No Easy Answers

31 Jan

Holly here, hey everyone! Welcome back to our blog, formerly David’s blog, but I’ve hijacked it. I’ll get around to cleaning it up and updating soon, but for now, here are some recent thoughts:

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty averse to doing things that most everyone else is doing. There’s something in me that really pushes against anything that smells (to me), even a little, of cliche. For instance; New Year’s Resolutions, or even a “word” for the new year. My eyes automatically start to roll, I can’t help it. Now, I’m not trying to paint myself as some super cool rebel. I recognize that there are reasons those practices have become traditions. They often produce wonderful benefits. Like… you know, setting goals and achieving them. And this weird, stubbornly resistant part of myself keeps me from the good that those practices can hold.

That being said, there is one New Year practice that I have given into and enjoyed greatly. This is the practice of reflection and dreaming. Reflecting on the last year (almost like a daily examen) and noticing (noticing where God was, where I felt God was not, what God may have been revealing to me about myself or him) has become a joy for me. Likewise, spending time with God hoping for the new year has become a discipline for me.

Quite honestly the latter is the more difficult of the two. I’ve found I’m decently teachable (once one gets past my weird stubbornness), however dreaming and hoping require something different. They require that I trust. Sharing (not just chatting as best friends would, but surrendering in the sharing) my hopes and dreams with God, while sounding simple and obvious, is actually quite frightening in reality. As I’ve grown in my faith and my understanding of how I view God, I’ve realized that while I can verbally and mentally ascent to, “Of course God would care for my longings!”, my heart actually fears that God won’t care for what I care for. So the act of reflecting on the last year prepares my heart for the discipline of dreaming about the new. In remembering the year previous I am shown God’s faithfulness, goodness, gentleness and deep love for me, which helps me to truly give my heart over.

Now, I don’t want it to seem that the reflecting process is always (or even often) loveliness and joy. Quite often there are  questions that have been left entirely unanswered and deep pain that has lead nowhere but to more pain. In this last year David and I have had one of the most difficult, deeply sad and bewildering seasons of our lives. And as I reflect on this last season, while there are trite answers ready and willing (you know the kind, “Oh, well, obviously God wanted to teach you to trust him. BLAH BLAH BLAH.” No. Do everyone a favor and never minimize someone’s pain by turning it into a teachable moment. Maybe that will be my next blog topic… Clearly I have no strong feelings on the matter.) There are no answers to the “why” questions I have desperately asked. Truly, in my reflection time, most of what I could do in considering this pretty wretched season, was feel how horrible it had been. That doesn’t sound great but it was a gift. I realized that during that time of pain, I had no space to feel what I needed to feel. I had to put my head down and get through. But in reflecting and feeling the pain that had gone unattended to, I realized that the tides were turning. Somehow, in my heart and in our little world, there was suddenly more margin. And that margin was meant for me.

It was God beckoning me, inviting me to crumble a little, and then a little more. In that crumbling I was reminded that it was God who sustained us. And in that sustenance there was even nourishment, though I couldn’t see it at the time. God, sweetly and tenderly helping to balance the power in my marriage and unite us so much more deeply. God, lovingly letting me know more and more of my own heart. God, gently removing another control panel from my death grip. These might seem like answers to the “why”, but I don’t think so. I think these are gifts of a God who works good in all things. And perhaps there will be no “why”… at least not on this side of heaven. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

My spiritual director asked me what it was that drove me to need that “why” question answered… “Because if I know why, then I can trust that it’s going to be ok. Because if I know why, then it wouldn’t have to hurt so much”… Ah, there she is again, my little god-self, grappling for control and desperately trying to avoid the hurt. I think the last point is the most relevant for me. An answer to “why”, might almost justify the situation. And that’s unacceptable. It was wrong, it was unjust, terrifying, painful and just downright bad. That’s what it was and that needs to be acknowledged and felt. It needs to be felt because God exists in my reality, not in my fantasies. He meets me in the truth of things, not the way I think it should be. He meets me in my pain, and I shove God away (metaphorically speaking, obviously I can’t make God go away but I can certainly not attend) when I pretend it’s alright. Fortunately, our good God works good in and out of bad things. So I am trying to learn to say, “Alright, I’ll walk through the bad and painful, because You are good and faithful. I can’t do it, but you’ll do it through me. I don’t want to, but I want You. It hurts, but maybe the pain can heal me somehow.”

Gerald Sittser was a virtual spiritual guide for David and me through this last season. He gives an incredible talk on adversity as spiritual formation that you can find here (I highly recommend listening). In this talk he pointed out that situations are largely neutral. Not morally neutral (as noted above), things can be, and are, morally wrong or right. Things should or should not happen. However, situations are neutral in the sense that what they bring to your life is determined by the way that you receive them. Meaning that a painful situation, while perhaps being morally wrong, bad, and downright horrific, in a kingdom sense has just as much chance of leading you into the love of Christ as a joyful situation does. This is coming from a man who lost his mother, wife and daughter all in one car accident.

In all this I suppose I’m saying, I’m still learning. From what I gather I’ll be learning for the rest of my life. And in embracing my pain I’m more able to hope for the future, risk and try. All the while remembering that I don’t trust in my hope, risk or trying but in God, who carries me and redeems my every move.

With love-

Holly

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