True North

My first new post on my new blog and site! It's fitting to me that the new year is here because it's going to mean a lot of new changes: I fully anticipate that in my own life and am already starting to seek them - and see them - now.

This year has already been one of a renewal of faith, so what more beautiful of a start could there be? I'm so excited: excited to see what God will do in my life, in others' lives; in relationships and friendships; in my heart and around me. I already sense triumph, excitement, and inner change, and it feels so very good, hopeful, and expectant. Like renewal, rebirth, new life. 

But I was really inspired to sit down and write this post after coming home from my first church service of 2018 this morning, where we reflected on the idea of lamentation: prayer lifted up to God not necessarily in hopefulness or expectancy, but in weeping, or sorrow.  We talked about Hannah in 1 and 2 Samuel, about how she faithfully and loyally brought her requests, her thanksgiving, her very soul to the Lord, and how - in His time - He answered, but not before she suffered great sorrow. She knew the Lord was good, so good; that His nature was all-powerful and loving; that His strength would prevail and anoint her who praised, trusted, and followed Him.

But for so long, her song was one of thanksgiving, and petition; gratitude, coupled with longing; faithfulness, joined with long-suffering.  As I listened to my pastor talk about these themes - that just because we are faithful to God doesn't always mean our life will be abundant with the blessings we want at the time we want them - I thought about my life this past year. And that was a huge theme. Sometimes our prayers are lamentations: an outpouring to God for something we find it hard to believe He could even do, because we can't see the route by which it could happen, and we only see the fact that we think it should, and sometimes it just doesn't.   

To be honest, last year was the first year of my life where for long, extended periods of time, my prayers were often of lament more than joy; sadness or feelings of failure or loss, more than triumph. In regards to a lot of things - jobs, relationships, daily situations. I've never before in my life felt like so often I turned to God in my prayers each night and said something like, 'here I am again, in the same spot, praying and praying the same prayer [be it for peace, change, or discernment to make a decision; or even just the alleviation of a feeling, of lostness, or sadness, or something to turn or change] and not feeling like any deliverance or answers were coming.'

And it was strange to me. My patience and doubt hadn't really been tested in the specific, intimate ways they were this past year. 

When I was first coming to faith (about four years ago), I discovered this song by Lauren Daigle, 'Trust in you,' which speaks to this theme of trusting a God who seems like He may not be listening - from our very limited perspective - even though He's actually a thousand steps ahead. 

When You don’t move the mountains / I’m needing You to move / When You don’t part the waters / I wish I could walk through / When You don’t give the answers / As I cry out to You / I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You / Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings / There’s not a day ahead You have not seen / So let all things be my life and breath / I want what You want Lord and nothing less.

And back then I thought to myself: can I do that? Can I get behind this idea that I could still have joy even if the mountain doesn't move? Can I choose to follow this faith, this God, in front of whom I might have to be prepared to actually say, 'If you don't come through for me, I know you're still good?' It seemed to counter-intuitive to me, who was looking for something at that time (faith, peace, spirituality). Will I really be able to unconditionally trust a God who doesn't give an answer when I cry out? I wondered then, about four years ago, but this has been the first time in my life where I really saw it happen. This God of mine, I can't always see what He's doing. I can't see what He's planning and why He's taking, or not working things out. 

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But that's the point: I can't see. It's easy to say, 'sure, I know my God might not always allow what I think I want, right when I want it. But what if we think we really, legitimately need it, or were depending on it? Well, He always has something else, something better - the best. He won't let me settle for (in fact, He'll tear it from my grasp) anything that doesn't bring me closer to and deeper into Him and an understanding of who He is. Because that's where life is designed to thrive and joy is designed to abound most deeply: in the Lord.'

It's easy to say that. But when you really have to experience it, you sometimes can't see through the fog. And I learned that this year. We might have to lament. We might have to pray and let go of some things and then grieve loss - but that is better than praying and holding on, not giving Him the space to have His way with anything. Part of the process might be that he has to bring us down before He lifts us up.

It's okay. Whatever it is, let Him have it. 

Your ways are always higher / Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go / You’ve not already stood.

So yes, a lot of my prayers last year seemed to be messy, indirect, vague, I'm-not-even-sure-if-You-get-what-I'm-saying-here-Lord attempts at communication, more than they felt like powerful, strong, bold requests. Some nights all I could say - confused, stressed, wondering how I was going to move forward in certain areas (sometimes emotionally, sometimes financially, sometimes spiritually, sometimes in terms of direction for my life) - was "please don't let me go." I felt bad, like I was asking God to just wait for me while I tried to get off my knees and get things together. 

And He didn't let me go. It required some action and hard decision-making on my behalf to see how He was there, but of course He was. And I'm just now starting to get it. The fog is clearing and the clarity coming back. No real answers, certainty, direction, definitive course yet - but certainly a reorientation of my own heart toward Him and a reminder that He's there, He's been there, He'll be there.

And when I can see nothing but Him, that's enough.