from anger to tears, and He gives comfort

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"I sometimes get very angry at God, and I do not feel guilty about it, because the anger is an affirmation of faith. You cannot get angry at someone who is not there. So the raging is for me a necessary step toward accepting that God's way of loving is more real than man's, that this irrational, seemingly unsuccessful love is what it's all about, is what created the galaxies, is what keeps the stars in their courses, is what gives all life value and meaning." (M. L'Engle, The Irrational Season)
I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared dumbly at the object still sounding out my husband’s defense. The words didn’t make sense. I couldn’t listen anymore. Deliberately, I pressed the “end” button, terminating the call, setting the phone on the railing of our back deck.

I stared into the woods surrounding me, knowing he’d call me back. Hoping he would. Fearing he wouldn’t. Listening to the echoes of my own screams that had been buried for years, yanked now to the surface and out into the atmosphere by The Last Straw.

It wasn’t enough. He hadn’t come through before. He wouldn’t be coming through now.

From the deep recesses of my soul came the sentence by which I’d unknowingly lived for the last several years. God doesn’t really care about me. Stark. Real. Inescapable.

Scenes from my past flashed back, so clear in their message: the godly kids at school who wouldn’t take the time of day for me, the endless stream of collapses that got me written off by my peers, a parking-lot moment spent raising my fist at God, echoing screams of shock and pain and horror, a love who didn’t come back, a best friend disappearing behind a schizophrenic mask, a hospital discharge with no diagnosis and no resolution, postpartum depression stealing the joy of my first baby, prayers and prayers that went unanswered…

The phone rang, and I told him. I was giving up. I couldn’t do it anymore. My husband wept, begging me not to leave him alone to seek God. Not to walk out on Him.

I had promised God everything. My whole life. My passion. “Anywhere, anything,” I had said. Even Africa, the worst possible scenario I could imagine at the time.

Not a broken heart, though. Not a hospital. A wheelchair. An endless black hole of depression. Not this insecure uncertainty that left us with no options. Not God instead of me.

It was over for me. My last dream stripped. The last hope I’d been holding for something new, something different, some place I could start over without the past, without the pain… without God. I didn’t want to live anymore. I stayed because I had to. Because I had nothing else to do. Nowhere to go. This was the end.

I stared into a future painted in the stark reality that experience offers, experience yet unsanctified by faith, incompatible with hope, jaded by love that wasn’t Love. At the end of myself, no head knowledge I owned served to answer the anger. No spiritual understanding I thought I had gained could soothe the hole in my heart that was His Spirit crying out in me to be one with a God who so obviously didn’t care about me. A God who only wanted His own glory. Who would use me to gain it, no matter what it cost me personally.

Excerpt from an unpublished article.
"I pray for courage to mourn so that I may be strengthened."(M. L'Engle, The Irrational Season)

Over the last few months and years, I've experienced a whole lot of loss. I give the facts about it, use it as I need it for stories and blog posts and articles and sympathy (oh, but I am human!), and assign it neatly to a corner of myself labeled "stripped." I choose stoicism, cynicism, and resignation when it comes to mind. I speak in clich├ęs. "That's just the way it is." "That's life. It's like that." "God knows." Which all makes me look like a good, spiritual, suffering saint.

But more recently, I've discovered something else in myself, living in that corner with the loss. Anger. Anger that I didn't know was there. Anger that is aimed at my husband, my daughter, my situation in life, my health, my limitations. Anger that is aimed ultimately at God. For not intervening. For not fixing things. For not changing me at my pace, in my time, just so I can get out of His way... and ignore Him again. Pretend I don't need Him because I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

Why am I so angry?

I don't have to think too hard to reach for the answer, an answer given after an attempted apology to God.

"That wasn't anger. It was pain."

Does pain roar? Does it scream without words until it can no longer be felt?

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Mt. 5:4)

"You never cried, did you?"

And here at the end of myself, looking around at everything I have stored in my corner of loss, I know an answer. He wants me to mourn what I have lost. Because He wants to comfort me.

Blessed are they that mourn...

He wants me to be blessed. Happy. Happy in mourning.

You know, every time I try to talk with God, it is there, the pain, the loss. I'm still ducking deep, waiting for the next blow, holding what I've already lost in my "stripped" corner, looking for the next addition. I haven't been able to say much to Him lately. I think it's because I'm not talking about what is there.

I think I view my losses as things that God has stripped from me because of His inexorable need to make me holy for Himself. Everything I lose is one more thing for me to hold up to Him and say, "You took this. I said I would give You everything, and You repay me like this. Where is the joy You promised? Where is the victory? How dare You use me without paying me?"

