A God Who Sees

Sitting in the pew, alone at the evening service, I had come into the weekend tired and worn out.  Looking for a place of rest. Often I attend church not out of obligation but out a need for grounding before the week starts.  This weekend was no different, but it was a special one. Mother’s Day. A day when children make pancakes for a breakfast in bed, where flowers are bought and the unspoken sacrifice of mothers are acknowledged.

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A day of celebration for some, a day of grief for others.

I find myself around mothers a lot.  I know a lot more about breastfeeding and child raising that I ever thought I would as a single woman.  Most of my very best friends have 2-3 children and we often hang out after bedtime or on a weekend morning when they can get away.

In my seat, on this evening, something broke. The emotions were ready at the surface.  And it stemmed from struggling to put into words how much a day like this did to stoke the flame of a life I desire to have. 

We sang these words, that dug deep in my heart and I tried to push them away, “There is a God who sees, just right where you are.”  When I think about the fact that God sees me, the tears flow quickly because in this moment, I feel unseen, I feel forgotten.  

Many times I think I am supposed to just keep going, be thankful for my blessings and keep living.  But I also feel that this ache and longing are just permanent roommates that I will live with forever.  The silent struggle of longing is a constant unwanted friend. 

As I sat in that pew, I tried hard to disguise the tears, slowly wiping my eyes so that no one around me would notice. I tried to hide the sniffles and the hot mess I was slowly becoming. I didn’t want the pity, I didn’t want to explain why in this moment, the pain was bubbling towards the surface.  I didn’t want to be another single girl crying about her lack of a husband and children.

In the pain, it’s lonely.  Especially if we try to hide it.  It’s exhausting to disguise something that hurts.  If you are trying to hide a limp, you sometimes end up hurting everywhere else, because you are compensating for the bad leg. It’s often better to do the things necessary to heal or rest so you don’t injure something else in the process.

In many ways, I am afraid to admit that I really want this thing, motherhood.  Because there have been other things that I have wanted for years and I didn’t get.  Years of wanting something, praying about it, because that is what good church folk do. But this prayer it hasn’t been answered.  This turns into tears of praying that God would take away this dream, that it wouldn’t be on my mind or heart. That I wouldn’t feel so distraught at the turn of every year when nothing has changed.

Then I wonder is it wrong to still want it when the prayer has not been answered?  Even when it is painful to long, to want. Is it wrong to still desire this thing that is in my heart? We often pray that God takes away the pain, takes away the longing. Because it would just be easier if we didn’t want it as much, right?

However, I think if the longing wasn’t there, we would be missing something.  We would be missing what happens between us and God when we long and pray and come before him.  On this side of heaven, we will always be in wanting, longing, for something that this world cannot provide.  

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To be honest, the words that I typed at the beginning of this post were written a year ago. I couldn’t post them. I couldn’t admit that I was in pain because I was still in sitting in a painful longing.  I was in a spot that I couldn’t have imagined 5 years ago. Sharing them now is a little bit easier, because God has revealed himself in my longing and pain. There are still moments that the pain is acute and so overwhelming that I have begged God to take away the longing, the desire for a different life than I lead now.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
And set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord,.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,
Who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie.

– Psalm 40: 1-4

But He has given me a new song to sing, a new dream in my heart. He has given me glimpses of joy that I would have missed if my life were different.  He has given me a different picture of what motherhood and family looks like. He has surprised me in ways that I didn’t think were possible.

The longer I am on this journey with the Lord, God is gracious to expand my view of him. He isn’t a God that is transactional. We don’t pray, live good lives and he gives us stuff we want.  His desire for us is bigger than that. He wants to be with us, to be near us so much so that our suffering, our longing, our wanting, is all a part of his timing and plan.  It brings us so much closer to his heart. In the moment it can feel cruel and so unloving of God. But He is a father, a heavenly father, desiring for our eternal good more than our momentary fleeting happiness.

What is even better than in the middle of our suffering, pain, and longing, he doesn’t leave us to deal with it on our own.  He is right there beside us, he is with us, to comfort, to love, to care for our aching hearts.

So friends, I don’t know where this lands with you today, whether Mother’s day is a great day, a hard day, or heartbreaking day, but as someone who experiences a wide spectrum of feelings on this day, God sees you.  He sees you right where you are at, he sees your aching heart, your joyous heart, your longing heart, your grieving heart.

