Friday, July 22, 2011

Profound Sadness and the Presence of God

Sometimes pain distracts us from being able to see God and talk with him. It depresses and angers us so that all we can do is endure it. But not Jesus. It’s like when a mom sits on the edge of her child’s bed if he has a very high fever or an unexplained illness. She’s there watching every breath, every movement. She’s attentive to the nuances and the slight attempt at a smile or a moan. She comforts the sick child in any way at all possible. She calls the doctor, tries to distract the child, feeds him, wipes his brow, and kisses his forehead. She’ll do anything to bring peace, comfort and reassurance to her son. The child doesn’t realize how tortured his mom feels at his pain. He may not realize it at all or until he becomes a father himself. All he knows is what he’s feeling. And all he wonders is “when will it be over?” Mom is far more in tune with her son during a time like this than when he is going about his life, playing with friends and laughing. THAT is the life she wants to be his normal. Illness and sadness is not.

It’s the same with God, I believe. When I’ve been in severe pain it absorbed me. I couldn’t see the world clearly and didn’t really grasp all the things going on around me. I didn’t want to get too involved in anything else in life because I was too tired. Pain is exhausting. Like physical pain, emotional pain seemed to pound away at my heart until it felt heavy and swollen. Everything took too much energy and I just didn’t care anymore.

Have you been there?

In retrospect I know God was hovering like a worried mom. He had been there himself. No one was there for him during the agony, as he was scourged or when he was condemned to death. He even felt alone and cried out as he died on the cross. “My God, why have you forsaken me?” He’d never let that happen to someone he loves and calls his own. NEVER. “I have carved you into the palm of my hand.” We cannot be separated. So even tho I may be feeling a profound sadness and emptiness, I am not alone. Pain clouds my eyes so I can’t see, my brain so that it doesn’t think clearly, and my heart which no longer seems to be able to feel anything - at least not anything good.
 carved into the palms of my hands

But thru it all God is like the attentive mom. I may not have been able to see him next to me but God was there. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus.” His heart ached when mine did. His tears joined mine. His eyes never left me. God noticed every nuance of movement. When I could be angry he absorbed it. When I felt abandoned in my own black world I’d get a phone call, a card or even an acquaintance with a special message meant for me. Maybe I got a referral to just the right doctor or medication. Or a sermon or a song that was able to penetrate thru the pain. It may have been the briefest of moments but it was undeniably there. At the moment I never realized what was happening because I couldn’t see the big picture. Each tiny puzzle piece of my life began to fit together again- albeit slowly, very, very, slowly. It felt like forever. The truth is I wasn’t even looking for the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I’d become content in my dark world of emptiness. But God wanted another normal for me and wouldn’t let me slip away. He was gently persistent. He was a sponge soaking up my anger and resentment. None of my words could turn him away because he knew where they came from. God was the unseen mom on the edge of the bed, always watching and listening. I couldn’t acknowledge his presence thru my pain but that didn’t send him away. If I admitted his existence at all it was in desperate pleadings for help while constantly crying. I actually begged at times. Intellectually I believed God was faithful. The Bible says so. I was taught that as a child, but it was like shadow boxing. I kept begging and hearing nothing but silence. Empty air.

I went to my prayer corner every morning and sat. Sometimes I cried without words and sometimes I yelled. But if I wanted God to heal me I knew I had to present myself to him just as I was- just like going to the doctor to be cured. But I didn’t pressure myself to pray with words. I just sat there. That was my faithfulness; it was all I could do.

I read THE SHACK and it gave me a break thru; that is, the fact that I was blind to it doesn’t mean God wasn’t sitting beside me on the edge of my bed to speak, the whole time. Even if I didn’t believe God was there it doesn’t mean that’s true. God does lots of things without my seeing or knowing it to be happening. “Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.”

I listened to music: inspirational music, Christian music. I wrote in my journal as a way to empty my heart of some of its pain. I finally wanted to be healed and slowly I was. Now, Jesus and I go thru “normal” days together and the darkness that once enveloped me is gone. It’s my own mini-resurrection really. But God and I look back on those days together and we talk about them Why? How? Will I go thru that again? Better than the answers is the intimacy between us. In my prayer times I had only sat there like a big silent lump of nothing, but I did go there every day. Empty handed and close mouthed I sat. (If you don’t go to the doctor’s office, how can he help you?) I couldn’t do or say much but I could sit there.

So as the months went by and we stared at each other something was happening.

I allowed myself to be angry at God. I presented him with my nothingness instead of avoiding him or ignoring him. I read a book and I listened to music and journalled.

God watched everything and was working behind the scenes. The right friend was at the right place at the right time. A specific song seemed to get a reaction from me so I kept playing it. God accepted my anger and gently wiped the tears away. He listened, not just to the words that began to come but to what I wasn’t even able to express deep in my heart.

And now that time of my life is over and I have a friend who endured it with me. It’s sad when God only gets to be involved in part of a life. He gave us his whole life while he was on earth. That sets the example for us. Give Him your all and He will give you his.

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