1.Have you experienced God's faithfulness at a difficult time? Tell as much or as little as you like... My childhood was difficult, an unstable mother, an alcoholic father, and a series of long distance moves that took me further away from my extended family. (No one to turn too)...All my life I have been a prayerful person. As a little girl I had on-going conversations with God about my life. And a real sense of God's abiding presence. A presence that calmed me, assured me, helped me to feel safe when my parents fought or finally divorced. I feel that God has been along side me guiding me to a better life. So, yes, often.
2. Have you experienced a dark night of the soul, if so what brought you through? My answer to question 1 begins to unpack why these last few years have been so difficult. After a life time of certainty of God I have found God to be very absent in my life. No. It is not that I can't see God, God has not been present. I have had to face that reality. Argue as you may that I have been blind, but that is not it. I have been doing some very deep intentional work, discerning where God is calling me, what God wants me to do, where my ministry is being called. And there is no sign of God in any of this. It's as if God has said, "Do what ever." And no sign of God working in my husband's life as he tries to rebuild a broken career. He is fed up, tired, discouraged. The church I serve has lost 25% of its members to death between 2003 and 2006, we literally were dying. My finances have tanked. After four years of one income (ah, mine) while trying to raise teenagers. This is a lament, indeed. 'cuz my life has sucked and where is God in all of this? How am I supposed to get up and preach the Good News?
But. I have plodded through. Kept going. The memory of God's presence is all I have. Occasionally that is enough. And now a little glimmer of hope is returning. I will be forever changed. I will never have that same safe sense of God's presence. I have been abandoned. I guess it happens. I guess I will eventually reflect back on this time and find something useful in it. A way to tap into it and help another. A way to say, God does leave, ask the mystics. Ask anyone who has traversed this faith journey long enough. God does leave.
but perhaps God is never really gone? Just very different. the mystery of it all. So. Those of you who read my blog know my reflections on this.
What is bringing me through? Boot-strap stamina. Get up each day and take that first step. And, I suspect, the prayers of others. And, certainly, the Revgals. No doubt.
3. Share a Bible verse, song, poem that has brought you comfort? I love Mozart's sonatas. And I love Indigo Girls and the Dixie Chicks, Long Way Home. I have found comfort and strength in the struggle these women sing about, and in their persistence and strength. Yeah. Music has given me hope.
4. Is "why suffering" a valid question? Sure. But there isn't always a sufficient answer. When I was going through the ordination process I had to read, twice, John McQuarrie's systematic theology, I think it's called, "Principles of Theology" or something like that. (It was 10 years ago). One of the things he says, in my words: "In the beginning there was God and there was this big swirling mass of chaos. God scooped into the chaos and brought forth order. Light and dark, night and day, heavens and earth, land and water, etc. But even as God brought forth order a random bit of that chaos come through as well. God named this chaos "free-will." It exists in nature and in humans, in all creation. It continues to have a randomness to it - hurricanes, tornado's, disease, etc. Chaos is "evil" because it goes against God's desire for created order. But it exists. And whenever chaos rears its ugliness God scoops in and brings forth order again. Somehow, someway.
Not a perfect answer. But then no systematic theology is able to completely answer the mystery of God, life, suffering. Systematic theology is just an attempt to give us something to hang on to.
One of the "ways" God uses chaos in our lives, the way God restores order, is to work through other humans who come to our aid. Another way of grace is for God to help us see with new eyes. TO gain perspective, wisdom, to grow and be transformed through our suffering. From suffering and death came the resurrection. It happens all the time. It just might take longer than "three days..."
5. And on a lighter note- you have reached the end of a dark and difficult time- how are you going to celebrate? No, not yet. But I think I am moving in that direction. Slowly. I don't have any plans to celebrate. Although I suppose I will rejoice in the day I feel hopeful and at peace. I will be grateful when my debt is paid down and I can breath again. I will be content when my family can have some fun and be less burdened by every day stuff. Life will just feel better, I imagine.
In the meantime. I get up everyday, exercise, go to work, care for my congregation, care for my family, walk my dogs, clean my house, and pretend that life is fine. Sooner or later it will be!