Wow. That was more honest than usual.

For they shall be comforted...

In The Irrational Season, L'Engle shares a prayer from her book, Meet the Austins, the prayer of a young boy whose Uncle Hal had just died:

"God bless Mother and Daddy and John and Vicky and Suzy," he said, "and Mr. Rochester and Colette and Grand father and all the cats and Uncle Douglas and Aunt Elena and Uncle Hal and..." and then he stopped and said, "and all the cats and Uncle Douglas and Aunt Elena and Uncle Hal," and then he stopped again and said, "and especially Uncle Hal, God, and make his plane have taken him to another planet to live so he's all right because you can do that, God, John says you can, and we all want him to be all right because we love him, and God bless me and make me a good boy." (L'Engle, The Irrational Season, p. 69)

Instead of leaving out his grief in talking to God, he took it with childlike faith to Him, believing that He really cared about Uncle Hal. He asked for strong comfort.

What if I mourn the losses? What if I stop resigning myself, stop pretending I-don't-care-because-I-asked-for-this-and-it-will-make-me-more-like-Him, stop resenting Him for doing His work in me? What if I let my guard down, let Him into that corner to look at what I've lost, to take it to another planet because I loved it very much, to make it somehow part of His Life in me? What if I choose the human reaction and sit down and have a good cry because it isn't fair and it hurts like crazy? What if I actually choose to live what I believe - that He knows it hurts because He felt it too, as a human like me, and He walked this earth and felt all this pain?

I can't say I know the what if, as I haven't really tried it yet. But I think I'd like to. I'd like Him to unlock that sad corner of my heart. I'd like to not be angry anymore. I'd like to cry.

I'd like to be comforted. I'd like know what it means to be blessed, happy in mourning.

I'm so far from understanding His way of loving; I know in my heart He is not unkind as I think. To glory in this, that I understand and know Him, exercising lovingkindness - it will take my lifetime, I think.

So for now I pray I learn to weep. I pray I will find myself blessed - happy - by His comfort.


anne said...

beautiful post.
Thank you for sharing.

Esther said...

"...that those which mourn may be exalted to safety." ~Job somewhere

there's a lot to your line of thinking and another scripture, a covenant, comes to mind "...mourn with those that mourn..."

my heart mourns.

Becky said...

I wish I could write what I'm feeling in a way that it would make sense. Your post today - it struck such a HUGE chord in my heart that I think people besides me must have heard it.

I have that corner, too. The one where I've put all the hurt, all the pain, all the things I've lost. All the ruined relationships from leaving my former faith. The loss of having to sell a home I loved and wanted to grow old in. The loss of the ability to stay home with my children. The loss of so many things. Things I've tried to say "oh, it's all for my good" and not act like it hurts. Be the good, strong, spiritual woman I think I'm supposed to be.

But man. Your post....I have a lump in my throat. There's that corner. The one I don't want to face. It's painful.

I hope we both have the courage to weep. Weep so we can heal.

I praise God for you. I really do. You have no idea. Thank you for being so transparent once more.

elk said...

your photo reminded me of the song I sing each week with the preschool children in chapel
"this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine"

"won't let anything blow it out I'm going to let it shine"

'tis my prayer for you this day ~ELK

ellen said...

Hi, Kelly. I am going to de-lurk (this is super scary for some reason) to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your blog over the past month or so. I can't remember how I got here- from some other blog, I guess-but I have been blessed by your honest writing.

I especially related to this post as I don't often think about how it must hurt my Father as He watches me struggle to give up the things He wants from me. I need to remember that He cares about that hurt and wants me to bring it to Him.

dancebythelight said...

You really do HAVE to read "A Sacred Sorrow" by Michael Card. It deals with a lot of this stuff in an amazingly fresh way.

Kelly Sauer said...

I've almost bought that book a hundred times, Danielle - it's even on my Amazon Wishlist! I guess that's my next order, huh?

Janice Phillips said...

Thank you so much for this post. So much.

Beloved of God said...

Kelly, thank you. I know I came by here today for a reason. It takes courage to mourn.. and to go to that place of pain that has no name, but that God knows is there, even if we don't. It is so scary. But thank God he is opening it up in me. Being intentional about letting the pain come.. now there's something countercultural. But when it happened to me last weekend, I swear I never felt so light after those 2 days of scary pain. More is coming up but no matter how hard it is, I will now go there. I have to.
Bless you and your wonderfully honest words.

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