Editors Note: if you get these delivered to your email box, you likely got an earlier version of this, not quite done. One day I will figure out how to use my cellphone. That is what I get for blogging during church.
Oh how he loves us is being streamed in through the speakers as the band sings live. The words are on the screen but plenty of people have their eyes closed and their mouths moving. These words are written on their hearts. I see the waving of hands, the swaying; they really mean it. Oh how he loves us.
I notice the t-shirt of the man on the drums. You call. I will go. I know he means that. It is a bittersweet noticing for me. I am sitting quietly in my chair unable to be swept up in the frenzy. I am just too tired. I have too many questions.I am too critical of the words on the screen. I have seen too much brokeness this week. Is that really true? Do I really believe that? Does he really love us?
After the guitar and jembe are set down the pastor pulls an extra chair up to the bistro table in the front. A woman from the congregation is invited to chair her story. What she thought was a back ache turned out to be pancreatic cancer. The statistics are grim, a 95 percent death rate for pancreatic cancer in the first year.
I suppose she could have given us the good talk we are all used to hearing from the pulpit. That God is good all the time, that he has met her mightily in this valley. Instead she tells the truth. How she is calling out to God in the middle of the night and all she gets is silence. How all she wants is to feel God holding her hand, and all she feels is an empty palm.
I think that was the holiest truth I have ever heard in church: I don’t feel God and I need to. I am angry at a God who has abandoned me. I am crying out in the wilderness.
I am grateful that I was at a service that had room for both, the frenzied hand raising, the brutal honest of what life feels like sometimes. We were invited to lay hands on this woman, to pray for her. This woman who opened her heart to us, bore her soul, allowed us to lay our hands on her and pray to a God that she can’t hear right now. I surrounded her hands with mine. I prayed she would feel the holding.
If that isn’t holy, I don’t know what is.
I would think we all cry out those same cries more than we are willing to admit. I know I cried out the same last week and felt the same silence; the same pain of wondering; the tearing of one’s soul as they believe yet don’t see. It is tough during these times and I think we need people just to stand with us and not offer much more than just their being there during these times of unrest and torment in our souls.
While it doesn’t feel good, struggling and questioning are VERY normal parts of the Christian experience. God doesn’t want us to follow Him blindly just because He said so. We are supposed to struggle and question. We don’t learn that God is real because we read the Bible and think “Oh, well, if the Bible says its true… it must be.” We learn that God is real because we give Him a chance to show us He is.
Christianity isn’t supposed to be a “feel good experience” where we all just say “Hallelujah! God is wonderful” all day long. It is a real relationship, both with God and with others. And like with any relationship, there will always be ups and downs and that’s okay! You aren’t alone in this, that’s for sure. In fact, I wrote something similar on my own blog about this http://17hourdays.blogspot.com/2013/10/in-trenches.html. So know you are not the only one who isn’t always on a “God is Great!!!” high all the time.
Yes. This: “I think that was the holiest truth I have ever heard in church: I don’t feel God and I need to.”
Holy truth indeed.