picture of faithfulness, one of the fore fathers and part of the lineage of Christ. His “so that” story is incredible. His faith was accredited to him for righteousness. God was faithful to Abraham by fulfilling (completing) His promise to him by giving him Isaac. But it doesn’t end there! Abraham’s lessons weren’t just for himself. Romans 4 tells us:
“Therefore the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham… [that] ‘it was credited to him [for righteousness]’ were not written for him [Abraham] alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” [my emphasis]
Faithfulness and believing/trusting when we don’t see where life is going was a lesson for Abraham but also for us.
I love that Abraham didn’t know where his “so that” story was going or even what it was bridging (try oodles of generations! Now that’s quite a bridge!). Hebrews 11:8 says “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Abraham saw God working in his life too and didn’t understand what God was doing and how he was going to get to the end (the land and Isaac) yet he obeyed anyway. Wow. I want to be like that!
The further I read in Hebrews 11 the more I realized almost all of the heroes of the faith had “so that” stories. Stories God used for them but also for all of us. They too longed for Home: “For he [Abraham] was looking forward to a city with foundations, whose architect and builder was God.” And “All these people were still living by faith when they died.”
In my finite mind, I look at all these stories (please go read all of Hebrews 11!) and think that all of their “so that” stories are complete. David became king, Abraham had Isaac, Elisha saw God, Moses was rescued in the rushes and saved Israel, Raeahab let down the spies and lived, and so on. All these men and women saw God or part of His plan -in part. Scripture says they were still living by faith when they died and didn’t see the completion. This blows my mind. Why? God met them – that’s complete right?
It would be if it was only about us. But God’s been showing me it’s not. He doesn’t just move or act for the individual or us. As a friend put it, we almost have an entitled view of God. As in He ‘owes us’ because it’s all about us, all about me, all about you as the individual. Wrong!
Sure, God comes through for me, but it’s not about me. His plan is all encompassing and so much broader than me, than even the heroes of old! Look how the faith chapter ends.
“These [all the old testament faith examples or “so that” stories] were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect”.
Only together with us would they be made perfect. Wow. Think about that one for a minute. God is serious about unity and oneness, fellowship. Oneness with Himself and with other believers. We aren’t ever meant to do this life alone. Your lessons and actions will effect generations. What excitement! What responsibility!!
As Romans and Hebrews talk about faithfulness, righteousness, and lessons connecting us together – 2 Corinthians 1 says the same thing about suffering and comfort.
“For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
We are in this together. His purpose is for us but also beyond us to others.
So as I wrestle and my heartbreaks and I sense Him move – I realize He’s just writing my “so that” story. Building a bridge that will connect me to other believers. And whether I want it to or not, the good and bad in my life will affect you. Yours will affect mine. He is Lord of us all.
Next time you get discouraged about the future or not understanding what God is doing, remember Abraham walked it too, yet – he believed God and it was accredited to him for righteousness. It will be for us too. He who promised is faithful and He is working out a lot more in us than our current comfort or happiness. So learn well. Your “so that” bridge is going somewhere!
When I look back in a few years I know I won’t see the full picture or bridge (and won’t until eternity) but I do pray that I will have built my portion of that bridge in faithfulness to Him, in such a way that others may walk across it and learn from me as well. How about you? How are you building?