Recently when I’ve been confronted with Jesus I’ve just wanted to run.
Not just figuratively, putting forth a combative front and an armored heart, but physically–sometimes, I just want to literally run. Run from my emotions, my reality, my fears. My God. And recently, when I’ve pushed myself to the breaking point, I have–I have sneaked out of worship meetings and ghosted from my seat during messages, bare feet padding up steps and out doors and picking up the pace faster and faster and flying down sidewalks and through the warm night air or into sun-dappled alleys and simply found a quiet spot to have a good cry and plead with the Lord for this great hard thing in my life. It’s hard to face him when I feel like I’ve given up everything for him, although I know he gave up everything for me. That’s what Easter is all about, isn’t it? The God of the universe suffering an unimaginable death to create utterly undeserved life for a creation which has done nothing but hate him from the beginning. He gave up everything for me. So why does it feel so darn hard to keep on loving and trusting him, when I give up what’s made my life bright to keep on in the light he has promised me?
Today, I did better. Today, when my eyes confronted a screen full of words of hope meant to be sung loud and free, today when my body froze up and didn’t want to move a centimeter, today when I knew I was going to cry, again, and hated myself for it, today when I felt exposed and vulnerable in a crowd full of people, today when I wanted to shrink from God and withdraw my trust and my love from him and demand from him the cry of my heart–today I made myself open my mouth and sing. I wanted to trust him, wanted to rest in him, wanted him to take some of this pain away, but didn’t know how. So I just did what I wanted my heart to want to do. I took another step forward in faith even when nothing in me could feel the right emotions for doing it. When it went against all I wanted for myself. I have told myself–if I can blame him, then God can fix this. If I can corner him into a promise, then he will have to make everything better. If I can wrestle out an assurance, then I can keep on not trusting, not surrendering, not believing he is all loving yet can demand everything of me. If I can be angry at him, can place the guilt on him, then maybe I can get what I want without letting go. But I can’t do that–I have nothing to blame him for. I walk this road for him, but I have chosen it. I know it is the right road… and it is hard because I am an imperfect person living in a broken world with a heart that hopes for goodness. And so I cannot blame him. And so I sing. And so he lets me rest in him. He does not fix it in this moment–he can only promise good for me. He does not tell me he will do exactly as I ask–but he holds me. And for now I try to let him.
Today, I only need ten minutes in that little alley… ten minutes for my feet to slip down the aisle and patter across a dusty wooden floor and fly into the sunlit freedom and take me to a place where I can hide and breathe and lean against a warm brick wall and look up at the sky. I plead with God, over and over. I don’t know what else to do, how else to be. I try to listen for him through the clamor of my emotions, clouding my perception of what is real and what he is saying to me. I can’t tell what is me and what is him. I feel hope but I don’t know why–wishful thinking? I move to leave, look down from the sky–and right in my line of vision, right as if someone had planted it there specially for me, right as if it is looking at me, right in the middle of the gravel of that alley is a dandelion. And I lose it. God may not be telling me if he is answering my prayers–but he promises to love me always and give me what is best. He could be working, answering my prayer at this very moment, and I wouldn’t even know it. But he knows what dandelions mean to me–and there it is, tempting me into hoping with every ounce of hope I have left that God is making my prayers come true. I don’t know. But for now, I let that little yellow dandelion smile fill me with hope. And I walk back into that church and listen to a message about God’s power to save, and how he is always working, even when we cannot see it.
The story of Hannah in the Bible has really resonated with me recently–that woman had such a desire in her heart that she could not silence the grief and aching which it caused her. She cried out to God so earnestly that the priest thought she was drunk. Drunk! I can identify with Hannah here. She cries out to the Lord, receives no promise from him, but in the end is given the answer to her prayer. I wish for that kind of ending to my story too, even though I am not promised it. The story of Hannah tells me God hears, and that his desire is to fulfill this longing if it is for the best good. Yet there is something that happens between Hannah’s asking and God’s giving–she gets up, dries her eyes, praises the Lord, and then goes about her daily life. This is so dang hard for me. How can she do that, having been given no assurance from God that he will do as she has asked of him? How can she trust in who he is, believing that she will be okay, no matter what? How can she go about her life, still hoping that the Lord will heal her hurt, without knowing if he will? And yet she does. And yet she praises him with true peace and joy. And this is an act of faith which I am still learning.
Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” How true is that. Gosh, my heart is sick. Wow how amazing, how tree-life-like it would be to have that desire fulfilled. And how hard it is to wait, not knowing whether one’s hope will bear fruit! So much trust is required, so much surrender when I feel like fighting, so much relaxing into Jesus when I feel like struggling. Jesus tells me its okay to be sad–it is okay for my heart to be sick. But if I push him away in my sickness, then what is the point of it all?
So this Easter, I resolve to try to fight for faith better. I will go on writing “All things new” (Revelation 21:5) and “I won’t give up” (I Won’t Give up on Us, Jason Mraz) on my hands in pen like a bored high-schooler, a visual reminder to keep me from despair during the days that feel utterly and impossibly too long. I will make myself sing to Jesus when I don’t feel like it. I will try to stop blaming him for something which he never did, and trusting that he can be working when I don’t see it. I will have my moments of immobilization and fear and tears but will make myself get up and keep going because I don’t know what God is doing, and I can’t turn off my emotions, and I might as well keep on hoping and hoping if I can’t help it anyway, and praying and praying until I receive an answer or until my desire becomes a reality.
I wish this was easier. I wish I had new ideas, new solutions, new ways to fight this battle. But Jesus has already fought it for me–and he wants me to surrender, relax into him, even as I resolve to not give up, to not stop praying, to not stop hoping, to allow myself to feel and desire. He tells me not to push him away. He tells me to trust him.
And the great secret of all of this is? Jesus didn’t just die–he rose from the dead for us. All his friends and followers had no idea what he was doing. They thought everything was dead. Gone. Their hopes and dreams all lies. There were darkness and mourning, when in reality God was in the middle of doing the greatest thing ever, the greatest victory ever won, the greatest gift ever given. And then Jesus rose–and they realized they should have trusted him all along.
I don’t know what God is doing in my life. You might not know what God is doing in yours. You don’t know what your resurrection will look like. But don’t stop praying for it. Don’t stop trusting that God is at work. Don’t stop pleading with the Lord for the desires of your heart. Trust that he will give you good things, and desires to bring light and resurrection to every heart in the world.
Yes, I know tomorrow will be hard. Yes, I wish I had some way of knowing if anything is happening in my dark place, if I have any reason to hope. If change really is occurring, or if at least a desire for change to occur or the pursuit of it is still present. But I do have a reason to hope–for I have Jesus. And so do you.
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19.