Faith battles: Is God Speaking?

14138823_10207205513795653_6220339703742543748_oMy faith in God is not based in my mind. There are too many questions there. We are talking about things that are completely beyond what at least my mind can grasp. Faith is like quantum physics. My mind says, “Huh? Can you show me that please? Cause it makes no sense at all, and I’m not quite sure I even like it.”

My faith in God is not based in my emotions. My emotions are all over the place. My emotions are wrapped in abandonment and despair. How could they possibly support the idea of a God who loves and cares for me? How can I open myself up to the possibility of further abandonment, not only by a God I put my trust in, but by people because of that trust?

Instead, my faith in God is based in experience. It is based in God calling to me, speaking to me, very occasionally holding me.

For a long time, God was not speaking to me. I lived in unbelief, wanting to believe, but God was silent. Yet I kept chasing God, calling to him. And finally, when I reached a bottom of sorts, he spoke. The first word was a passage from the Bible he had used to call me before. I’d tucked a highlighter randomly into the middle of my Bible, and when I opened it I thought at first it was a psalm someone else had mentioned that I’d intended to look at more deeply, so I stopped to read it before moving on. I was surprised and encouraged when I saw it was a passage in Hosea which was so personal and special to me. The next day again, a similar passage, this time in Joel, verses in which God is calling Israel back to himself, telling them that his love for them is unending.

The next day I read a blog about the prodigal son, about the Father being so overjoyed about his son’s return that he ran to him when he was still far off. The son had thought the father would be angry at him for leaving home and squandering his inheritance, but he wasn’t. He was just happy to have his son back.

And the next day, I read a meditation by Ted Dekker, and it also was on the prodigal son.

One message, two confirmations.

This morning I was sitting here, feeling a little sick, my mind not lining up still, my heart honestly just grieving. In my Bible reading, I was in John 20, the resurrection story. I read that when Mary went to the tomb, she met Jesus there, but she didn’t recognize him until he called her name. And I thought yes, that is me. It takes him calling my name for me to see him. The Bible itself says that the message of the gospel is foolishness to those who haven’t heard that call. Yet I am still with Thomas, saying wait, let me put my fingers in the holes in your hands.

Then I am with Peter. I identify so closely with Peter, with Jesus telling Peter that he would deny Jesus three times, but when he returned he should strengthen his brothers. In the final chapter of John, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Peter gets exasperated over this repeated question, saying, “Lord you know I love you.” But each time Peter answers, Jesus tells him, “Feed my sheep.” For each of Peter’s denials, Jesus has given him an affirmation, and has reinforced his direction to strengthen his brothers, to feed his sheep. And finally, “Follow me,” even after predicting that Peter would die for his faith.

I was also listening to worship music this morning while I was doing my Bible study, and as I was digesting this, I was reminded that wandering is not unique to me, or even to modern times. The 18th century hymn, Come Thou Font of Every Blessing, says, “Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”

Then the next song came on, one of my favorites, Brokenness Aside by All Sons & Daughters. “Will your grace run out if I let you down? Cause all I know is how to run. Cause I am a sinner. If it’s not one thing it’s another, caught up in words, tangled in lies…. Will you call me child when I tell you lies, cause all I know is how to cry.”

Again, one message, then one confirmation, coming right on top of one another.

And yet, as I believe, still I doubt. Maybe I’m just crazy. Is it all just coincidence? Maybe I’m making things up to make myself feel better. But perhaps that is the purpose of these messages, to tell me that God knows this, that I wander and doubt, but he still seeks me, still calls me, that he will make it beautiful, that perhaps even he will use it to some day, some way, to feed his sheep, to strengthen his children.

As God seeks me, I seek him. Through the rain I seek the rainbow. Lord, make it beautiful. Please. My heart is aching.

Faith to do good

I had a discussion on Facebook today about the current presidential race, and one woman said Hillary was endangering our country by wanting to bring in Syrian refugees. The woman in question claims to be a Christian. This is something that I just don’t understand. I remember when the Syrian crisis began, the church I attended showed videos about how terrible the situation was, with Christians being beheaded by ISIS, among other terrible atrocities. At that time it seemed we were being encouraged to care and to help.

Within a few months, however, I noticed that Christians were up in arms about the possibility that Syrian refugees might be allowed into our country. “They could be terrorists,” they said. “We have to make sure we have enough for our own people before we go helping people from other countries,” they said.

I was truly astounded by this attitude coming from Christians. This is so far from what Christ taught! He taught faith, not fear. Matthew 25 says that whenever we do not help someone in need, it is as though we have failed to help Jesus. He taught that when the storms arise that we should not be afraid, but have faith, that he is always with us. He taught us not to be afraid to share what we have. Remember those loaves and fishes? What a lack of faith is displayed by those who call themselves Christians but dig in their heels against helping our Syrian brothers and sisters.

