Confession: Sometimes I have what I would consider to be a vibrant relationship with God, and I hear from him and he is precious to me, but when I go to church I feel nothing and I cannot find him.
The past few months have found me in the opposite place, and I find him only with the people.
When the upheavals of December-January hit us, and we went from full-time parenting six children to full-time parenting three in five weeks’ time, the Lord drew near and I trusted him and it burned like fire but I knew he was there. I knew he was doing things I couldn’t see.
Six months have passed, and loss has become a permanent way of living. I am grateful for every bit of grace we’ve experienced: the progress my son is making at camp and how much I love him and how much he wants to work hard and get home; and the unexpected joy of staying in touch with our two foster children, finding ways to move forward and play nice. But I find myself no closer to understanding any part of our painful story and I am tired and I am numb.
I have hope for my son because he is in good hands and God is moving in his heart, but I cannot protect him and I cannot save him and if this doesn’t work I don’t have a backup plan.
And I am not the mother of my two, my two. When I reach for my children in my mind they are gone, like a tooth, like a limb. Missing. I can love others and I can be a mom again but I do not get them back, they are irreplaceable and gone and they are not mine. These days, I remember what it felt like and I come up with pseudo solutions in my mind – if we had done this or this, maybe we could have kept them. I am dreaming.
I have nightmares of babies I must save, of the backs of people I love as they walk away from me, of crucial things forgotten, of impossible tasks I cannot complete.
The sweet presence of Christ has turned to fury in my heart, and I have nothing to say to him. What does it mean to say he is Good? Who does this to their child?
I too have turned my child over to hard things, and I too have let him cry into his pillow and sometimes I hate myself for that. But all the while I talk to him and I say Only a little longer and I love you and You are precious to me and I am always here and What a good job you are doing and My son.
What can you say to a father when you don’t have a word and you don’t hear a word and the fury and the pain are ice and blood in your heart?
I do not like to talk about this. Most of the time I must write of other things so I can live and function and so that I can go through the next motions. But it is always there.
So I go to church because I am the pastor’s wife and because it is the next thing and because I teach Sunday school. And I cry there. Every week. Because I know the Lord is there in a way that I don’t know he is there on Monday. There are people around me with the voices of angels and they sing. They pray. The songs have true things in them and I cry. There is a newborn baby there, and a silver-haired layman reading the Word in a polo shirt, and an insightful pastor I am in love with, and a friend who will ask how I am doing. It is the only place I can hear his voice and I do not expect it but he is always kind.
Last Sunday he showed me a picture of Jesus dying on the cross. We sang a horrid line writhing in anguish and pain and I thought See? Who does that to their child? And he said No one saw what the Father experienced when his child hung dripping and If there was another way I would do it and You are a participant of our suffering. I am not the god who stands back and moves the world into pain. Healing comes from sacrifice – our sacrifice your healing, your sacrifice their healing. It is the only way and You join me.
Then I could see for a moment.
I could see that in the silence and the desertion and the anger I am still a friend of God – and seeing, I have almost enough grace for Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday, until Sunday comes back again.