Our Father…Why?

I used to question the way David approached God in the Psalms. He sounds almost accusatory.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
Psalm 13:1
Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me, test my heart and my mind.
Psalm 26: 1-2

It sounds like he’s daring the LORD to find fault with him. David the sinner. The murderer, adulterer, and neglectful parent.

How can he speak thus to the Holy One of Israel?

The lives recorded in the Bible do not always reflect actions worth imitating. The polygamy, the broken homes, the rape, and murder, are given because they’re facts in the ultimate story of God’s redemption. They show that God redeems us from the dregs of loss, war, famine, disease, and trauma. So how can I be certain that David’s audacity in prayer is something that I ought to imitate?

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1

I have long struggled with my health. This struggle and suffering is part of my daily existence, yet I never stopped to ask God for something different. I found myself vacillating between despair and a shrug. God is sovereign. I don’t know why I am allowed to be ill, but why do some people have cancer or find themselves living in refugee camps? It’s not our choice. God will heal me if he wants or I’ll always be like this if he wants.

But in the Psalms, I see David, suffering, despairing, confused. He turns to God and says, “Look! Do you see this? Why are you doing this? How does this bring Glory to your name? Do something!” When I read that, my breath catches. Compare that with the lesson of Job, who dared to question God and the result was a deluge of questions that mocked his frailty and infinite smallness.

So is David wrong too? Is the tag of praise and thanksgiving you find at the end of a psalm just David’s way of repenting in dust and ashes?

Or does the heart of prayer encourage a communion built both in awe and suffering?

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The disciples once begged Jesus to show them how to pray. They longed to imitate the intimacy and strength of Christ’s communion with the Father. Christ responded by giving them “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6, Luke 11). And in the garden, hours before his death, he modeled it.

John 17 shows Christ in emotional agony, knowing the physical torture and spiritual weight that awaits him. He prays for the Father’s will in all things, prays for the kingdom to come at whatever cost, prays for God’s glory to be manifested on earth as it is in heaven. But he also prays for the very thing that he knows is not the Father’s will: that he may not have to suffer.

The prophets foretold his death on a cross. This was the will of God before the foundations of the earth. Yet, Luke records him praying repeatedly against it, falling on the ground, sweating blood, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you, Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

In Christ, the perfect God-Man, we need not question the right and wrongs of following his example. He approached God boldly, asking him to turn from his plans, to find another way, to change his mind, while submissively knowing that God’s will is best, even if it meant suffering. But he still asked, nay begged, for something other.

On the other side of the empty tomb, we received, not just salvation, but adoption into the family of Father, Son, and Spirit.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16

Christ stands before God and invites us to pray likewise. To search the scriptures and see that we too can have the audacity to question, to beg, and remind God of his promises to us. We have the ability to pray, “Daddy, this hurts too much. Make it go away. There are so many ways I desire to serve you if only I had a little more strength, a little more time. Must it be this way?”

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6:19-20 (emphasis added)

Instead of finding a God who wrinkles his nose at our presumption, our prayers are filtered through our high priest and brother, Jesus. Covered in his righteousness, we not only stand boldly before God with our humble pleas but our audacious questions as well. Even our “but God”s don’t fail to reach the almighty ear, to elicit compassion, even if the ultimate answer is “my kingdom, my glory, and my will, on earth as it is in heaven.”

This was the basis of David’s audacity, for we see in Romans that his faith was covered by the same blood of Christ that we find ourselves resting upon in hope. (Romans 3:25)

So pray with boldness. Pray your whys and your tears and your wordless aches. Pray your praise and your awe. Hand it all over through the Spirit to the Son who will bring it before the Father who delights to hear his child’s voice. And if the pain persists, if the trial tightens its grip, then rest in the sovereign will of the one who loves you. The one to whom belongs the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

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Facebook Memories

Facebook memories are one of many garbage notifications I get on my phone. Why do I need to remember that article I posted a link to back in 2010, or one of three hundred book memes that I liked, shared and posted.

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Over a week ago, a photo from 2015 popped up in the feed. It was my feet and the screen of my laptop in front of a window that looked down onto a snow covered lawn. The caption read, “Writing at the library.”

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Nostalgia choked me, not for this moment specifically, but for the time in my life it represented.