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

Photo by Michael Domanic on Unsplash

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Roots and Lies

I took a 6 year break from the dentist.  It was all because when I had my wisdom teeth out and it was an experience. I had a hook on a tooth.  The root had grown into a hook shape. I won’t describe to you the process of getting it out or talk about the fact that I was awake the whole time, hence the 6 year break.

But that memory reminds me that the lies we believe have hooks on them.  The longer we let lies live in our hearts and minds, they will form roots. Not spindly roots like small weeds, but big gnarly roots that you can only get rid of with a chainsaw.

The hook has tentacles, grabbing hold of of the memories and thoughts.  Like a disease this lie begins to infect everything. We don’t even realize it.  We go about day by day, living a life shaped by the lies. We make decisions and move forward believing false things about ourselves, the world and who God is.

This could be believing the lie that we have to live to impress other people or we are what we make and do.  This could be that marriage will make us complete or that we are only good parents if our children are always well behaved.  Or even believing that we aren’t worthy of love or acceptance. That we aren’t beautiful or created perfect.

Whatever the lie, it doesn’t have to define us or hold us hostage. Thankfully, the roots don’t have to stay in us.  God is a rescuer.

 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.

(ESV) Psalm 40:1–3

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Photo by Robb Leahy on Unsplash

But in our world, we are really good at the self-help talk, the positive mantras and the affirmations to say daily.  There are people who make millions of dollars in the self-help industry.  Sure those can work, but those don’t mean anything if they aren’t based in who God says you are. 

The best kind of weed and root killer is one of truth.  

His words are the strongest and will carry the most power.  His word brought about the earth, it carries enough power to combat the lies. 

For God’s Word is solid to the core;
    everything he makes is sound inside and out.
He loves it when everything fits,
    when his world is in plumb-line true.
Earth is drenched
    in God’s affectionate satisfaction.

The skies were made by God’s command;
    he breathed the word and the stars popped out.
He scooped Sea into his jug,
    put Ocean in his keg.

Earth-creatures, bow before God;
    world-dwellers—down on your knees!
Here’s why: he spoke and there it was,
    in place the moment he said so.

(MSG) Psalm 33:4–9

Also God understands roots, His word is filled with the all sorts of root imagery..  He talks about being planted and rooted next to streams of living water, about being rooted and built up.  All of these things have to do with growth in our faith and belief.

Being planted and rooted, is powerful and painful. Think about it.  To be planted, means to be dug up, to be buried again, to breakthrough.  To uproot something, to dig out means pain.  To break free of the old roots meant to walk through pain.

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Photo by Zach Reiner on Unsplash

But when it is your heart that is broken and wounded, where do you even start?  When I started digging out the roots of lies, it left me broken, depressed and hopeless.  That felt worse.

In the midst of the brokenheartedness, I tried to live in the same way as before.  I tried to be the person I was before I dug out the root. It didn’t work. I felt fake and like a liar all the time. I tried to mask it. That just wasn’t me.  I held on to other lies in the midst of that season.  “I can’t let anyone see me weak.” “I have Jesus, I can’t be sad.”

The deepest wounds don’t heal overnight and not on their own.

You can’t self-heal. These wounds take care and procedures, medicine and rest, giving the place of the wound a break from the constant stress and strain of use.  Funny thing though, just as it is really hard to do a medical procedure on yourself, we won’t be able to remove the hook on our own.  Mostly we won’t get all of the root.    Healing comes in time.  And often you aren’t the same afterwards.

It’s like I needed a physical therapist for my heart. I needed someone to show me how to be wounded and yet still heal.

What it took was, first to say it out loud, to tell my people.  And to be honest, it was to find the people that I could trust to help, to walk with me as I continued to do the work.  It was the people that I could be broken around and they accepted and even welcomed my brokenness.

So many of us are walking around wounded and broken, looking to the things of the world to heal.  We busy ourselves, try to live out of old patterns, and just get through. Waiting for the next weekend, next vacation.  We distract ourselves from dealing with the wounds.

Friends, don’t wait, don’t hold back.  Don’t wait until the wound is infected.  Dig it out now.  And don’t do it alone.  The enemy wants us to believe that we have to live alone in our pain and brokenness.  That because of that we aren’t love and accepted.  But we are…we are chosen and loved and welcomed in. Brokenness and all. Not because of anything we did, but because of the one who opened the door for us, the one that has the power to dig out those roots and help us establish new ones.

