As a family we love to adventure and hike and watch America Ninja Warrior and as a result my kids are often climbing rocks and trees and anything that will stand still including the walls of our house. Inevitably there will arise a moment of panic when one of them can’t find a safe place to put their foot on the whatever they are climbing. My husband will assure them calmly that they just need to feel around for the next safe step, but when you are in a precarious position above the ground and everywhere you move your foot is too small or not right or loose or cracked – even the steady voice of daddy loses it’s power and authority.
And so it goes when we try to claim the promises of God when we are in precarious positions ourselves.
In the opening of A Grief Observed we glimpse these thoughts of C.S. Lewis:
But go to Him (God) when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence
In those torturous moments of sorrow and anxiety and fear, the promises, presence and peace of God all seem to elude us and taunt us. My children in their tree climbing adventures, and C.S. Lewis in his grief, find themselves in good company with Jesus Christ as he cried out on the cross
My God My God, why have you forsaken me?
In some moments of pain recently I felt as if I were pounding on that door that Lewis describes, begging for God to speak something – anything!- to me.
Help me make sense of this!
I am falling – why do your promises feel hollow?
I can’t feel you, or see you – shouldn’t you be more present right now?!
It’s great to memorize scripture and know the promises, but when you can’t access them in your hour of need, when they don’t feel meaningful, we have words like those of C.S. Lewis and some similar ones from my journal pages. All the promises and assurances of God kept whizzing past me. I couldn’t grab a hold of them! Occasionally I would catch one, or so I thought, only to find that what I assumed was a solid mass was was suddenly a liquid and slipping between my fingers.
Bolting and double bolting.
After that, silence.
There was no comfort, no peace, no presence, no promise that would minister to my soul in the way I needed, in the way I demanded! When I first began writing ten years ago, it was to process this exact same thing. Back then it was because I had suffered two miscarriages and the most painful part of the experience was wondering why I couldn’t feel God, wondering if He had abandoned me in my neediest hour. But God did eventually break through during that season and in the months before becoming pregnant with Evangeline I have such precious memories of being comforted by Jesus, and He has been faithful to me once again.
A few nights ago a friend called me and prayed for me over the phone and the Lord gave her these words
“Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who built a house on bedrock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It didn’t fall because it was firmly set on bedrock”
It felt sort of funny in the moment for both of us because we had just finished teaching Vacation Bible School and this was one of the messages we had our kids memorize.
To be honest when I think of this verse I just see the children’s pictures of cartoon looking people building houses and that silly, silly song, it doesn’t feel very adult. Too much giggling when the house on the sand goes SPLAT! Too simplistic and too formulaic.
But in that moment as she prayed, it was real.
Just as real as the wind beating against my house and the relentless rain, and the rising floodwaters.
The truth clung to me in the way I needed, – not just as knowledge in my head or words on a page. It landed right in the secret place where it could take root and grow and flourish.
I have built my house upon Jesus.
Proclaiming that just feels so good to me right now!
I have built my house upon Jesus.
His teachings. His ways. His heart. His death. His resurrection. His Grace. His Church.
Yeah, it’s a house with lots of imperfections and failings and crooked parts. So many that I am justified in wondering how it could ever stand up to a storm and certainly don’t always feel like the wise person described in the passage. But as shoddy as my handiwork has been, the One upon whom I have built it is firm and I not only “could” trust him (you know, theoretically), I do trust him.
I believed I would be okay. There will be storm damage to repair, but I would be okay.
Until I am in those moments of hopelessness when the assurances are zooming PAST ME and OVER ME and AROUND ME but never INTO ME to grab a hold of, not until then can I fully appreciate both what a miracle belief is and how mysterious the ways of God are.
The Promise that I would not be defeated through the storm because of my foundation in Christ created fertile ground for all the other promises that had been evading my spirit to come take root.
Assurances of a Savior and a Friend who doesn’t give up on me or changes His mind about who I am.
Of a Father who is steadfast, faithful, passionate, creative and interested.
Of a Spirit that is a flowing river that will make a way.
And It poured some much needed lighter fluid onto a flickering torch.
It has been a slow learning curve for me to invite others into the ‘process’ with me. I am one of those people that prefers to share my problems after I have them all solved and tidy. So I can just mention the events of my life casually without anyone seeing ‘how the sausage is made’, so to speak. It is so worth the risk when friends respond to that invitation with gusto, compassion and faithfulness so that they can call me on a troubled Sunday night, and be used by God to tell me that the door is not bolted after all.
Here I am standing on the top of a rock, Mt. Bigelow to be exact. And I think I am shouting “I am Moana!” so that my son and daughter would be severely embarrassed by me.
This parable of building homes on the Rock and the Sand comes as the closing word after the Sermon on the Mount, during which Jesus quickly makes it clear that our own righteousness is a facade and that we will find God not so much when we are getting it ‘right’ but rather when we are mourning, desperate for God, thirsty for righteousness, meek, humble, persecuted, hopeless, helpless and sorry.
I don’t understand the silences of God when the nights are the darkest, or maybe I just can’t see how my own emotions and trauma need to settle before I can hear Him clearly.
But as I look closely at the varied strata of Bedrock underneath the life I have built, I can see that each layer is Jesus’ grace in a moment, a year, a day, a tear, a prayer, a leap, a confession, a slow crawl or a quiet yes – all to the One who has first been faithful to me.
Whenever I feel my foot slipping,
your faithful love steadies me, Lord.
When my anxieties multiply,
your comforting calms me down. Psalm 94