Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever experienced so much until your worn thin and you figure surely God will give you a break for a while; that after a season of a wide load of suffering and processing and healing… and learning from all the suffering and processing and healing, that the Big Guy is finally done and will politely leave you alone for a minute? And then He doesn’t.
He’s never done. He just keeps wrecking me.
“If it was His will, I hated Him for it…”
These were just a few of many words from a gripping poem written by our pastor whose wife was killed in an accident two years ago. But the poem was written just two months ago. It’s amazing to me how the life transforming things that happen to us just become, and remain, a part of us. I once heard another pastor challenge the congregation to remember this when someone experiences loss, to go and visit them and feed them and hug them not just the week of the tragedy, but long after the visits and casseroles stop coming, because even way later – they still hurt, still need comfort. As time changes things, and though wounds may no longer be fresh, their loss remains no less. Pain remains.
“Time doesn’t heal all pain, it’s the Cross that heals all pain.” Challenging words from this morning, as we were reminded how unfortunate it is that we all go through suffering and yet we fail at knowing how to truly go in and sit with and be of real help to others in their own struggles. This is for a few reasons:
1. We don’t know what to say so we either engage in painstaking small talk saying stupid things that don’t really matter or we resort to “chin up” clichés that are really more like a slap in the face to the one that just plain hurts.
2. We judge others for why they are in their suffering. We might say ‘Oh he’s where he is because he’s a drug addict or embezzled money or lied so that’s his fault as opposed to meeting him where he is in the suffering aftermath. Jesus never did that.
3. We rush to put a cap on the pain by replacing the hurt with things that make us feel good. We shop, we exercise, we trade one bad relationship for a new one, all the while never allowing the pain to fully process. This is never good. Jonathan, our pastor, made a gutwrenching statement this morning about this tactic:
“Pain that is never fully processed will always continue to shape our lives and who we are.”
Woah. Check please.
I didn’t want to go there, frankly because I didn’t think I needed to. But I’ve said before that I know I’ve only got one short life, I don’t want to miss a thing God has for me. I want to live it fully and experience every morsel. Well, that being said, I thought, maybe I should go there, just for a minute think on this, just to be sure… I do want a full life… & I do NOT want it to be shaped by crap.
And then the welling up began… as layer by layer God ruined me.
First, ugly ol’ pride began to well up in me as I sat and processed these things. I thought of people who could really stand to hear the part about “no judging- just be there” …
And then I remembered times I had judged and people I’d hurt.
Then sweet ol’ comfort began to well up in me as the friends of faces came to mind that had looked past my circumstances and met me, loved me, and comforted me in the depths of my mud.
And then I remembered how rare that is…. And faces came to mind that are suffering and how little I’ve done to meet them in their mud.
Last, a dose of relief began to well up in me as I thought of those big wide loads of life I could thankfully say I have fully processed. I put in the time, I cried every tear, I resisted the clichés and trekked through the valleys of healing and endured the inner operations down long roads of recovery. No caps on my pain. I’m good to go. Next.
But God wasn’t done. He kept digging.
As I recalled with satisfaction those big heart operations, one by one I checked them off my list with God. Layer by layer He removed those things… Little did I know what He was up to.
When layers are removed, deeper things are revealed.
I found myself surprised as God went deeper. My check off list stopped, but He didn’t.
Sometimes we come across junk that isn’t quite ready for the trashcan but we’re not quite sure what to do with it or where it should go,
so the junk gets kicked under a bed or stuffed in a corner somewhere.
The other day Jacey proudly came to get me to show me how well she had cleaned her room.
When I walked in I gave her a big smile and told her how great it looked. And then I said… “should I get on me knees and check under the bed… maybe check out what’s behind this door? Or do you want to do that and then come back and get me?” She opted for door number two.
God took me past the big rooms, down the halls, and further still to the corners to show me some things I’d forgotten about. He showed me some hurt.
“Out of sight-out of mind” can trick us into not pursuing closure, and eventually, if I really want to live fully and missionally, effective as a mother, friend, and anything else God calls me to be, I need get the junk out of the corner and deal with it.
As I sat with God today, my prayer was for honesty and faithfulness in everything he puts on my plate. And I could honestly say that once the junk came out from under the bed, I didn’t know where to put it. All I could do was cry at the thought of what I need to do to take care of this unfinished business. But I don’t want it around anymore, so where does it go? I was clueless. “God I don’t know how to process this…. I don’t know what to do with it, where do I start?” And His response was basically, “Think ding dong, I’ve already told you, you already know.”
And faithfully as ever, scriptures came to mind. Simple scriptures. The blunt kind that don’t beat around the bushes but just say clearly,
Hey… When you want this, it’s simple, “DO THIS.”
When you need healing, do this. (James 5:14-16)
When you need provision, do this. (Malachi 3:10)
When you need forgiveness, do this. (Mark 11:26)
When you want to help others, do this. (James 1:27)
When you’ve reached the bottom of your checklist and still need reconciliation, do this. (Matt 5:23)
And if you need wisdom, just ask for it, and I promise I’ll give it, generously. (James 1:5)
I asked, and He answered. Plenty. “Okay okay okay,” I thought, “I got it.” Ugh.
Apparently I still have some confessing, repenting, forgiving, adjusting, and processing to do, along with a couple letters to write, and maybe a few visits too. Ugh. Ugh. Ughhhhhh.
And apparently still some more heart transformation… and a lot of prayer.
It’s tough stuff. I mean like uuuugggggghhhhhhh-tough. It’s not easy to deal with the forgotten junk. It’s weighty, and there’s no place for pride. I already feel a sense of weight lifted just in the realizing, but just realizing is not enough. Now I have to do the work. But I can only imagine the doors that open wide when we are faithful to press through and get to the other side of it, when it’s finally ready for the trash can. And I would wager that as we do, we might just get better at going in with others, and meeting them in their mud.
I don’t know why I ever think for a second I’ve learned enough for now or that He’ll leave me alone for even a minute. He’s just not done. He’s never done with me. He just keeps wrecking me. He keeps ruining me. For good. And each time He chips off more of me, He replaces the junk with mind blowing blessings, and fills me with more of Him. And though sometimes I “UGH”… I wouldn’t want it any other way.