Our life on Young’s Drive is enshrined in my memory as ideal. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t compare my now life with life then and feel deprived of something beautiful. The apartment, the town, the pace of life. Those Friday nights, just Tim and I, curled up on the floor with paper plates covered in take out, a board game spread out between us. Evening walks, and hours spent reading and writing and sitting in my favorite library.

Every walk we take is not like the ones down Corcoran street. Every library I visit is not organized properly. Every meal we cook, every game we play, every day I live is not as lovely as…

I lowered my phone, letting the sunlight framed memories slide away and looked over at my sleeping daughter. Downstairs, I could hear my in-laws voices, indistinct but comforting, like the warm smell of a fireplace floating in the winter air. My husband was asleep next to me. The house began to settle and still around me until all I could hear was the sounds of my two love’s breathing and my fingers clicking softly as I typed.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been sick for so long, all these days I’ve spent depressed and disheartened, I’ve been reaching for what seemed a perfect time to erase all the pain and exhaustion of my current life, falling to a point so low that I actually look forward to seeing my daily Facebook Memories notification.

But Young’s Drive wasn’t perfect. I was locked in a codependent relationship that sapped my marriage. I felt like an outcast in my church, and went to sleep every night feeling like something was missing from my life, something more than just the empty bedroom that was supposed to hold in it the baby we lost.

Now is different with blessings and pain all it’s own, but what I would miss out on most if I were to trade then for now is the wealth of personal and spiritual growth I’ve gone through to reach this place. And though this time of pain and sickness is not yet over, God never promised us comfort in this world.

But…

…I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. …For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23 ESV)

Yesterday may be worth remembering, but it’s not worth sacrificing today’s blessings and even sufferings for it’s sake. I’m going to count my now blessings, and put aside then as well as my fears for tomorrow. For my hope is beyond all this and today is enough.

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with 10,000 beside.
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

~ Thomas Chisholm

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Being Brave and Letting Go

Brave art is beautiful art.

My husband reminded me of this after I bemoaned the increasing number personal elements that seem to be creeping their way into the short story I’m handing in for my Fiction Writing class. About an hour ago, I finished my third draft and had so much of my own self and struggles leaking through my fingers into the keyboard that I literally started to cry.

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No, I screamed at me in my head. No, you can’t do this. You know why? Because what if they hate it? What if they say, “people don’t really do that” or “this scenario is so unrealistic”  or “why is she so upset about something so minor?” You know you’ll just run from the room sobbing. You could barely control your emotions BEFORE pregnancy. Now? Now you cry when Han Solo says, “I know.”

I know.

It’s like when that quiet girl from the back of the classroom stumbles in late to Intro to Creative Writing with a tearstained copy of her latest poem:

It’s Over

Weep, weep, weep
Weep on my unrelenting river of tears
Stream that red, red, red
from the bloody bleeding heart he left behind.
We’re done.
I’m undone.
My bosom is heavy with an empty chasm for a heart
Tears, tears, tears
I’m such a miserable fool.

Suck or not, who has the heart to tell her to trash it when you can barely hear her read it over her piteous wails. I mean, look at her bloodshot eyes! Do you really think she slept last night? *The moon shakes it’s head, for it has born witness to her lonely howling.*

Granted, my story isn’t so overt, and thank God I’ve not been told I must read it aloud, but I’m in there. I’m screaming through the characters mouths. I’m laying curled up beside the abandoned child, grasping and clutching at that empty pocket of warmth left behind in the blankets. And it’s scary to be so seen in such an unseen way. No one in my class knows me. No one will see me there in those words. Nothing will hold back their “this sucks” or “what the *&%$ is this #$%@?” That’s good in a way. I mean, the truth needs to be told to me, or I’ll never improve as a writer. But even as healthy as the truth is, it can also be terrifying and humiliating.

Maybe that’s why I hated this story so much when I started, because I always knew it would turn into something more.

Come Friday I’ll have to let it go; I’ll have to watch it fall from my fingers into the hands of 15 strangers who will be reading between the lines of my life armed with a red pen.

This is terror. This is bravery. This, I guess, is art.

