Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Bracelet: a Lament, and Some Thanks

It has been a time for lament. That sounds a bit more dramatic than I intend, but I suppose it is true. The last few weeks--indeed, the last few months-- have been sorrowful.

A number of things have occurred. Some things I saw coming, and some things took me by surprise. With each new experience I grew increasingly sad (and questioning). I am, once again, grieving.

2008 seems to be my year for grief. I hope it ends soon.

I am grieving losses, and I am envisioning a future different than what I had expected, waiting for what comes next with dread. It does seem that when difficult things happen it is all too easy to forget that, to quote the blog title of one of my fellow Rev Gals, "any day a beautiful change" could arrive. Good news can come unexpectedly and suddenly, just as disappointment does. Why is that so difficult to recall?

Today I am struggling with a headache that just will not go away. (A good side of this is that it makes me pray for Sue who has suffered horrific headache pain for years.) I suspect that the throbbing in my head is the cumulative effect of recent events and revelations. I also have a pervasive sense of loneliness that seems to have a stubborn mind of it's own, one which longs for my company! Nothing seems right. Everything seems off kilter, twisted, not as it should be.

As I usually do when feeling distressed, I turned to the Book of Psalms. That is my hand, my petunias, and my Bible in the picture, as I sat reading on my deck earlier today. More about that in a moment.

Today I read Psalms 74. Here is a part of Asaph's song.

O God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture? Remember that we are the people you chose long ago. We no longer see your miraculous signs. All the prophets are gone, and no one can tell us when it will end. How long, O God, will you allow our enemies to insult you? Will you let them dishonor your name forever? Why do you hold back your strong right hand? Unleash your powerful fist and destroy them. [God's enemies, as Paul notes, are not flesh and blood but principalities and powers and rulers of darkness.] You caused the springs and streams to gush forth, and you dried up rivers that never run dry. Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun. You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter.

I read the words again. Yeah, God, when are you gonna step in and make things right? How can I complain when people in many places (like Zimbabwe) are suffering so terribley? The thought did not help. Then I thought of the God who causes springs and streams to gush forth, the God who is the maker and sustainer of all. I prayed for that sustaining strength as I absentmindedly reached toward the petunias to pluck off a dead flower. The morning sunlight caught in a tiny flash from the silver chain on my wrist.

Recently a friend gave the delicate little bracelet to me in an impulsive gesture of love. As we talked together, she took it off her wrist and put it on mine, fastening the tiny clasp and saying, "This is a prayer bracelet. It is to remind you that you are loved and prayed for."

I prayed for my friend. Then I remembered a recent email from a long-time cyber buddy who has never met me in person. The email was to tell me she had been praying for me for many days, feeling deep grief and shedding many tears for me--with no idea why! Next I remembered a conversation with a woman from my church who has recently found herself with renewed hope, renewed passion for God, and renewed love for others. She told me that she has been praying for me every morning. She added that when she does she always has a mental picture of the two of us in which I have my arm around her shoulder because she is helping to support me.

Something that I have gained from Rev Gal Blog Pals is an awareness of how alike we are. We come from differing churches and traditions. Our theology occasionally clashes, our beliefs and our practices and our lifestyles and our politics collide, our expectations and our prayers and our music and our sermons are sometimes worlds apart--and somehow in it all are still so much the same. I mentioned Sue. I first read her blog, "Inner Dorothy," when I was becoming uncomfortably aware that I could read John Maxwell till I am 100 and I, just like Sue, I will still be a leader who is a lot Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. All of us have pain and disappointment and questions. All of us have moments of joy and insight and laughter. All of us are longing for God. Most of us know it. Some know it profoundly and deeply and even painfully, and some of us are just realizing how deep the longing is, and some of us are surprised by it. But I see it in blogs and prayers and songs, and even in Friday Five postings. How individual and unique are the humans God created and yet how much the same.

I am thankful that the Bible speaks to us in many ways--sometimes with commands, sometimes with love, sometimes in poems or parables, sometimes with instruction, sometimes with questions and laments. No matter what comes, we are not alone in this human condition of ours. We are not forsaken, we cannot escape the eyes and the ears and the loving heart of God. To me that brings comfort, not fear.

Asaph goes on:
Don’t forget your suffering people forever. Don’t let the downtrodden be humiliated again. Instead, let the poor and needy praise your name. Arise, O God, and defend your cause!

Thank you, my friends. You know who you are. And God, I feel rather poor and a lot needy, and I will praise you.


LoieJ said...

I know that I can relate to some/part of your feelings because of our mothers. This is because the situation is a "cloud" over everything else. In addition to Mom, we have 4 other relatives who are either very elderly and/or their health is tenuous.

And I find myself thinking about all the weather/earthquake events around the world and I think, "How much more, oh Lord?" I think about the real people in those real places. I'm in touch with real people in Africa and think of how good we have it here and most of us don't know it.

But I want to put my head in the sand and come out smiling.

Your essay was deep and honest and I'm wondering if you've gone beyond the normal responses to all the bad stuff (plus all the stuff a pastor knows about that no one else knows about) and maybe you could benefit from some type of intervention/counseling/medication.

You are in a position as a person and as a pastor where you want/need to be competent and in charge, but there are times that this just doesn't work or help.

Please forgive me if I've over reacted to your posting. If so, please delete my response.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

It's okay, PS. :-) I understand.

much2ponder said...

My heart hurts for you ((((((((My sister, mentor, friend))))))) and I will continue to pray for that opening in the clouds that you need so much right now. I know that you have good days, but I also know much about how you are feeling. Though our circumstances are not exactly the same, they are very related and have brought about similar responses. What do you say when there are no more words to say? Nothing...I will just be here for you and I will listen as well as pray daily. I love you

Ivy said...

There is a song that came to mind as I read your post, "Be Not Afraid." The words and tune can be found at http://www.spiritandsong.com/musicondemand/songs/1389. I don't know what is causing you such pain, but I too, have had my heart broken into a million pieces. May the Lord hold you especially close. Peace.

Anonymous said...

I know the hungering you mention. I hunger for more of God. I want to see more, I want to feel more. I want more for my husband, I want more for my church... I want more....

Iris Godfrey said...

Praying for you; thankful for you and for your deep honesty and yearning for our Lord.

Jules said...

Praying for you, sister.


Mary Beth said...

You're in my prayers.

God's richest blessings flowing to you...I see them.

Theresa Coleman said...

I know this feeling as well.

May God keep you in the palm of His hand -- and may you have the reassurance that you are never alone. Never.

You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

DannyG said...

I appreciate your thoughts and prayers for me, as we are going thru much the same territory.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post!! Your post really touch my heart.. Well, I like your bracelet.

Anonymous said...

thank YOU!