There are children who will suffer and die because of that triumph of fear over faith.

I guess I kind of take this personally, because the triumph of fear over faith, or compassion, or human kindness, or just plain goodness could well have cost my own child her life. My daughter, Michaela Joy Garecht (www.dearmichaela.com) was kidnapped in 1988, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction. Michaela’s friend saw her being kidnapped, watched the kidnapper’s until he drove his car out of the parking lot and onto the highway. Then she ran to get help. At that time, however, there was an older woman pulling onto the same highway from across the street. She took note of the kidnapper’s car. He was driving so erratically she thought he might cause an accident, and because of that she made an attempt to memorize his license plate number.

Later that day she watched the news, and realized what it was she had seen. Did she call the police? No, she didn’t. She didn’t because she was more afraid of the remote possibility of danger to herself than she was concerned about the certainty of the horror my daughter was facing. It was three months later that she called me, but even then she was motivated by fear. She had been in the grocery store and had seen a man who looked like my daughter’s kidnapper. She was afraid that he might have recognized her and might want to hurt her, and that is why she reached out to me.

I was nice to her. I talked to her, I “understood.” I talked her into undergoing hypnosis in order to try to recall the license plate number, but it had been a long time by then, and she told me the day before the session that she would not remember the license plate number. And she didn’t.

My sweet, beautiful, kind, innocent little girl endured what unknown fate that might have been prevented if this woman had come forward with whatever information she had, if she had come forward soon enough to be able to retrieve the license plate number. I really could not understand how she could have allowed the unlikely danger to herself to outweigh my daughter’s suffering, my daughter’s life.

And I don’t understand those who would lock the gates and turn their backs on the Syrian refugees because of their own imagined perception of possible danger, or worse, because they aren’t sure we have enough to share. One day, one way or another, I believe they will have to answer for this.

The sad thing is that these people don’t even acknowledge what they are doing. They don’t own up to their fear. They don’t confess their lack of faith. They seem to think they are fine, righteous even.

It’s just part of the political climate this season I guess. A heartwrenching season. I pray it will be over soon and we can go to better days under compassionate leadership.

Bone deep lonely

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I have been driving around town crying this morning. Mornings have just become really difficult for me lately. It is when my mind and emotions spin tales I can’t even read, leaving me a soggy mess of emotion. Most of the rest of the day I put them aside, or shove them into boxes of resentment. Even in the mornings I avoid them when possible by doing things like online classes. Distract. Disengage.

Right now, however, it is 10 a.m. and I am sitting in the parking lot at Target trying to pull myself together.

I was thinking this morning about God, and church, and I found what I was longing for was a place where I could collapse in a heap when I was scared, or when my heart was breaking, where there would be someone, or Someone, to catch me and hold me.

My first stop this morning was the hospital to get some blood tests. The hospital is new, built on the site of the old hospital, which was torn down several years ago. It’s set on a tiny mound of a hill, and as I was leaving the parking lot I looked out on the view, and I recognized it as the view I had looked out on from my mother’s hospital room as she lay dying in that old hospital. It will be 12 years ago next week, on October 10th. More tears, and the thought, I miss my mommy. If only she was here I would not feel this way.

But then I realized that wasn’t true. Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother, and I even admire her parenting. I look back on her bravery expressed in her ability to not get involved in my choices, to say very little in situations where I as a mom would be wanting to jump in. But I thought, maybe that is the problem, because if she was here, I would still feel lonely. I never ever knew what was going on with my mom because she never ever said. She was British and held to the stiff upper lip, and kind of encouraged that in me as well. Funny but I’d recently been engaged in an online discussion about whether kids should be left to cry themselves to sleep. I know my mother believed in that because she tried to convince me to do that with my kids. The opposing argument to the let them cry theory is that they learn not to trust that their emotional needs will be met. And I wondered, is that why I am this way?

Because I am never going to find that place where I can collapse and be held, because I am never going to be able to allow myself that vulnerability.

I have got a boatload of hurt here inside me, so deep. I have the worst kind of loss, betrayal, abandonment, grief, fear, all floating in this lonely ocean. And I just don’t know what to do with it, except for this. Write it down. As songwriter Anna Nalick says, “If I get it all down on paper it’s no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to.”

As if.

Well maybe it helps a little. My tears are dry now, enough to go into Target anyway.

Just remember, it’s okay to hold your children when they cry. Perhaps they will not end up feeling bone deep lonely, because they will allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to allow others to catch them and hold them when their hearts are broken or they are afraid.