I found the raspberry ale, the one I like because it costs more, some small round clementines, some ginger lemon tea, and I’ve been wearing my glasses all day and no makeup. An old tshirt.
You think you know what I’m talking about when I tell you this week was a beating, and you might know a fraction of why, but you don’t know the whole of it. You don’t know the tears started on Sunday and have fallen clear through the floor of my heart all week. You don’t know the ache settled itself somewhere in my throat and caught itself there strangling me with my old friend Fear all week.
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In The Brothers K there’s a page where the oldest brother, Everett, spouts prayers off at the dinner table in front of his devout Seventh Day Adventist mother. His prayer starts, “Oh, God, if you’re there…” and proceeds onward. It’s one of the most achingly poigniant pieces of prose I’ve read in a long time, the whole chapter, and what we find, sweet readers, is that Everett wrestles with the beautiful question we all ask. We all have to ask:
God, are you there?
We have to ask this question, we all do, because if we don’t ever feel the full on, gawking, haunting lack of Him, we cannot feel the full on, grasping need of Him. And I want to say we ask the question once and done, and it’s answered in pew-side confessionals, altar call moments, or gasping breaths on the floors of our bedrooms. I want to say the question is brought once to our lips and then in holy awe, He touches our mouth with a hot coal and we go, we go, we cannot help but go.
But even Jesus, there on the cross: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?
Are you there?
The heaviness of my soul this week was not death fringed around my doorstep or martyrdom for the cause of the Gospel. It was being jilted of an invite, being misunderstood by a friend, an unexpected email, feeling like a pebble instead of a pearl, a glance shooting disapproval my direction, an inbox that didn’t stop filling with reactive messages all week and still. It was not having enough time to read or pray or write or be. It was leaving work and someone noticing my tires needing air and saying so. It was me saying I need a husband because I can’t do this. I can’t be alone anymore. Not if it means putting air in my own tires for the rest of my life.
It was the cross He asked me to bear this week. And it was a down-pillow compared to His cross.
But somewhere along the way I asked the question: God, are you seeing this? Are you going to battle for me? Are you going to defend me? Are you going to be near me? Are you going to sustain?
I wish, reader, I didn’t have to wrestle with this question as often as I do. I wish belief came as naturally to me as unbelief does. I wish I had natural born faith instead of fear.
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I learned in one of my classes this week that we in the Church have been taught to believe belief leads to new birth, but the Bible teaches it the other way around: being reborn leads to belief.
And I nearly wept, right there, I didn’t care who saw. I nearly wept because I can grab hold of this, because I know I’m reborn. I know it with every fiber of my being, I know Jesus is right and real and good, and His word is true and Holy and forever. And I know belief is born in the truth of my new birth and that’s it. My birth, the new freshness and delight of my salvation, doesn’t change because my belief is pushed on and what a comfort it is.
I felt the gawking, aching hole this week. I felt the lack of belief, but not the lack of birth, and I sit deep in this tonight. God is here, patient and parenting, battling and bearing on my behalf.
The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes.