Questions

I can do nothing else but sit beside you in your suffering.

It feels almost unbearable. I glimpse only a smidgen of this pain that is ravaging your soul.

I hear you tell me about how you wailed and writhed in tormented anguish and cried out: God, why do You hold out on me?

I’m sitting here watching the sky darken through the curtains as a storm approaches.

I’m finding it hard to pray.

Who is this God who lifts you up to higher places with glorious visions of His beautiful robe in Spirit-filled euphoria and then just leaves you abandoned in the pit of despair?

Who is this God who rains judgement down and orders destruction and murder and then comes to Earth as a human and loves the outcasts and undesirables and dies an excruciatingly painful death?

Who is this God?

Where was He in the Holocaust? Where is He now in your torment? Where is He when babies die? Or when Christians get brutally beheaded?

Where in the world are You God in this jungle of oppression and injustice and violence?

So many questions caught in my throat.

Ancient questions.

Questions already asked by David and Job and Habakkuk. Questions echoed in the Psalms, the prophets and Lamentations.

Questions that cannot be answered by logical argument or scientific reasoning.

Questions that are no longer burning to be answered when I enter into the presence of the One whose Glory and Mercy has me worshipping on my knees in transfixed awe.

Questions that I am no longer interested in asking because all I can think about is how great You are. How beautiful and magnificent. How lovely and glorious. How splendid and great. How merciful and faithful! How loving and compassionate! How You left Your throne to serve me! To serve and suffer and die for an unworthy creature like me!

And yet I stand like Your equal and yell and shake my fist in Your face like You’ve short-changed me.

I’m ashamed.

Oh Lord!

Forgive my unbelief.

Keep me in faith. Keep me standing at the foot of the cross. Keep me trusting in You. Keep me in the throne room. Keep me seeing You as You rule, judge, know, guide and LOVE the world.

You are Sovereign. You are greater. You see the whole – the entirety of all lives in one frame; not just a tiny snippet of the puzzle like me.

And when the questions come… Drive me into Your presence… Where my mourning turns to dancing and my sorrow turns to joy.

When I feel awkward in church

I try to hide my cringe under a neutral, static but pleasant-looking face. My eyes are darting chameleon-style to see if anyone else is feeling the heat of this embarrassment.

The clumsy jokes keep coming and I laugh awkwardly with the rest of the congregation. The tension eases slightly in the collective chuckle.  

He finally finds his way back to his chair and I’m surprised at my relief.

We’re so unprofessional. No wonder people aren’t flocking to our church, I conclude while robotically exchanging pleasantries with those around me during the uncomfortable greeting time.

We’ve got unsure greeters, fumbling musicians, awkward leaders… Surely we can find gifted people with the right talents to fill these positions and people will be drawn to our well-presented God-experience. Right now it’s just an amateurish muddle.

I’ve witnessed proficiency in churches. Skilled quality. Mastered worship. Talented people. Polished. Outstanding. World-class.

Like often happens, my hurtling thoughts are stopped by His gentle but firm Hand and He floods me with the Truth.

And I find myself easing into the awkwardness. Relaxing into the amateurish muddle. Worshipping enthusiastically with the committed but far-from-perfect musicians.

Because I am awkward. Because I am ordinary and amateurish. Because I am unqualified and unpolished.

What an awesome message our church is sending to the world!

You don’t have to be professional to be a part of what God is doing in the world. You don’t have to be especially talented. You don’t have to be world-class or exceptional.

You can just be you. Cracking awkward jokes the kids don’t understand. Stumbling over your words as you lead. Singing off key. Forgetting people’s names as you greet.

You can be flawed. Like Moses. And David. And Peter. And Paul.

Because God will use us anyway.

It is never about us – it is always about God in and through us.

Oh Lord! Your Kingdom is so roomy. There is so much space for us every-dayers. There is so much love and hospitality for us all. I praise You that Your arms are so far-reaching and all-embracing. Thank You.

Playground 

The wind is deceptively chilly. I watch my colourful bundle rapidly zoom across the playground turf. His chattering a sound I can’t imagine living without anymore. It’s the sound of delight. And the sound of frustration.

