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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

That Time When I Got so Angry with God that I Stormed Out of the Room (AKA: This Morning)



The thoughts are coming fast enough that I don't know if this is going to be one of those ugly posts or one of the profound ones.  I don't know how it ends.

I like it when things are wrapped up all neatly in even units of time.  Yesterday, I was comparing two pictures of myself.  One was from last September and the other was from last week.  I was planning to use them in a post on my personal blog, probably on my birthday.  I was planning to talk about how much year #37 of my life has changed me.  It was going to be orderly.  Well, that plan just got blown out of the water, and the irony runs deep, because the pictures are a side by side of me standing on each coast (the Pacific Ocean, last fall, on a trip to Oregon... the Atlantic Ocean just days ago in Florida).  The past 11 months have been transformative.  They haven't been too fun, and I didn't see it coming.  


In that first picture, I had just come through what was a pretty awful year.  Astoundingly, as I drove by myself to a piece of the Earth that I had never seen before, as I hiked down the pier and immersed myself in the winds and the waves on a very cold day, on a day when I had much of the shoreline to myself; I was feeling about as confident as I ever have in my life.  I'm not sure it fit the circumstances.  Let me reiterate that it had been a rough year.  Let me be clear that I am terrified of water.  And yet, I had enough confidence to snap some makeup-less selfies with all of my hair pulled back, and I can see the fire in my eyes.  Was it weird timing for such a fabulous day?  Admittedly, it was.  But, although I am careful to avoid the pride of thinking that I have it all together (because I never do), on that day I felt close.  I thought I knew how the next steps of life were going to play out, and I liked the plan.  For most of my life, my discernment skills have been pretty awesome.  I hate surprises, and I have trained myself well to avoid them at almost any cost.  I still play the following weeks over and over again in my mind, sometimes, trying to figure out where I made the tactical error that left me shell-shocked.  There are moments when I'd like to have that afternoon on the beach back.  Maybe I would make different choices, altogether.  But mostly I think I'd like to have that me on the beach back.  You're not supposed to say that after a transformational 11 months.

And then there's the next picture.  Don't misunderstand, I like it, too.  It's reflective, contemplative, quiet.  In many ways, it is all of the things I have always been, but sometimes I am sick of being all of the things I have always been.  There is no fire in this shot, but don't mistake that for lack of resolve.  The resolve is there.  Remember, I'm not a quitter.  But the wind is whipping, and I'm hiding my face.  If the first picture is fierce, ready to take the world by storm; the second is steadfast... exhausted... still slow and steady, but the emphasis is on slow.  Honestly, my heart hurts.

I read these words, today:

"I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me" (Psalm 109:22, NIV). 

My reaction was, "I am so sick of that!"  And we're not even close to the point when I got mad, yet.  But, friends, I do not do poor and needy and wounded well.  If something doesn't give pretty soon, the next picture is going to be of me with my head in the sand.

I read on:

"Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.  Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.  Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts.  Make your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees.  Streams of tears flow from my eyes..." (Psalm 119:132-136a, NIV). 

I liked that, immediately.  It resonated... especially the part about loving the name of the Lord.  But then there was more:
  
"Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding" (Judges 13:18, NIV).

Oh.  Ouch.  I do that.  I ask for the name.  I ask for the plan.  Sometimes I think I know what's coming, but more often than not, lately, I am blindsided.  I do love the name of the Lord, but can I love what is beyond understanding?  The silent answer to the rhetorical question is supposed to be yes, but I am so wired to need details that I don't know if I can say yes to that with any sort of integrity.

And then, I felt as if God slapped me in the face, this morning.  I cannot remember ever getting up in the middle of reading Scripture, pushing my laptop away (I was reading online), and saying, "You've got to be kidding me..."  The part where I left the room was pretty funny, as if God isn't in the bathroom...

"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.' This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:1-7, NIV).

Confession - On the tail end of all of this pain and heartbreak and suffering, someone looked me in the face, yesterday, and questioned whether or not I am a minister (this person never would have said "pastor," because in her eyes women can't be that); and I'm pretty sure, after I stopped crying, I felt like one of the twelve who just couldn't waste any more time waiting on tables!  I mean, has she not taken notice of the entire body of work of my adult life?  How about the years I've poured myself into theological education at the expense of... well... a lot? 

But there's a serious issue with all of that.  The serious issue is me.  I talk a big game in regard to loving and serving the least of these, but it occurred to me that I am still fighting for a title of some sort, and I have to stop.  I spent a lot of time exegeting this passage of Acts, last summer, and I was really, really hard on the Twelve, and my goodness; I have become them.  That's not what I want.  That's not who I am.  I have to feed the people that no one else has time for, even if that means no one "important" recognizes the value of what I'm doing.  Oh my gosh...  how have I come to even categorize some people as more important than others?  That's... not... me.

There's no good way to wrap this up.  It's not going to be neat.  It was an ugly one, after all.

L.

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