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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Home Again, Home Again

They wheeled me down to pre-op around 4pm on Thursday. I was so nervous that my pulse jumped from 97 to 123 while they were taking my vitals. I cried quite a bit, and hated myself for it, especially since the tears were visible on my cheeks during transport. I was also trembling, because I tend to shiver after a panic attacks.

As soon as I was prepped, my surgeon came out to see me.

“What kind of music do you like?” he asked.

“Classical.”

“Like, classic rock?”

“No, orchestral. Though if I’m going to be asleep you should probably pick your poison.”

He squeezed my foot. “Oh don’t worry. As soon as you’re out we’re going to turn it to gangster rap.”

At 5:40 pm, I handed off my glasses, got a nice deep kiss from Tim, and they wheeled me away.

They’d already given me an IV push of what the anesthesiologist called “happy juice,” so my lights were dimming as they positioned me beneath the operating room floodlights.I could hear Brahms. Someone asked me about my baby.

I woke to chatter and intense pain in my upper right quadrant. I remember whining about my pain and asking for Tim. The nurse gave me a push of something, but the pain was still so bad I warned her I might vomit. She gave me a push of something for that, then sent for Tim.

I was in and out for a while. At some point, I became aware that I was babbling. I heard myself say…

“…then Fenris wolf is going to eat the sun and the moon. The sky will tear with children’s screams.” A message to “shut up” began to slog its way from my brain to my mouth. “The wolf eats Odin.”

“Yeah,” said Tim.

“They were so mean to him. And Thor kills the snake but the snake kills him too.”

“Is this a movie?” The nurse asked my husband.

“Ragnarök,” I mumbled.

“It’s a book she just read,” Tim said.

I blinked fast and sat up a little. “I’m awake.”

The nurse asked me my name, where I was, and what had just happened to me. I answered her, then felt myself falling back into Norse Mythology.

I rolled in and out for a bit until they transferred me back to my room. A few naps and embarrassingly long burps later, I was discharged. We pulled into the driveway close to midnight.

The surgery itself went incredibly well. On average, it takes an hour and half to perform, but mine was under an hour. I have minimal pain, except the pressure and fullness from the still dissipating CO2 they pumped into my abdomen to assist the surgery (hence the massive burps I mentioned in the paragraph above). The hardest things are that I need Tim’s help to sit or stand, and Ellie keeps begging me to pick her up, which I can’t do for the next two weeks. I spent most of yesterday resting in a recliner at Nana’s house, napping and watching cooking shows.

I’m thankful to be home, thankful it’s over, and very thankful to everyone who prayed for me. I carried every one of you with me when I went into to the operating room, and felt safer because I knew, whatever the outcome, I was swaddled with your prayers and cradled by Abba.

Thank you. I love you all. ❤

If You Do Not Go With Me

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If you do not go with me,
Do not send me up from here.
I cannot bear to go alone.
I need your hand to bring me home.

If you do not go with me,
Do not send me from this place.
Be the lamp who guides my feet,
Through laughter and the bittersweet.

If you do not go with me,
Do not send me from your side.
Carry me, or hold my hand.
Be the footprints in the sand.

If you do not go with me,
Do not send me up from here.
I cannot do this on my own.
God, please, don’t make me go alone.

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father God who art in heav’n above,
Hallowed be Thy holy glorious name.
Thy kingdom come. On earth Thy will be done,
Both here with men as in the heav’ns the same.

Please God provide us with our daily bread.
We ask no more than this lest we grow proud.
Our trespasses we beg you to forgive,
As we in turn forgive hurts from the crowd.

O lead us not into temptation’s way,
But Lord deliver us from evil’s snare.
For thine the kingdom, power, glory, be,
Forever, both in heav’n and everywhere.

Amen.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Be Careful What You Pray For?

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“I’ve heard it said, ‘Be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it.’”

My pastor’s voice came over the nursery loud-speaker. My arms were full of sleeping infant.  The woman beside me listened with closed eyes to the sermon overhead.

“Hmmm,” she grunted. “That is so true.”

My arms were asleep. I shuffled and looked down into the tiny face.  My mind ticked away. I failed to stop the words leaking from my mouth.

“No,” I said. “No, it isn’t.”

I’ve heard that phrase many times growing up. Most often when a preacher would stumble onto James 1:3. The passage says: “for you know that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The preacher would look up from his Bible and say, “This is why we need to be careful when we pray for patience.”

People…we’re missing the point.

What is prayer? Prayer is our direct communication with God. Sometimes it feels like God is so far away. Prayer is our link, our chain to him. It’s the time when we stop to talk to him. Sometimes we cuddle in his lap, cup our hand around his ear and whisper to him. Other times, we weep and scream. Our Father delights in all these moments. He wants to share them with us: the hurt, the fear, the joy, the sorrow. Looking at the Psalms you see hundreds of prayers. Those saints too whispered, screamed, cried, and sung for joy. It was just as essential in their spiritual walk as it is to us today.  It moves us closer to abiding in the beautiful, unfathomable love of God.

C. S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” God made us for more, and as we grow closer to him we find our true love and desires molding to his, giving us the fulfillment we’ve always craved. Our defective sinful natures keep us locked in the temporal, but closer abiding changes us.  It changes our prayers.  Our prayers morph from “God I want a new car” to “God please give me more patience.”  God wants us to seek patience.  Increased patience will give us increased joy.  Permanent joy.  New cars give us temporal happiness.

So, should I truly fear to ask anything of God? What’s the worst that will happen? Truly.  Is it the “no” I fear?  That saying would teach us it’s the fulfillment of such I should fear.  No. The answer comes in the verse just prior to James 1:3. It says, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”  Joy people!  Joy!  Not happiness.  Not a faint smile, but real, deep, abiding, joy.

Ironically, seconds prior to these words over the loudspeaker, my companion and I had been discussing my miscarriage.  This time last year I was pregnant.  God chose to take my child from my husband and me directly to him.  It would be a gross understatement to say this has been hard on us, we both desperately want a child, but the fact of the matter is, I have never once been angry at God for doing so.  I ask him “why”.  It’s a legitimate question.  I don’t know the answer.  What I do know is this.  I learned through my miscarriage that God loves my husband and me.  I learned that he is in ultimate control of everything.  I learned that I can fall into his arms when I’m hurt and frightened.

We have two thoughts before us.  One: we need to be careful to ask God for things or we’ll get them.  Two: I received desired spiritual lessons from my miscarriage.  If we believe thought one to be truth, than thought two is a direct result of thought one. Thus the only conclusion we can draw is that I would be holding my baby today if I had never asked God to teach me to love and trust him more.  I submit to you that this is heresy.  If not, then it’s safer for us to restrict our prayers to the weather.

God is not the divine author of agony.  He does not sit on his throne waiting to squash us with trials, death, and fun sucking.  He wants the best for us.  He wants us to have peace.  He wants us to have joy.  If we truly believe that, we will never fear to ask him for anything.  Our spiritual growth brings joy to us and God.  I found joy in my trial.  Yes, I found grief too, but the joy is pervasive.  One day I will see my baby again.  I believe this. Until then I find joy and love in the arms of a God who will fill the aching hole that my baby left with me.

I have not stopped praying for God to teach me to love him more.  I will not stop.  And, so far, the roof of my apartment hasn’t caved in and my refrigerator isn’t infested with genetically enhanced arthropods.