This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for weeks. Some times I have to pray over my words for a long time before deciding to share.
Some things have changed since I first wrote this, but the presence of miracles, grief, and confusion hasn’t. God hasn’t and His grace for our humanity hasn’t.
I recently got to share a post on my personal Facebook page about my father’s health journey.
I got to share how his experience with chemo was rather anti-climactic and how thankful we are for boring news.
His body is doing remarkably well and he has reached one year in remission.
Since his diagnosis I have heard many stories from other cancer surviors or loved ones of cancer patients and his story really was the exception.
…and I have no idea why.
We did pray, he did eat and exercise well through the entire regime and they had a good support system but there are so many variables.
I keep coming back to all the times I’ve asked “why” before.
When my oldest sister died and I cried out to God “why did you let this happen?”
“Why didn’t she receive healing?”
Watching friends fight health battles or toxic relationships.
Watching people I love hurt and praying with so much faith and conviction that wrongs would be righted.
I know it’s common in The Church to associate healing with prayers of Faith.
But, if I’m honest with you…I didn’t pray with all that much faith that God would heal in this past season.
I prayed with the knowledge that He would make something beautiful out of any outcome and I told him what I wanted, but I didn’t have the emotional energy for another plea for a miracle to fall flat.
In the early days after my father’s diagnosis, I went up to my room and turned on my worship Playlist. I was hoping for words of peace and promise, instead what came on was a song called “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott. It’s a beautiful song about surrendering to God’s will, but it had major personal implications for me.
It’s the song I listened to the most over a two week period when I was waiting to figure out if the baby in my womb was really dying. It was a long and excruciating wait and I blared this song praying for God’s will during that season.
The truth is, I thought I already knew what His will would be.
I had been very open about our pregnancy, the cramps, the devastating ultrasound, and the long wait to confirm. I knew there were others in my circle who were struggling with their faith and I was like “God, you know this would be a great chance to show them.”
It was as though I was His PR rep, telling Him how this was such a good marketing opportunity. (Prideful much?)
I really and truly believed a miracle was coming and, instead, said goodbye to that baby a couple weeks later.
So when that song came on after my dad’s diagnosis, it hit me like a freight train. I fell on my knees and sobbed.
My honest, immediate reaction was “God, your will sucks. That’s not what I want this time.”
Now I’m struggling because I feel blasphemous even typing those words, but I bet most of you have felt something similar in your lives.
My relationship with God has walked some messy territory and I have gotten more comfortable in the lament and cry out stages.
And, you know what…it’s drawn me closer.
I have a God who I am comfortable sharing my emotions with and, yes, I apologize when I’ve been snarky but I have bared my soul to him in the truest ways since I dropped the pretense of “everything is okay.”
Sometimes I feel anything but okay, but I know something something much better than “okay” is coming.
This is not the end.
Last week our family went on a little excursion to the favorite local mountain. Hatcher Pass, it’s the beloved mountain of Matanuska-Susitna Valley residents with a road to the top and dozens of hiking trails along the way.
This trail is one of the first and although the entire thing is quite long, there is a beaver dam in the first couple miles that makes an exciting destination for children.
Or at least, there was a beaver dam. Evidently it broke since the last time we visited. I was grieved at first (and still am over the beavers hard work falling flat) but quickly moved to wonder.
There is so much under the surface that I had never seen. It took dismantling to see all the beauty and detail of the structure.
My faith has been going through a similar journey over the past couple years.
We are back to live church now and I couldn’t be happier about it, but the solo time in scripture did have some merit.
It’s human nature to take the easy way out and I can totally be guilty of just settling for someone else’s scripture narrative without doing any of the hard work myself.
It gets complicated because we need spiritual guides and mentors and, yet, we need a personal relationship to flourish.
We need to ask the questions, we need to dig in.
It’s been like shedding a layer of skin as I dive in deeper and get, yet again, more raw with God.
The questions have brought growth and deepened relationship in a way that childish acceptance does not.
I remember a conversation I had with a loved one years ago. They were in a really hard place, trying to make the faithful decision and kept circling back to “why?”
There was guilt over that question, because “we’re not supposed to question God” and she was really struggling.
I had a deep ache for her and spoke the truest words that came to me in the moment.
“It’s okay to ask God questions, just keep talking to Him and listening to His answers.”
I was so confident in that answer, even though I have a hard time living it myself.
When questions bubble up inside my soul, I have this urge to push them down and accept the way things are but that is changing.
Relationships grow through conversation and even disagreements, they grow through real emotion and strife.
I do not have the same relationship with my husband that I did during our honeymoon stage. We are well aware that we married flawed humans and of each others emotional baggage. There have been disagreements and discussions and late night conversations which seem to circle round and round.
Thankfully, there has been love through every conversation and detail and it has grown us. I can confidently say that I love him more now than I did when we first met, because I know him more now. (I’m pretty sure he’d said the same)
Yes, the perceived flaws and challenges but also his tenacity, resilience, humor, wisdom, and joy.
Things that deepen in meaning when the hard stuff is shared too.
” Is there anything more intimate than wrestling?”Beth Moore on Jen Hatmaker’s For The Love Podcast. “Courageously Changing” episode.
This quote has been bouncing around in my head for weeks now as I ponder all the questions I have been asking.
I can still feel guilty for asking them.
Is it okay to feel conflicted?
When I see scripture being used to hurt women and keep them in abusive relationships?
When I see hurting (past or present) members of the church who are struggling with their sexual identity? When I see bodies lined up in the wake of this rejection and pray constantly that my loved ones aren’t next.
When I see the tender heart of Jesus and the not-so- tender words of His people?
When I pray for a miracle and place a body in the ground instead?
When I witness a miracle in my circle and still see the grief of another loved one?
Why me? Why such hardship? Why such grace?
Then what. What do I do with this?
The answer; take it to Jesus.
Wrestling through these questions with him isn’t sinful, it’s personal. It’s intimate. It’s relationship.
“Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”Matthew 22:37
This is probably one of the first scriptures that I memorized as a child, but it wasn’t until recently that loving God with my own mind was pointed out to me.
It was during a Jen Wilkin’s study on Hebrews. I believe it was in the first episode as she was encouraging us to dig in deep to the questions and seek to understand on a personal level.
God is not asking to you to love him with your pastor’s mind, your husband’s mind, your father’s mind, etc.
He is asking to be loved with yours, and I just don’t see how that happens with out the hard questions.
Or without the ears to listen.
That’s the answer that I’ve finally arrived at myself. When I ponder what it means to sinfully question God versus what it means to ask Him questions.
The difference is in whether or not I am truly seeking Him.
I’ve done it both ways. There was a period after my sister passed away when I felt so lonely and afraid. Grief had stripped away so many layers of my “identity” and I was drifitng in every which way.
I kept throwing questions up at God. Questions that sounded more like accusations and to which I didn’t want an answer.
I’d just throw the questions up and take His silence as an excuse to keep doing things my way.
That was sinful, that was painful, that was the wrong way.
Thankfully, gloriously, there is grace to cover it and I don’t live there anymore, but I know how to spot the difference.
So, to all my friends who may be questioning and feeling slightly unmoored. It’s okay to ask, just talk to Him about it.