Christina is my other sister. My other soul twin. I know most people aren't blessed with good relationships with their siblings, and so I'm grateful for who Christina has been in my life. I'm the oldest. Then comes Christina - brilliant, loving, determined and gifted. I'm sure there have been moments where we weren't so close - like when we drew lines down the middle of the bedroom we shared as little girls. However, something happens in those close proximities. A bonding you don't even know takes place. I honestly can't ever remember a moment where I wasn't able to go to Christina about something I was burdened over. It seems as though this past year has proved difficult for both my sisters & myself. True to fashion, we don't go anything alone. Although we may be suffering different paths, the lessons are always the same. Today, Christina she reflects on the first year of marriage - and how God broke her during a time she thought would be joyous.
Two years ago I read C.S. Lewis', The Problem of Pain, and thought I was an expert on the subject.
Unfortunately, and as much as I hate to admit it, life cannot be experienced through books. There's no getting around it. I can read all I want about why there is pain, what to do with it, how to handle other people's pain, the life of Job, etc., and not come an inch closer to truly knowing how to function when pain comes ripping into my soul like Dorothy's worst nightmare. Disrupting my well-ordered, well-read thoughts with emotion that cannot be logically explained.
I have been married for almost a year. It has been a painful year. About two months into marriage, when I was happily cruising on a (what felt like would be) permanent high of a new marriage, new job, new everything I could have ever wanted, God very gently reopened a wound that covered up with many, many years of cynicism and pride.
Of course I never would have dreamed of saying that then. All I knew was that I would go to bed at night feeling like someone had ripped a hole in my heart and walked away without any explanation.
With this inexplicable came fear, depression, and hopelessness. Everyone throws around that phrase, "misery loves company," but no one ever tells you what company misery brings with it. Those were some of the darkest months of my life.
I guess what caused it to "feel" so intense was in contrast to what I had expected. I was barely into a new marriage and getting ready to finally go on staff with the ministry that I had volunteered for all throughout college. This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life.
Then God stepped in. He led my husband to ask me some hard questions. Grace-filled and always with gentleness, but hard.
God pulled back those layers of pride & cynicism and looked at that wound and said, "There, right there. You needed me and thought I had not come. You felt alone, unloved, abandoned. You were mocked by those you held closest to you, and you felt like I didn't do anything to stop it. So you protected yourself, Christina. You have built up your walls so high and thick that you've forgotten you need Me. You would rather be given the glory and approval of man than of Me."
I called one of my friends who has been a counselor to me for the past few years. I sobbed (maybe coherently) into the phone about what was happening. She prayed for me before saying anything. Then, very quietly, she said something that rocked my entitled self right over on my backside.
"Christina, I keep hearing the phrase, 'Go Limp.'"
".... what? Go what?"
"Yes, I feel like you're supposed to stop fighting this and go limp."
We talked for a little longer and then I hung up the phone. I rolled over onto my stomach and had it out with God. Where have YOU gone? What are YOU doing? Go limp! What do you mean?! I have given you everything Jesus and YOU leave me like this? Hung out to dry? Go limp?!?!"
A lot of people quote that verse in Psalms, "Wait on the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait on the Lord."
What if the Lord asks you to wait in pain?
If you read that and thought, "Well waiting in pain isn't that hard," then forgive me for being blunt, but you do not know the pain of which I speak.
There is a pain that doesn't allow you to run away from it. What if the Lord asks you to sit in that pain? That doesn't go away with medication, or facebook, or movies, or alcohol, or sex, or work, or a new pair of shoes, or a new hobby, or a new home project, or a new baby, or a new relationship, or, or, or.....
Waiting around the corners of your thoughts, it crashes around you. It suffocates reason. The only person who opened themselves up to that kind of pain was Jesus, and He wasn't too excited about it.
We humans have become experts at avoiding pain, and I wonder if we're numbing ourselves to death because of it.
Some of you know exactly the pain I am talking about. If you walked through a season of this pain in the past than you are overwhelmed with the mercy and grace of Yaweh.
We walk with limps, you and I, but we know Who holds us up, now, rather than what.
If you are walking through it now your soul may scoot as far as it can into the corner of your being and cover its face like a frightened child. There is hope, beloved. Oh, is there hope. You will be able to experience a side of your Father that only those wounded beyond coping can.
I heard a speaker give her reason for why she chooses to follow Jesus, and I thought it was beautiful:
"It's pretty simple, my God has scars."
There is hope in the middle of suffering. Even when the Son of God breathed His last on the cross, the curtain in the temple split in two, and the Holy and Eternal came colliding into this world to wrestle the broken, beaten, and forgotten from the hands of the enemy.
At the darkest hour hope came rushing into this world violently, and while Easter morning sings of salvation, it also brings a deep, unmoving, Strong Tower of joy to those who are in pain.
I feel like I could write for hours about the gritty in between spots, but much like how we process pain it would be a whirlwind of anger, depression, frustration, hurt, and exhaustion. Rather I'd like to give you snapshots of redemption over the past several months.
My husband laying beside me and holding my face in his hands, telling me that I need not bring anything to our marriage but myself, even if myself is unhappy.
Sitting in a chapel in Colorado during a worship service and weeping for thirty minutes, because God gave me the vision of Him running toward me in desparation, arms wide open.
Reading the scene between Edmund and Aslan in, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," on the front porch of the admin building at the YMCA of the Rockies and realizing what grace really is.
Mourning losses I haven't allowed myself to. I cried about things that happened ten years ago.
Being able to forgive someone who I've been bitter toward for quite some time, and then being able to forgive a church that I've been bitter toward for quite some time.
Reading the Gospels and hearing the tone of Jesus' voice, hearing the desparation that has no trace of the pathetic, but rather stems from a holy love.
There's much more, but to wrap it up I wanted to include an excerpt from "The Gospel According to Job," by Mike Mason:.
.... they are something we have come to expect in the speeches of Job: a shockingly earthy account of a knock-down-draw-'em-out struggle against the raw power of an incomprehensible Spirit Being. Time and again Job resorts to images of war, savage aggression, and brute hand-to-hand combat in an effort to describe his relationship with God. Why? Because in his present condition this is what faith fells like for him. this is what it is like to believe in God when absolutely everything is going wrong ...
Those who utterly despair of trying to do anything good for God, yet who blindly insist that God be good to them - these are the faithful ones. These are the ones who have the grit to hold on to God through the grimmest and dirtiest of scuffles. Nothing short of that kind of faith could have carried Jesus through the ordeal of the cross, "The old rugged cross," a famous hymn calls it, and so it was. The cross was a rough, dirty, violent affair, and it was all God's idea. Why do we picture the Lord as being less rugged than we are? Just because He is holy, does that make Him milk-mannered, skittish, oversensitive, and effete? Too delicate to handle the gross crudities of real life? if we shrink from the idea of wrestling with God, is it because we are afraid of losing? But Jacob did not lose! Perhaps the real probelm is our fear of offending God's refined sensibilities. Are we so afraid of seeing our nice clean God get dirt under His nails, or blood on His lily-white hands?
There is no life without fight. There is no reality without blood, toil, tears, and sweat. If you are a Christian who does not wrestle, then you may be sure of one thing: someone else is doing the wrestling for you.