These are my days now. Chores crammed into nap times. Changing nappies and cooking baby food. Thinking for two. Tidying up in vain. Trying to keep up. Hours in the park, rescuing bits of artificial turf and dried leaves from the inquisitive mouth of my son.

Too often I slip into a state of boredom. Tired of the repetitiveness. Failing to find meaning at the bottom of the toy box.

I zip my jacket up to my chin as the wind cuts through me.

I watch my son in wonder as he tastes and feels and examines and touches and delights. He isn’t fussed by the icy gust. This is his gift to me. I get to be present. Watchful. Delighted and changed by his journeys of discovery.

As I watch him I get to see the world through his eyes. The way we all saw it once. We have long forgotten this newness of life. Buried deep under layers of responsibility and sensibility and grown-up-ness. We don’t have the time to linger and soak up and be captivated by this life that has lost its freshness and novelty… Eroded by the years, dulled by the wearying pilgrimage.

And I remember an old song I learnt in the days of endless coffee dates with friends and movie marathons and Saturday sleep ins.
 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness oh Lord, great is Your faithfulness.”

They are new every morning.

Not new in the sense of recently coming into existence… No. They are endless and timeless and unwavering. They are new because I get to rediscover their beauty and fullness over and over again. They can’t be used up, they don’t wither or lose strength. They are as potent and good on the day of my birth as they are on every other day – until I take my last breath.

On the playground of life, despite the icy gusts that come, I can giggle delightedly EVERY day anew when I gaze upon the amazing love and mercy of God.

Who am I?

I can almost feel the endorphins flooding my bloodstream. Feet rhythmically brushing the pavement. Wind dancing around my face. Breathing. Moving. Racing. Sweating.

I’m a runner.

Oh how I have missed being able to say that!

My feet and breath have slowed to a walk but my mind has just started running. My post-workout smile falls. I watch it disappear in the long grass. My face now a frown.

I have always needed something to define me.

I thought I resented the designation of Pastor’s Wife – the pressure, the connotation, the expectation. Yet now that it no longer applies, I feel exposed. Naked. Vulnerable. The safety net has been ripped away and suddenly there is just me… In plain sight. Precariously aware that I have nowhere to hide.

Who am I?

Always defined by my roles. My job. My husband. My fitness.

I answer “How are you?” with news about my husband or my child or my relatives. Holding up these shields, deflecting attention away from my fragile heart.

I don’t want this.  

I want to stand up straight. I want to look you in the eyes. I want to stand bold, clear of the shadows. I want to cry openly and not feel ashamed. I want to stand firm on both feet. I want to confidently speak and not constantly fear rejection. I want to be free of these chains that hold me back.

But I don’t know how.

I yearn to experience the worth I know I have. I crave to live like a beloved child who has her Father’s approval and it’s enough. I hunger to meet the world with the deep knowing that Christ in me makes me a precious, priceless vessel who has something to give! Who has limitless worth! I am an oasis of hope, love, grace and mercy that I myself receive in overflowing avalanche, every day.

Father, I need You to hold me. I need You to whisper truth in my ear. I need to feel Your presence. I need Your hand in mine.

Every second.

I need You.

Come.

Roadmap

You are the God of the streets.

The God of the dark alleyway. 

The God of the glitzy boulevard.

The God of the trendy laneway.

The God of the quiet cul-de-sac.

The God of the busy highway.

The God of the scenic avenue.

The God of the bustling arcade.

You are the God of every track. Every detour. Every roadblock.

You are the God of my missed exits, wrong turns, no entries. You are the God of my u-turns. The God of my well-worn, no-good expressways that lead away from everything good.

You are on every street I’ve ever wandered down. You tag along down every seedy plaza. You always go ahead. You meet me on the planned and unplanned journeys. When I’m window-shopping or stuck in traffic.

My life mapped out in front of me is saturated and dripping with Your presence. At every intersection. At every dead end.

There is no place You are not.

There is no place I can hide from Your love that radiates across the pages of my atlas of life.

Spectator 

He’s struggling to fall asleep.

I watch the sun show her face for a little while, shyly smiling from behind the patchwork of clouds. There is a jigsaw of light and shadow on the wall.  