Praying through the Pain

“Are you brave enough to pray and believe that God hears you and changes things?” 

Like a ton of bricks thrown at my heart, making it hard to breathe, I reel through pain that was just a shadow.  Maybe I have been hiding it for many years. Maybe I am good and pretending everything is fine, that I can muster up of the energy and positivity to get through my days.  

Except…there are days I am knocked on my knees with an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety about this life.  The voice that says, I messed everything up, it’s too late to change, I will forever feel this way, becomes louder.  The weight of the heavy reminder of pain of unanswered prayers, of hurt covered up by behavior modification or legalism. 

But NO, I am not brave.  Not even close.  I don’t believe that anything will change.

Faking it or just convincing myself otherwise no longer worked as it did for many years. The answers, the sermons mean nothing and I feel left alone in my darkness.  Some days, I can’t bring myself to sit and talk to God.  I don’t want to acknowledge the pain.  I want to run from it. 

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Struggling to sit in the pews and sing the songs without weeping uncontrollably.  It feels painful to sit in my pit of despair next to others who don’t know what to do with a puddle of someone next to them.  Maybe struggle isn’t the right word.  I think I just feel out of place.  Fighting this sense I must be crazy if I can’t just believe and live a neat and tidy life like those around me.  They seem to have zero problems, right? 

Sometimes I wish there as a point in the service where we could all just be honest about what we are struggling with right there before one another, that we would throw away pretence and posturing and truly know we are all in it with each other.

But I am not brave.   If I was to truly understand bravery, I would know that being brave means being honest with yourself and others.

And it means believing when everything around you tells you not to believe.  It is to believe even when no one else does.  When everything in your life says to abandon the belief and turn back. Bravery means to keep going through pain. 

It means standing in front of God, even when when the pain and darkness threaten you in that very moment, believing in a God that is stronger than the pain and darkness.  Believing that God is who he says he is and sent Jesus to overcome the world, so we wouldn’t be overcome by it.

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I write these words today because I myself need to believe them.  I probably do on some level today, but not on the level that I can write this without tears in my eyes.

I want to be that brave.  I want to be able to trust God so strongly that I can get up every day and not have to fake it and pretend that my heart isn’t broken or that I have it all together.  I want to be brave enough to not fight back tears or skip out of church early because I care too much what people think.

Abraham often comes to mind when I think of pain of the unanswered prayers or of years of uncertainty.

“In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (sine he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” – Romans 4:18-21

I am sure it was painful to walk through the day to day when this thing that God has promised hasn’t come true. Perhaps pushing him to make choices that caused more pain. Ridiculed, probably questioned, whispered about and left out of the circle of parents and grandparents. He probably lost friendships with those that had walked through the early years.

It isn’t just the pain from out side but the pain we cause ourselves. Within the darkness, the things we turn to for survival for some comfort or security, losing hope and faith in the day to day, only to be failed again. More pain, self inflicted.  The pain becomes the norm. We don’t want it but stay because everything else starts to feel like false hope. And to hope means to put yourself in a spot to be hurt again.  Cynical and bruised and broken.  Beaten up by the storms of this world.

But…I know a man, who could relate. Bruised and broken, betrayed and idolized. Those around him had thought he failed.  But he came to do what He was sent to do.  Dying the death we deserve.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Could this be, that God, in his Kindness sent his son, as a human man to experience the same kind of beating that we experience, so we would have a Savior that could relate? That can extend a kind of empathy that says, “Me too.”  The kindness that also gives us freedom to experience the pain, but with hope.  The hope of a Savior, that died so that this pain doesn’t last forever.

This life is not without pain, but it is partnered with the sweetness of knowing Jesus.  Know that our hope is not in our own efforts to not feel pain, but in the comfort of God in the midst of the pain.  And on the other side of that pain, whether on this earth or in eternity, it is the joy of knowing the great comforter.

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Without pain, we would not know the comfort of our Creator.

That is my prayer, that even if the pain doesn’t go away, even if nothing changes, that you and I would know the comfort, the kindness of our God in a sweeter and deeper way.  That we would know what it means to be loved by a God who is there, even in the midst of the darkest days.  Even when the pain is inflicted by ourselves, that we would allow Him to meet us in the pain, to dispense comfort and healing.

Can we brave enough to open ourselves up for healing?  Or even could we bravely take a step towards Him today, to be comforted even when nothing changes? 

 

 

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