Saturday, May 24, 2014
I haven't posted on my blog in awhile but it's not because things aren't happening. It's just that one of the biggest things isn't something that I'm ready to write about publicly. So I've been biding my time, waiting for the time when something came up that was both worth sharing and appropriate for sharing.
I'm planning to go to church tomorrow.
It's been six months since I've been to church and honestly, I'm nervous. I wrote about my break from the church in mid-January. I was bruised and broken from the losses we suffered in 2013 and church became a place where I felt increasingly bitter toward The Lord. I frequently heard a message that implied--never explicitly, only implicitly--that people who are faithful receive blessings and miracles. As someone who was in the midst of suffering and loss my mind and heart couldn't help but fill in the words expressing the other side of that coin--people who are not faithful, suffer. And let's be honest. Every one of us has been unfaithful in some way. I couldn't--and still can't-- honestly say that I've been faithful in every way. My grief combined with the knowledge of my own fault and made me bitter toward a God that would punish me by allowing my babies to die.
As my heart hardened toward The Lord I became comfortable with simply going through the motions. I showed up to church and our small group every week with a smile and a, "it's going ok." In January I realized that something needed to change and the best way for me to do that was to take a break from church. I've spent as many Sunday mornings as I could in the quiet hours when Nathan and the boys were out of the house to process my grief and allow The Lord to pursue me. And he has.
I was finally able to be honest with him. I remember yelling at him one Sunday morning, "You said your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. But this doesn't feel like goodness and mercy. You're going to need to explain that one to me because I don't get it." I told him that I couldn't do the work of turning my heart back to him, that he would need to do it (based on a passage from Lamentations). Then going to our women's conference at church and feeling The Lord sweetly say to me, "I'm turning your heart, I'm doing that work." I went to see a counselor at our church (if you've ever considered talking to someone like that, I would love to put you into contact with the woman I met, I can't say enough good things about her and our meeting) and at that point realizing that I was in a more balanced and theologically sound place than I've ever been before. At that time I was nervous about saying yes to the question Jesus was asking, "Is my grace enough for you?" because I felt like the question needed a forever answer. Then I realized that I needed to say yes every day, just as I take up my cross every day to follow him and that realization took some of the pressure off so that I could say yes.
A few weeks later I had a prayer session with the counselor from church. It was such a special time with The Lord. I asked him about some of my fear and he said, "I am with you. I will never leave you or forsake you. My goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life." I told him I was confused about what his goodness and mercy meant and he said, "I am your goodness and mercy." Can I just tell you how sweet that was? I have been wrestling with that verse for so long, trying to apply human logic and I've really been confused since we had our miscarriages. And then, in the space of about 90 minutes of prayer he answered my question so perfectly. "Ooooohh,"my heart said, "it all makes sense." HE is my goodness and mercy and he will follow me--he has been following me-- all the days of my life, even as I've walked through the valley in the shadow of death.
So now I feel as though my break from the church has accomplished the goal it was meant to, my relationship with The Lord is largely healed. And it's time to return. The break was never meant to be permanent, it was only meant to give my heart time and space to heal.
And I'm nervous. I'm nervous about the awkward questions and attention that may arise when people who have noticed my absence now notice my presence. Sharing these personal feelings on an online blog is one thing but attempting to condense all of this into a polite 30 second response in the church foyer is something entirely different. Some of the people who will ask me are people who have been reading this blog and keeping up with my journey, people who ask me how my break is going when they see me because we are close. Others are probably not reading along and have not been as personally part of my journey. I'm not sure if they understand the reason I needed to take a break to begin with. I haven't decided yet how to respond.
There's another reason I'm nervous; maybe unsure would be a better word than "nervous." I know that many of the things that I heard from the pulpit and the music leaders in 2013 will continue to be a part of services in 2014. The reality is that most churches in the United States struggle to find a biblically sound theology of suffering because there's simply no way to make it true AND comfortable. So I'm left with a question: how do I respond? Do I hold my tongue, frustrated and lonely? Or do I speak up, likely becoming a nuisance and bother? How do I speak up in a way that invites conversation, honest and unflinching, when my heart is still so tender and scarred?
As I'm writing I realize that both places of fear are hypothetical responses to hypothetical situations which are largely out of my control. For now all I can do is pray. If or when these situation arise my best response will still be prayer, for wisdom, grace, and love.