Who Are You?

IMG_2115There’s been a post brewing in my soul for the past several weeks, and although it’s a little hard to know where to begin with it (or if it will even come together), I think it’s probably time to try writing it.

If you read this blog even semi-regularly, if you attend the church where I preach, or if you have any kind of informal conversation with me now and then, then you’ll know that over the past several months (maybe even years?) I’ve been in a fairly dark and lonely place.

My prayers have felt cold, rising from my chest like a limp fish, hitting the floor instead of the Ear of Heaven. The Bible has felt dry and distant; like a newspaper written in a language I barely understand.

My companions in this place have been few, and I fear sometimes that they (like me) have grown weary of the scenery here, in this spiritual desert (cue the scene from Lord of the Rings where Frodo and Sam are getting closer and closer to Mt. Doom).

Movement is needed. I get it. For myself as much as my companions on this journey, I cannot stay in the wastes of Mordor forever. This isn’t a place I would have chosen to enter…but if I’m honest I will say I’ve come to like it here.

I’ve learned some hard lessons. I’ve learned that God is thankfully (and infuriatingly) independent from me, while at the same time we are intimately woven together so that it’s often hard to find the boundaries between divinity and humanity.

I’ve learned that the times it would be easiest (and make the most sense) to write off this Christian thing (or more specifically, this church thing), those are the times when there’s something really, really valuable to learn.

I’ve learned that God is known in, through, and because of tension. Not a mad rush to judgment on one side or another…but in holding the tension like a handful of feathers.

I’ve learned in this dark space, that the people I get most upset with are the people I have the most in common with. Some are in their own dark space. Others refuse to enter it.

I’ve learned that if I want to be like Christ, I have to love those people. The ones that upset me. The ones I disagree with. The ones who I think need some darkness in their lives.

I’ve learned that “love” looks different in different situations, just like Christ.

I’ve learned a lot, but too much darkness is not good for the soul.

The best I can do (maybe the best anyone can do) is to speak (and write) as one who carries darkness like feathers, gentle reminders that tangible birds (which are symbols of hope) do fly through the wasteland.

We cannot force another into (or out of) their dark place. But we can encourage them to reach for the stars in the pitch-black sky .

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4 Responses to Who Are You?

  1. bobstuhlmann says:

    You make me think of “The Dark Night of the Soul”. only more immediate. Those of us in dark places just aren’t a lot of fun to be around. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a time of self-examination, a Lent of the soul, that will lead you through and out the other side. You’re right. It’s not something that can be short-circuited with platitudes about the love of god. or a pat on the shoulder that everything will be all right.

    While true, the shriving of Lent, the time in the garden with Christ, or without Jesus, can be openings to the future. Blessings. Oh, don’t worry, you are not alone. The are billions who have to hear that the time of darkness is as necessary as the breaking of the morning light. The parents and siblings and friends in Newtown, CT or the unheard cruelties done to love ones, or simply being stuck needs those who cry in the darkness with them.

  2. Laura Amstutz says:

    Patrick, thanks for your honesty. This has been a hard season for me too. And it’s been hard for me to minister out of that darkness. I was struck yesterday by something I read about Isaiah 43:16-21. It’s God speaking “You think I can’t get you out of Babylon? You think I’m going to just leave you here among the pagans and the idolators? You must not remember who I am. I’m the one who surprised everyone by getting you out of Egypt. In case you’ve forgotten, I told Moses to call me I Will Be Who I Will Be, which ought to remind you that I’m in the improvisation business when it comes to getting my people saved. Watch me do something new.”

    It just reminded me that God’s people have been in desert and wilderness just as often as they’ve been in promised land. Somehow that’s comforting, and it’s comforting to know that even though I’m in wilderness God is still in the improvisation business in terms of delivering me. So I watch and wait and hope for God to do something new. And sometimes all I have is that openness, but that’s okay.

    • nafzigpa says:

      Thanks for sharing Laura; I think sometimes we introverts can get lost in the rugged beauty we find in the wilderness…and forget that we do need to move through it, right? God is walking with us as well as delivering.
      Thanks again for sharing!

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