Truth in a Church Lobby

Sitting on my porch, still blurry eyed from sleep, I took in a long, slow, deep breath and inhaled the aroma of rain, honeysuckle, and brewing coffee. As my breath left my lungs I felt my spirit exhale. I smiled. My Lover brings me perfumes. He lavishes these small gifts on me like the cadenced flow of a river washing away yesterday’s tears. His mercies are new every morning.

I wrote those words. I posted them on Facebook and watched the masses express their appreciation. A click of a mouse and I’m affirmed. I’m Liked. And from the safety of a well crafted status update I hide the reality that I struggle to actually believe what I wrote. That’s the thing about Facebook, or Twitter or a church lobby. You can masterfully edit your life to draw attention only to the pithy moments of your day, the clever or deeply spiritual soundbites, all the while, carefully measuring what people see. Let’s be honest. We talk endlessly about vulnerability and transparency. We hold these virtues high, but we honor them more than we practice them. We toy with them. “Oh, things are a struggle but God is good. I’m learning,” we say. But do we ever unzip our skin and expose what’s really going on. We convince ourselves that strangers can’t carry the weight of the truth and the people close to us think they know it. And quite frankly, we shield our hearts to avoid the empty answers and cliches so quickly offered. But what if I dared to tell the truth. The unfiltered, unsanitized truth.

“Hi, welcome to Well Intended Church with Legitimately Caring People! How are you?” In a moment no longer than a blink I imagine what it would be like to answer truthfully.

“Hi! Well, Let’s see. I’m in YEAR SIX of wandering through what people call “a spiritual wilderness”. I don’t experience God’s presence. His voice is quiet. His affections disconnected. It’s confusing, and hurtful and lonely. At times, the loneliness is so thick if I give myself permission to feel it, it overwhelms me to the point of feeling suffocated, so I lose myself in TV or work or activities. But there are the moments it forces itself through the door and won’t let me forget it’s as close as my skin. I’m told He draws near to the broken hearted. I was discarded by someone I believed loved me. So I take these wounds to God, but I don’t feel His comfort, or protection or healing. I feel nothing. I hear nothing. And I cry out for mercy, but there is none.

And I wonder Did He abandon me? Am I expendable to Him, too?

If hope deferred makes the heart sick, by now my heart is terminal. I walk with God every day. I have my whole life. And I don’t experience the comfort and satisfaction everyone around me seems to swim in. It’s like God loves me, but just as a friend. He likes me enough. I’m sure He loves me. But not with the same delight and passion He has for the people who are more…well, I don’t know what they are. But apparently it’s something I’m not. How can I make myself lovely enough that He wants me, too? I don’t feel His love. What can I do to get His attention?

I don’t feel His presence. I know it’s there. I believe it. But it’s a conviction, something I experience intellectually. But what I know, the truth I desperately cling to, doesn’t fill my lungs when the hurt goes so deep it takes my breath away.

I’m ashamed for being crushed under the weight of so little. EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE IS FINE!! But on the inside I’m staggering, and nobody knows the difference. How can a person with so much feel so worthless, so overlooked by God? I want to be the woman who stands confidently in what she knows, despite how she feels. But right now, I’m not. There’s a chasm between what I know and what my pain tells me.

I know what you’re going to say. I’ve heard it all.

We don’t live by what we feel, but what we know to be True. Yes, thank you. I know all the answers. I can recite them to you if you’d like. And I’m pretty sure He’s never been all that impressed with my “right answers.” Besides, I need Him to care that my heart is broken and scared and barely hanging on. He doesn’t seem moved by that. Why doesn’t He care about my heart? Why do my groanings go unanswered? Why is He hiding from me?

Just hold on. Breakthrough is coming. It’s just around the corner. I’ve been around a lot of corners and I’m not seeing this breakthrough everyone talks about. Holding out hope that it’s coming is exhausting and more than discouraging when everyday is like the one before. When does my redemption come? When is my pain made beautiful?

Jesus is the only one for me. If there was nothing after this life, I would still choose Him now. So why is His affection elusive? Why don’t my groans move Him? I don’t know what else to surrender. He has it all. I can’t beg anymore. I can’t hope anymore. I can’t keep fighting but I can’t give up. And I’m so weary.

I blink slowly, retreating from my momentary daydream and offer a most convincing smile. “I’m well. How are you?”

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5 Responses to Truth in a Church Lobby

  1. Stephanie says:

    I love you for this!

  2. Cap says:

    This is where you would come into the office, sit down, and we would talk; and we would listen to the Blues, and we have coffee. And I would remind you of all God’s promises and though it is hard to Believe! at times like these it is there that we see faith growing strongest. I would remind you of Ez. 37 and God’s promises to give life to the dry bones of his people—to revive them; I would remind you that He has promised you many things, among which is “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in WEAKNESS.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my WEAKNESSES, so that the POWER OF CHRIST may rest upon me. For the SAKE OF CHRIST, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am WEAK, then I am STRONG” (2 Cor 12:9-10)—yes, made strong, but not presently or immediately; and we might laugh, and sigh a bit, too, because we would find little satisfaction at that moment—encouragement, maybe, but we need more just then. And were all this today I would also remind you of the words of Leonard Cohen. And we would play his song, “Hallelujah.” And we would agree that it may have helped make sense of this tough time. And I would point you to his struggles and his conclusions through them.

    Maybe there’s a God above
    But all I’ve ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
    —It’s not a cry you can hear at night
    It’s not somebody who has seen the light
    It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah—

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    You say I took the name in vain
    I don’t even know the name
    But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
    —There’s a blaze of light in every word
    It doesn’t matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah—

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    I did my best, it wasn’t much
    I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
    I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
    And even though it all went wrong
    I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    And we would see the need to hear the song again. Did he really say, “Maybe” there is a God? Yes, but we would be reminded that he lapsed not into doubt, but into honesty—that at this time his was a cold and a broken, “Hallelujah.” But it was Hallelujah nonetheless. And we would see his brokenness driving him into God, not away from Him: “It doesn’t matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah.” Holy or broken, it was still Hallelujah.

    And then we would listen to the last verse in tears, and we would be convinced that he was right: even in the dark, the doubt, or the dryness, there is only one thing to do: and do it; we commit, come what may, to “stand before the Lord of song with nothing on our lips but Hallelujah.”

    Then we would admit, the coffee gone, the music over, that there is much to do: and we would have a big hug and pray together, and go on about the day strangely better because we had this time. Wouldn’t we?

    Cap

  3. cheryl says:

    I think that’s about how it would go. Deep sigh. Love you, Cap.

  4. Wonderful, powerful piece! Thanks for living transparent and vulnerable! Remember that there are folks who have you “held up” as the roots of the Redwood tree… even though you are going through this extra long time of dryness, you are supported through it by the folks who have you… I know you’ve got those folks. Your arms are linked in theirs and their strength will flow for you and through you when yours is only dripping. If only we could take off the masks and be more vulnerable, more transparent, live it real…. good stuff! Powerful (as I already said)!

    Debra (Profe)

  5. Ali says:

    Beautiful post!! Tears.
    Then thought of this verse:
    The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness.”
    Jer 31:2
    Praying you are finding grace in this wilderness.

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