Closeness In Silence

I had a lot of fears going into Marriage. There was never any question that I loved Timothy. There was never any question that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. But the process of planning, arranging, and waiting for the wedding day was painstakingly horrendous. The day after he proposed we went to visit his family. They were celebrating November birthdays and they all gushed over me when they saw the ring. When we got in the car to leave, I burst into tears. I hate being the center of attention. Tim held me while I trembled and listened to me gasp “I love you but I don’t know if I can do this” whenever I had breath enough to speak through my semi-hyperventilative state. Needless to say, a little over a year later we got married anyway. (I was half a slow breathing exercise away from passing out during the my vows but…)

One of my weird fears going into marriage was this. A lifetime is a long time, what if we run out of things to talk about? I voiced this fear to a lot of people. The our premarital councilor, my mother and father, Timothy, and random people in the supermarket. They all smiled and said the same thing, “that won’t happen.”

I have been married for two years, but Timothy and I have been inseparable for nearly eight years. I believe they were not telling the whole truth.

Life has been consistently difficult since my miscarriage. Not to say I hate my life because there is beauty in the winter of our lives if you stop and look, but some mornings I wake up and wish to be somewhere or someone else. I often feel like a small child at the ocean for the first time. I ran into the waves with wonder, but their unforeseen strength knocked me off my feet. My head bobs to the surface just in time to meet another breaking wave. The tide is dragging me around and all I can do is wonder when Devine Intervention will rescue me.

I tell my husband everything. We’ve rehashed my current issues over and over until I feel bad about repeating myself. I began to talk to others about it. They’ve all be very patient. But I feel more a burden to them than I do even my husband.

I had another sleepless night yesterday. I listened to some sermons which inadvertently picked the scabs off of old wounds. I laid there in bed, miserable, wishing that I had a friend that I knew for certain would understand if I called them at 2:30 in the morning. I looked over at my tired and hardworking husband. He’s been going to bed early a lot lately because he’s so spent. I wanted his touch. His voice. His comfort. But I couldn’t bring myself to wake him. I laid there for a half hour and finally came to this conclusion, if I couldn’t wake him at 3:00 in the morning when I needed someone, than what was the point of being married.

I rolled over and wrapped my arms around him. I pressed my nose to the bottom of his chin. He stirred.

“Are you awake?” I asked.

“A little.”

“I need you.”

“I’m all yours.” His arms closed around me. I didn’t speak for a while. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“The same stuff.” I began to cry. “Timmy my heart hurts.”

We didn’t talk much after that. We held to each other for over an hour until we both fell back asleep. To me, it feels as though we have actually run out of things to talk about. I don’t need him any less, but I don’t know what to say to him.

When you love a person for a long time you cannot stay stationary. Things must change or you will stagnate and die. To me, saying that you will never run out of things to talk about is like saying your love will always feel like you just met last week and are still sharing your favorite songs and the funniest stories from your childhood. Timothy knows my whole heart. I hold nothing back. So, right now, there are no words. We have to work to find the words or, if the words don’t come, we have to find togetherness in the silence.

That night I found a closeness in silence with Timothy. By the time I fell back asleep, my heart ached a little less, even though we had run out of things to say.

Grey Shadows

The music lilts through the house, soft and sweet. The electric piano sits with its back to the front window, its plug nestled into the wall just below that of the light peering overtop of the music rest. Several large oak trees shade the view of the street out front. The woman at the keys stares at music with unseeing eyes. She knows the tune. She wrote it.

The brightness outside the window dims. Grey shadows swallow the light from left to right with alarming speed. Raindrops fall, sucking the blue from the sky on their way down and splatter it into the grass. Everything is turning ashen, losing color, even the music, which fades from innocent beauty into a melancholic sigh. Raindrops fall from her eyes as the tune melts from joy to sadness. It isn’t the tune she wants to play, but somehow she cannot lift the rhythm or modulate out of this minor key.

The pattering rain gushes. Wind whistles through the trees, bending and snapping branches. The clouds part with a flash of lighting. The lights in the house go out.

With the loss of power, the music ceases. In the dark a faint click plods along, gentle rhythmic thumps and springs of weighted plastic keys. She’s still playing. The darkness of the storm swallows her wholly, until the melody she knows is barely an echo in her head. Her fingers know their part. They continue to obediently move in hopes the power will soon return.

© Rachel Svendsen 2015