Friday, February 10, 2006

Thirsting, and not being filled

As a white-tailed deer drinks from the creek, so I want to drink of God, deep draughts of God. I'm actually thirsty for God. I wonder, "Will I ever make it - arrive and drink in God's presence?" It seems I'm on a diet of tears - tears for breakfast, tears for supper. All day long, people knock at my door, saying, "Where is this God of yours?" (Psalm 42:1-3, adapted from several contemporary translations)

...I have been reluctant at times to admit out loud that mine was a journey of growth spurts followed by what felt like long periods of hushed decay. For years I thought something was wrong with me. I didn't know how to talk about the jerks and lulls, the tugs and pulls, the endless crawling, when one seemingly never moves on but is forever beginning anew...

...What about those of us who after a period of dramatic awakening now feel as if we have hit a brick wall and our prayers have been met with silence? It is comforting that even in the book that passes itself off as the word of God, there are testimonies of people who railed at God for what sometimes felt like God's cruel refusal to speak.
(Renita J. Weems, Listening for God: A Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt)
Over the years, I have been awed (and a bit embarrassed) by people who just keep on "suiting up and showing up for God" despite whatever is going on in their life. I've always been impressed by their steadfast faith - even as I felt sure that I'd never measure up to that level of fidelity. I could, and do, pray for that strength of faith - but so far, that gift hasn't been given to me.

That's why it's so important for me to hear the testimonies of folks like Renita Weems. I so desperately needed to hear her - and lots of other people of faith - who were both bold and broken enough to admit that sometimes their "walk of faith" seemed almost crippled at times. I listened to people whose struggles with life and faith sometimes led them to scream themselves raw at God, and I felt "a part of" instead of "apart from" in new and amazing ways.

It's probably not a coincidence that as Lent approaches, I am in one of those times. Facing truths about myself that I've avoided - some for years - it has seemed at times like I'd rather do almost anything than pray about them. And then when I *do* pray about them, those prayers often seem to go straight up the chimney and disperse like wood-smoke. It's probably just a coincidence that I was unpacking a box of books on prayer, and came across Renita Weem's book that I'd picked up nearly 5 years ago, at another dark time in my life.

(Of course, I was almost immediately reminded of the definition of "coincidence": a miracle in which God chooses to maintain His anonymity...)

Today, what I'm grateful for is those folks - casual friends, pastors, professors and church members alike - who confessed their faith struggles openly and honestly. They gave me hope that even though I am, like the Psalmist, "exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched and dry. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me" (Psalm 69:3), I could trust that "weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5). Their stories gave me enough hope to have faith - and those same stories reinforce my faith at times like these.

Thank you, God, for those faithful and caring women and men who have been willing to speak your truth, when I have struggled in my faith. They are truly Your hands and feet.


Anonymous said...

Catholic tradition holds, corectly I think, that Lent is a time for examination, confession and pennance, a process of facing ourselves and making right our , that prepares us to receive the joy of Easter.

Similarly, AA suggests that the path to "a new freedom and a new happiness" -- spiritual awakening -- is the path through rigorous moral inventory, admission of our defects of character, examination of the harm we have done to ourselves and others, and amends.

You are not Catholic, of course, but you are a fellow traveller in AA.

My guess is that carefully reworking Steps 4-9 around whatever issues you haven't been facing will be of help in addressing your spiritual dryness, whether you do so as a Lenten exercise or otherwise.

Michael Dodd said...

I am tempted to suggest you read John of the Cross for Lent -- now that would be a penance, and not just for your Lutheran spirit -- but since you raise the darkness issue, there is a wonderful book by the late Gerald May, Dark Night of the Soul in which this gifted spiritual director-psychiatrist talks about the connection between darkness and spirtual growth.

It would be an oversimplification to identify "dark night of the soul" with an addict's bottom, but May has written also about the connection between addiction and the experience of grace. As the previous Commenter notes, Twelve-Step folks have a lot to offer in this area.

On a final note, part of the wonder of the dark night is discovering that the darkness that our human fears have populated with demons and monsters and thieves is the darkness in which our God waits as a lover to hold us close.

Keith Brenton said...

I have a strong suspicion that a lot of folks who seem to "suit up and show up for God" got there by having a succession of those Zach Mayo moments (Officer and a Gentleman; remember?: "I GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!") and St. Peter moments ("Lord, to whom else shall we go?") throughout their lives.

It's when folks stop having those moments of clarity that we need to get concerned about 'em.

Sounds like you're right on track, craving such a moment.

Maybe we all need 'em more often.

New Life said...

Hey brother,

Thanks for the post. I know I can always come here and walk with my bud Steve on this journey. Thanks for keeping it real. As a ragamuffin, you always help me take a step closer to God, thanks.

So from one ragamuffin to another,
I love you, bro.