And from Michelle, about what is really important in life:
Staying - When we stay in the valley and become honest with God something remarkable happens
The last SATURDAYS post talked about God redeeming even the darkest parts of our story. I love that idea...God turning despair into hope, Night into day, dark into light. But often the idea is a lot easier than the execution. How do these dark-wait-days become redeemed? How can we practically find God in them? Have you asked these questions? I know I have!
Perhaps it begins when we stop trying to turn on the light ourselves. Of course it's only natural to look for light in dark places. When my dad got sick I wanted to find ways to alleviate the pain and shock of it all. No one with any appetite for life initially enters a difficult season by saying, "Oh yeah baby! Bring it on...the more desolate the better!" Nope... We initially want out! But skipping across the top of pain does not allow us to be present with it, which is what brings healing.
While I believe being present with pain is the best way through it, often I need to learn how to do that. In the case with my dad, the only thing I really knew was that I didn’t like it. I wanted things to go back to the way they were. I dreaded the journey ahead for him, my mom, for everybody. So, secretly in my heart, I tried to find a light switch to turn on. I wanted to illuminate this path and find something better, but there was no light switch. (Now, before anyone corrects me, don’t worry, I already know Jesus is the light of life...I don't need a reminder) Since I could not find a way to illuminate that path, I groped for a door and looked for a way out, but every door opened to the same reality. I was so frustrated and overwhelmed. But God had a plan, He still does. And one of the gifts of such sacred darkness is that there is no escape.
To find the light of Christ we must be willing to journey the dark, solemn places of our soul that rise up and question the goodness of God. Job did that and he wasn't scolded, he was actually reminded of God. Perhaps some would say, we shouldn’t question God’s goodness, or that we should trust him more. Well, that’s a good idea and when you meet someone who has that figured out, let me know. I have tried bringing my “should” or “shouldn’t” self to God. It doesn’t work very well, because it isn’t my real-self. I don’t need God to love the person I should be, I need him to love the person I AM. Nothing discloses the real-me more than moments of desolation.
I suppose that’s why raw honesty works best...at least it does for me. In that hotel room near Stanford sometime around 3 am I could cry out, “God, I don’t like this! I’m overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment. I don’t trust you to be good right now because the pain and shock I feel eclipses much of what I’ve learned about you....or at least what I've come to believe. If you are who you say you are, please come and meet me here.” …And he did, and he brought his goodness with him. Like Job, I wasn't scolded in his presence, I was reminded.
So I asked God to open my eyes to what was real and to see His goodness in it. As I came across a garden at Stanford I was reminded there is a Gardener that grows beautiful things from dirt that holds seeds; and the soil bed of our hearts are being prepared, all the time, for sacred work and beauty. Walking through the many waiting areas God gave me eyes to see past the medicine and notice the sleepy sojourners in waiting rooms, unforgotten by the One who is high above it all. He's the one who remembers our waiting condition and keeps us present before the Father even when we can't do so ourselves (Rom 8, Isa 55:8-9). He collects our tears and carries our sorrows (Ph 56:8). He does it while we work out our disappointments with Him, with our story and with ourselves.
It takes time to make room for such soul-space. Silence and solitude are key. In them, the many screams from this crazy roller-coaster can be silenced. His still small voice finds an echo that carries its way to the canyons of our dismay. And while we wait in the basin of darkness, we learn to die. We loosen our grip on what we must have, who we must be, the things we must accomplish, and we simply begin to rest in who we are and what we’ve been given. We become present with ourselves and, if we invite him, Jesus shows up too. The sinner dines with Holiness and in the power of God’s loving presence, we are changed.
I am slowly learning to let the Light of Life love me in honest visitations. This, after all, is our inheritance. Let us receive it with…joy.
Become silent for a moment. Stay quiet long enough to notice what's rumbling in your heart and mind?
What honest plea might you have for God?
Practice trusting Him by voicing that plea before him. Set your 'should' and 'shouldn't' aside and dare to speak what rises up.
Let the Light of Life love you in the darkness and hold you present before Himself.
Hear Him say, "Oh beloved, show me your face, let me hear your voice. For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. There's nothing in your story that I have not seen and remembered."