Two eyes stare up into mine.

I sway from side to side.

This movement has become second nature. The rhythm of to and fro. Shifting my weight from one foot to the other.

I’m never sure how long it will take. It could be minutes… Or it could all be in vain.

He knows this comfort now. This place close to my chest; this slumbering dance. He fights it. He wants to be independent. Exploring. Experiencing. No time to rest.

The sunlight lingers. Cars drone past; a constant trickling of movement. A tram bell tolls in the distance. Footy fans trudge excitedly by, regaled in reds, blues and yellows.

I feel like a spectator.

Watching life pass me by.

Seeing others succeed and perform and fulfil and achieve and advance and prosper. I’m sitting on the sidelines, trying to scrape together the enthusiasm to cheer them on. My voice catches in my throat as I question why I’m here.

I’m painfully aware that this is my season on the bench. A position I freely chose.

I look down and see heavy eyes slowly closing.  

And my Abba holds me close to His chest; the motion of this sacred dance filling me like a glass with the clear, sweet liquid of rest. As I close my eyes I hear my Daddy’s heartbeat.

And I don’t want to be anywhere else.

Worthy

I watch her weathered hands dance to the lament of her voice. These hands that have seen more suffering than most. These hands that still have the strength to praise God. They come to rest on the mug of tea as her voice trails off.

She has aged beautifully. Her make-up is skilled. Her clothes and earrings carefully selected. Her sweet perfume mixes with the hearty aroma of the stew she loves cooking. In her I see strength and faith and resilience and fierce love. And stories over tea. So many stories.

Yet woven into every tale, sewn into the very hem of her history is the thread of unworthy. This strand that weaved its way into her life narrative through thoughtless words and actions, uncontrollable circumstances… This thread, planted and perpetuated by the enemy, now so interwoven it seems inseparable from her garment of life. 

I discovered this thread long after the first shared pot of tea. It surprised me, poking out between stories of sibling antics and early memories of her children. But like a previously unnoticed stain on a shirt, I cannot un-see it now. Now it is exposed.

A lifetime of acceptance of this lie that she is too fat, too skinny, too stupid, too average, too much… Unworthy. Her lined face tracing out patterns of resignation. These lies ingrained now. It’s her truth. Not questioned. Accepted and lived. Drawing from this well of unworthy day after day; this well that plummets back down into the roots of an almost forgotten childhood.

I don’t know how to unpick this thread. I don’t know how to uncover this lie. This messy, tangled web of ugly expansive deceptions. My flimsy attempts at affirmation fall flat on the table near the sugar bowl before they even reach her. My voice marches out, strong, only to be ridiculed by her practised army of self-judgement a thousand times more powerful.

Unworthy.

The word stands as a mirror between us. I see myself in it. I see myself and I see a million other faces.

I am her. She is me.

You are her. You are me.

We wander around this life bearing the unavoidable scars that accompany a beating heart. And somehow the thrashing of negative voices has made us permanent residents in the camp of unworthy, each of us hiding in our own private prisons.

And the enemy is pleased.

In the pit of my soul I know there is a stunning truth expressed in Psalm 139: I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Knit together. Stitched together. By the Crafter of beautiful things.

Without the thread of unworthy.

And suddenly I know what has gone wrong.

My unworthy has silenced me. I cower in the shadows, eyes cast down, shoulders slumped, hiding from a world that demands an unattainable, unrealistic ideal.

But a Man with arms flung wide open and scars of His own is beckoning me; infectiously laughing in the sunshine. I am drawn to this embodied Love that covers me with a brand new, flawless garment.

And in His warm security I stand tall. By His side I am full of joy. In His presence I can see my reflection in His eyes: and it is beautiful.

I am beautiful.

And I can see you too. You who are struggling and wounded and bruised. You who believe you are not enough or too much. You who feel unworthy at the very core.

I can tell you about the reflection I see in His eyes: I see you are good enough. I see you are embraced. I see you are cherished and honoured. I see you are known. I see you are beloved daughter, beloved son. I see you have infinite value. I see you are gifted. I see you have purpose. I see you are beautiful.

Sister, Brother, I see you are worthy.