Q: What advice would you give to someone who has been rejected by a lover and is experiencing deep loss as a result?
“Do not fight the pain; do not fight against irritation or jealousy. Embrace them with great tenderness, as though you were embracing a little baby. Your anger is yourself, and you should not be violent toward it. The same goes for all of your emotions.” ~ Your True, HomeThich Nhat Hanh
Healing among the healers
I ended up attending a special church service last evening.
And I can’t get it out of my head.
At the conclusion of the service, those individuals who were experiencing any kind of emotional challenges - from anxiety to fear to depression - were asked to come forward for prayer, to be released, or healed or set free from those mental difficulties that trip us up every day.
I was expecting a few.
Half of those attending went forward. Half of the people in the church went forward for prayer.
And I bowed my head and asked God why.
After all, as Christians we are told we are set free, given new life in Christ. Like that first group of lowly followers, we are to change the world, bring light into darkness.
And yet, we ourselves are still flooding altars asking God to heal us from our fears, depression and anxiety.
I couldn’t help but think of Job and his friends as I prayed - and of the Sunday School lesson yesterday. And those moments I keep observing in life - in this microcasm of the last two months or so. Those familiar with the book of Job know that it is about the terrifying life of a good man who suddenly lost everything. And everyone. His well-intentioned friends attempt to come to his aid - but end up missing the mark in consoling their despairing friend. They got preachy. They accused. They became self-righteous. They ended up adding to Job’s troubles rather than comforting his troubled heart.
And some months ago, I think I wrote about my newfound commitment of attempting to live in community, the desire to explore what that would mean, if we were to live as God would have us to live with one another, despite our differences. How would that impact my friendships? How could it?
And for me, it meant I had to come clean on who I really was - or at least more clean on the part I chose to keep hidden — and we keep things hidden for all kinds of reasons. I thought of that as I read Job. Here was a guy that God himself described as his friend. He said there was no one like him in all the earth. And while Job’s challenges in life were painfully obvious to everyone - I thought of how many of ours are not so obvious. And we like to keep them hidden - for the very reason we read about in Job. I wondered about that as I looked to the crowd standing at the altar last night for troubling emotions. How many of them had come clean with friends - only to have friends miss the mark in consoling - or help to point them to Hope.
Sunday school yesterday addressed that too, using a chapter from Bob Goff’s Love Does, where he describes two Christians at odds with one another, wrangling with personality differences rather than focusing on their common faith in the same Healer. Goff said he “called them out” to deal with the issues honestly. And that in the Spirit of Christ, we are suppose to die to ourselves for the common cause. Because if we don’t, it gets in way of the common cause. The very effectiveness of community is lost.
I couldn’t help but think of that last night as I prayed for my brothers and sisters standing before God asking to be healed emotionally. How many had the courage to come clean about their challenges — and were shut down by well-intentioned friends who ended up compounding the problem?
The Sunday School teacher yesterday cited the words of Jesus: ”Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Another reference: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
I have a tendency to shrink back at the first sign of a sword. I like to run for the hills looking for peace. I don’t think I am unusual in that. But just as the peace is his, so might be the sword - and so it might be that we should use it to kill that which stands in the way of his peace. To knock down the barriers in order to reach the true Kingdom he talks about.
For me, that application has me completely mesmerized this morning. And questioning community. And questioning myself. And questioning friendship. And questioning life.
Where is the sword?
The book of Job ends in a truly amazing way. First, it says that God finally spoke “from the eye of a violent storm.” If you are in a storm today, just know, God can speak to you from the very center of it.
In the last chapters, God said he was “fed up” with the well intentioned friends. He ordered the friends to make a sacrifice - and go to His friend Job. He said Job will pray for them. And, amazingly, Job asked God to not treat the friends to what they deserve for talking nonsense. And that moved me, that prayer where Job spoke out on behalf of those who hurt him.
But this moved me even more: After Job interceded for his friends, God restored his life and fortune - and then doubled it! Job did more than simply pray for his friends - he interceded for his friends.
Perhaps that sacrifice of the friends, that intercession from Job on behalf of his friends, holds a key to his Kingdom, to community, to friendship God’s way. Perhaps if we could practice this kind of friendship more, we wouldn’t need altar calls for emotional healing - among those who are called to deliver light into the darkness. Maybe we could sustain the sword more effectively.
And ultimately find peace.
Tiffany: I do this! Time after time after time! I do all this shit for other people! And then I wake up and I’m empty! I have nothing!
And suddenly I begin to consider this big word I have not often enough considered - character.
And as I listened to one describe it – the word, what it looks like, how it feels, how it impacts my life – something opened wide within me.
Character is what we do when no one is looking. So then, what are my habits? What is my moral code? What do I think/feel? How am I making my choices of who I am and who I want to be? Am I trustworthy? Am I loving? Am I humble? Do I think of others more than I think of myself? How much do I look and act like the person of Jesus Christ, who stands as the most outstanding example of character that I know?
It is character that is sorely missing, it seems, in a society that wants the easy more. And I consider my own impulses of wanting, of having, or getting whatever it is that my heart desires. In the moment. Unguarded by character’s sway. Under the mask of perfection.
And it is not just me who has fallen under the crushing weight of a divided heart, where our natural giftings take control of our waning character. Sometimes – sometimes – we become like Samson whose character falls under the weight of broken vows - all kinds of broken vows – and darkness takes over. Our hearts grow stone cold. We no longer reflect the character we once so desired.
“…But (Samson) did not know the Lord had left him.”
But others know. We know. I know. There is a darkness. A stench that cannot be hidden with words or empty actions.
is a choice…
Character is what is missing in too many. Of us.
And now, I cannot help but wonder if the missing piece … is simply that – a lack of character … too heavy of a reliance on giftings.
And now, yes, my conduct towards others is highly, mainly – perhaps solely - dependent on my character.
Who am I
… in this light?
As I sat there. Alone. Wondering about the wisdom of already investing in those who ignore my heart. Those who sat within such an easy invite to join.
Painfully so far away.
I hung my head to pray.
And God sent another. Who landed so close next to me, with arms fully around me. Whose tears.for me. could be felt on my cheek
— and deep in my heart.
And we prayed together. Silently.
God is with me.
“When you are an aware being, you no longer become completely immersed in the events around you. Instead, you remain inwardly aware that you are the one who is experiencing both the events and the corresponding thoughts and emotions.”
And so I ponder … who am I who God has created? Who am I apart from the flurry of active thoughts and emotions? What lies beneath, behind the barriers of protection? If the chattering were to quiet or stop, how would I, could I experience this day? Could I be missing the essence of every moment because it is lost in the urgent?
And I have, at times, indeed become lost in thoughts and emotions - in objects and things that even happening outside of myself. Movies do that for me. In theaters … And sometimes I intentionally seek the relief of movies, to get away from myself and my own thoughts … and emotions.
What lies beneath? What lies at the center of my soul? What does my heart truly sound like?
Could I linger there, find there? If I were to linger there, beneath the thoughts - if I can truly grasp that those thoughts are not me -
… will I then discover more fully who He created me to be?