My life has been a journey full of twists & turns, highs & lows. Honestly, I'm not sure I could really define where I'm headed. But one thing I'm learning, the journey isn't all about the final destination but more about how we travel. And fulfillment is found in all that we learn & experience as we journey, not just getting to the end of it. I can't even imagine making mine without Christ before me, behind me, and beside me...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011



     Do you ever have those days when hurt so deep that it doesn't have a bottom strikes you out of nowhere?  When a "God-thing" that should bring peace also brings unfaced hurt and unshed tears? And then small things that don't really matter open up wounds that have long been ignored? Some wise person told me once that it's really okay to not be okay. Well, I'm not a fan...I don't want to be un-okay. I want to be able to ignore hurtful circumstances and those things I can't control so that I can forge ahead to master the things I can control. I prefer to focus on that which can do some good for someone else. If I can't fix me then I can fix someone else and I don't feel so helpless and vulnerable--especially when to let myself hurt or to acknowledge that I hurt might just leave me undone.
      Somehow, growing up in "churchy" churches, I grew accustomed with the practice that it was NOT okay to not UN-okay--to be vulnerable, injured, or broken. If we are Christian--especially in any kind of leadership--then we should be invincible and untouched by hurtful circumstances. And God forbid if we admit that we struggle with sin or even doubt. We couldn't possibly have messed up lives if we are in ministry. And if somehow we do, we should at least sweep the visible mess under the rug and out of sight, paste on that good Sunday-go-to-meetin' smile and when asked, turn it about, "I'm fine. How are you?" And through it all, we keep trying to convince ourselves it's true. "God is good, I'm good, it's AAAALLLL good!"
     Pain or struggle or an unkempt life had no place in the Christian life--or so I believed for many years. Struggle was identified with sin--you know, the ones people whisper about when they don't really know what's going on. Their guessing games made for good gossip.  If you went to the altar at church, you must have done something wrong and that made you unfit for service until you were good enough again--when the imperfections didn't show anymore--at least to the general public. And you know what? I got through a lot of stuff that way. I mean, seriously, if we say there's not problem then there isn't a problem...right?  (I know--I can already hear a certain one of my HOPE women point a finger, "DENIAL! It ain't a river in Egypt!"  
     So we move on. We ignore the problem. We push through it. Especially, as any kind of ministry leader, we "take care of business--I do anyway. Shepherds tend the flock, mother hens tend their brood, and the business of ministry gets done. We are productive. "I'm FINE." And as long as I keep saying it, then I AM fine. But Truth whispers, "Denial..." 
     But (sputter, stutter), I AM fine--really! Besides, I don't have time to not be okay. I have things to do, people to care for. And I don't have the right to hurt or complain NOW. It doesn't make sense. It's long past the time to hurt--it shouldn't bother me now. Have you ever "decided" not to hurt about something months ago, even years ago? And then WHAM! But I can't open that can of worms. How would I explain it? Why NOW?....When hurtful or traumatic things happens, sometimes that's what I do. I DECIDE not to let it affect me--I ignore the pain. And if I gave up, ignored, or gave away part of my life, then I let circumstance callous me so I can push on and be normal. I don't have the right to undo it or to be undone...especially now.
    And you know what? It works! I can easily consume myself in the plight of others or in the busyness of ministry, family, work, or various projects. And, by all appearance I am fine...I can almost convince myself. But something is missing and I feel empty. Whether PTSD, pride, fear, denial--whatever the motive or reason, somehow I don't think I'm the only one. The pain or the circumstance may be different but I know there are others who may secretly think, "I know what you mean."
     So I pray that prayer psalm and in the middle of this aching emptiness, I mean it:

"Let Your love, God, shape my life with salvation, exactly as You promised. Then I'll be able to stand up to mockery because I trusted Your Word. Don't ever deprive me of truth, not ever..."  - Psalm 119: 41

    And the prayer makes it better--just saying it. But then God answers that prayer: He surprises me with TRUTH. And that bottomless, seemingly endless hurt digs in deep with its heels. No more denial or evasion or putting a lid on it--the pain of TRUTH. He has given what I asked for but sometimes it's not what I expected. It's supposed to "feel good," isn't it? Surely not like this. I can't help but wonder, "God, how does this all work out for good? How does this hurt glorify You?"
     Sometimes there is just no turning back the clock. It's too late--I can't get back to the source of hurt. It can't be explained or undone or fixed...Sometimes the remnants of a life leave more questions than answers and more confusion than understanding. Though I don't want it to show, there's a part of me that isn't okay--a hurt so deep that can't be explained by death or grief or what unknowing others might guess. The temptation is to let it appear to be the obvious if it can't be hidden--but that isn't how Truth works, is it?
      I don't like to NOT be okay. I like to be able to push through and make the best of what I've got. I don't want to grieve yesterday. I don't want to wish for what I didn't get. And I don't want to waste more time wondering why hurts were inflicted when words told a different story. It's a whole lot easier to hurt for others than to hurt for me...if that makes any sense.
     So I stuff it back in where those things go and I think I just about have it handled (keyword here is "I"). And then it happens: that ignored or hidden hurt blindsides me and I'm broken. I wonder, "How can I possibly be any good to You Lord when I'm not okay---when I'm broken?" 
     And then Truth (that was really there all along) whispers, "Jesus was bruised, beaten, and mocked. His body was pierced and broken. Nails ripped through flesh and bones, and He died under the weight of it all...But God used Him." 
     I suddenly remember His anguished words that day so much like my own sometimes, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!" His cry calls out to mine, and I finally grasp what it means when the Holy Spirit intercedes with groanings that words can't express. I finally understand the words of the psalmist--"deep calls unto deep"--as he cried out in his own anguish. I grasp what Truth was trying to tell me Sunday in those strange unexplainable moments. He KNEW this pain...

"Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me.  The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me--a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God, my Rock, "Why have You forgotten me?" -- Psalm 42:7-9 NKJ

     So I can't deny what exists. When bad things happen--even when evil seems to reign, He knows. He hears what isn't spoken and He intercedes even when I try to sweep it under the rug. Jesus had to be broken for God's ultimate plan to be revealed and fulfilled. His brokenness was the path to redemption. And He wants me to know that this brokenness--this bottomless hurt--may be my path to true healing. It's necessary. In brokenness, I can't deny that I need Him. "But how long, Lord? How long?...When does the thorn become a blessing? When does the pain become a friend? When does my weakness make me stronger? When does my faith make me whole again?"
     It's such a paradox--a twist of irony--that we must be broken to become whole. Once again Paul's words that are already so precious become even more dear:

Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

I still can't say that I "like" it--that there are no easy answers or quick fixes for this deep, deep hurt. I don't like that I don't have assurance that it will go away. But I know this one thing: Deep cries out to deep--I am not alone. Whether anyone else understands or not, HE does. He endured it too. That has to be my comfort for now. He KNOWS. "His love will go to any length and reaches even now to where I am..."

"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? HOPE IN GOD; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." - Psalm 42:11 NKJ
"Blessing in the Thorn" - Phillips, Craig, and Dean. Album: WHERE STRENGTH BEGINS (c)1997 Chordant

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