Thursday, August 15, 2013

For those who have cried in church

It was Saturday evening, and I had just had it. Up the night before till 6 AM with sleep disrupted, feeling frustrated, sick, trapped, irritable, and angry. I lost my patience. I yelled and exited with a punctuated slap of the garage door opener. It was another meltdown under the stress of the past 8 years of intense trial (15 years of losses, hardship, and illness). I haven't had a normal life for so long; I was physically and emotionally depleted, and it was too much that day. The pot boiled over.

Usually manageable at home, this presented a new challenge. I was on my way to church. Smiling strangers, social greetings, joyful songs - I was slightly nauseated at the thought of being in public with the knowledge that I couldn't contort my face to cover this heartache.

I had to make the choice to take that next step. And so I decided to just show up. Eyes down, sitting, closed off, but there nonetheless.

In the past, I've frequently encountered obstacles to going to church. Unless the issue was insurmountable, I knew it was worth pushing through. There was often reward on the other side. This time was no different. It's so strange how there can be a battle to get to a building 15 minutes away, but when that building can be a source of healing, can draw me closer to Jesus, and can help others, the struggle takes on a new, higher meaning.

So for those who have felt the sting of sorrowful tears in public, who couldn't put on a happy face, who have felt so alone in a pew while everyone else seemed to have it all together, this was part of my prayer two days later.

And just when I hit the bottom of myself, when tears are rolling down my cheeks in church and I hunch like I'm praying because I can't bear to sing - you surround me with your Spirit, and you know. You know I can't smile or sing because my world is in pieces and I have no mask left to play the church game. So it's you who steps in and covers me.

Everyone stands, and I am acutely aware their worlds aren't caving in, but they are singing for me, surrounding me with your Spirit when my own heart can't sing. I question if I'm just making that up to feel better, but the thought passes as I hear, "it's all about you; yes, it's all about you." And somewhere in between, "from my heart to the heavens" and "Jesus be the center," my soul chose to mouth the words "It's all about you," as if my jaw and tongue were rusted, old machinery, lurching and grinding without oil, but moving in the quietest praise, the most wrenching praise I can give.

I clutched the damp Kleenex tightly and thought of the victory of praising you in the pain, of the fact I could have turned around twice, of how I'd won just by getting there. I thought of how the Enemy must hate my giving and perseverance.

Then the pastor read in James 5 about patience in suffering. And you reminded me gently again that it's all about you (not me). He reminded us that Job had the chance to love you for you - and that we may only get one chance in this life to do the same - to love you for you, not just your gifts.

And although this test is evil and fierce, in your hands it is goodness for me - in my heart, for others, for my future, for eternity. In your hands, you can (and do) redeem evil. And you have made me capable of faith, of knowing you.

You've given me love and have helped me through illness to a better place. I have so much because you gave the gracious gift of your Son, and you forgive my complaining and self-pity. You love me, and though I struggle, by your strength I will rise, and my faith will be proven as gold through the fire.

Don't give up in the face of isolation, fear, worry, and pain - even pain that goes on for years or for decades - because God is in the business of redeeming pain when we trust him with it. He is worthy of our love even when we can't feel anything good. In those weak moments, remember that it's all about him.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.
My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
    This I know: God is on my side!

Psalm 56:8-9 (NLT)

No comments: