Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where is God?

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

These are not the words of a person who has no faith.  These are not the words of a person who doesn't know God.  These are the words of Jesus in the midst of agonizing pain on the cross in Matthew 27:46 and I'm so glad he said them!  Why?  Because knowing that even Jesus felt this way at least once enables us to be gentle with ourselves when we feel the same way.  Sometimes in the midst of great pain and difficulty we don't feel God around us at all.  We feel forgotten and forsaken.  We can't help but ask, "Where is God?"  Often we feel guilty or make others feel guilty for asking such a question, but this question is an authentic part of the journey with God.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus was not the first person to ever say this or feel this way.  He is quoting Psalm 22, written a thousand years before his time.  People on the journey have been wrestling with this for a very long time: the felt absence of God in the presence of real pain.  I don't believe that God disappears when we are hurting, but that sometimes the pain we experience in life is so great it becomes all that we can see, all that we can feel.  It can become so overwhelming and blind us to everything else.  When you have lost your mother to cancer and you're only a teenager, when you have had 3 miscarriages in a row but still no children, when the love of your life has left you and has shattered your heart to pieces, it is hard to feel God, hard to see God in your life, hard to believe that God is still there.

Feeling this way is ok.  Anyone on the journey will feel this way at one point or another.  Don't lie about it.  Don't pretend it's not there.  Don't feel guilty.  Feel what you're feeling and bring it all to God.  Your frustration, your disappointment, your anger, your rage, bring it all to God.  Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in feeling what you're feeling.  For thousands of years people on the journey have been struggling with the exact same feelings.  You are not alone.

I don't know why life can be so painful at times, but in moments when life has broken my heart and I can't see God and I can't hear God and I can't feel God, I sit and I wait.  I know that feeling forsaken is not the same as being forsaken.  I know that  I am surrounded by a God that I sometimes cannot feel because the pain gets in the way. And if knowing this isn't enough I sit and I wait until it is.

Following the Way,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When It Hurts

Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Psalm 10:1

Has anyone else ever felt this way?  Are we willing to admit to ourselves that we have?  As believers far too often we get really fake with what we're feeling.  We're expected to smile and say, "All is well!" when all is not well.  Sometimes we think that faith requires us to actively deny the reality in front of us.  Ignore the pain; ignore the questions; ignore everything that doesn't fit into our neat and tidy, black and white theology.  That's not what faith requires and the result of hiding our pain is that others around us feel like they have to do the same thing.  Sometimes you end up with entire faith communities that are hurting, but everyone is suffering alone because no one feels safe enough to be honest about their pain, doubt and disappointment.

Let me be the one to say that this passage above echoes exactly what my heart is saying to God right now.  I take a look at some areas in my life and can't help but ask, "God, where are you"?

What do we do when it hurts?  I want to take a few weeks to talk about this.  Let's talk about all the things "good Christians" aren't supposed to talk about: our pain, our doubts, our disappointments.  Why?  Because we cannot say that we are in relationship with God without bringing our whole selves to God, everything: the good, bad and the ugly.  And we cannot say that we are in relationship with one another if we are not willing to be open and transparent with each other even when it gets uncomfortable. This is what it means to have authentic community.

To anyone who may be hurting right now please know that you are not alone.  Whatever you may be facing in life you are not alone.  We all have our pain, our struggles, our unanswered questions.  Let's walk out this faith journey together.

Following the Way,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Call From My Father

Yesterday was my birthday and thanks to the magic of Facebook I received SO many birthday wishes.  It was overwhelming.  Everybody and their momma were wishing me a happy birthday: friends I see all the time, friends who have moved away who I haven't seen in years, parents of friends, cousins, former grade school teachers, people I used to work with, I mean everybody!  It was nice.

I had a good day.  Some coworkers took me out to lunch and another one surprised me with a big piece of chocolate cake. Thank you Jesus!  Honestly though the day was a mix of joy and sorrow because I have been a mix of joy and sorrow for quite some time now.  There are things in my life that I am SO grateful for and other things that have caused me so much disappointment it hurts to even name them.

So last night, while I was hovering over this space between joy and sorrow I got a call from my father.  He called to wish me a happy birthday.  My father and I have never been close and I don't expect that we ever will be.  This used to bother me when I was younger, but I have come to accept it.  Just a week ago I was calling him to wish him a happy birthday and struggling to believe that my father is now 67 with many more years behind him than in front of him.  It's weird and scary.  Time is taking its toll.  The man who worked 2 jobs for years is now retired.

And yet time has made my father more human to me.  My father has never been able to love me as I needed to be loved.  He has never known how to give me what I needed.   I've known that for many years, but now as I look upon my aging father I also realize that he is just a man who loves me as best as he can.  Is it enough?  No it's not, but he's doing the best he can.  And that's probably the reason why out of all the phone calls, text messages and facebook posts I received for my birthday yesterday, a call from my father is what I'll remember most.

Following the Way,