Monday, November 21, 2011

out of the desert.

 {photo via Bippity Boppity Boo}

This has been a difficult spiritual season for me. 

The details are not important, but they have resulted in a stale, stagnant faith, a faith I barely recognize. 

My Bible often goes untouched throughout the week. My heart is cold in worship, heavy with hurt and leftover pain. 

This struggle has been personal, but the spiritual journey we take is also communal, and so my friends, family, and the body I worship with each week have felt the effects of this season. 

It is worth noting: There have been bright spots, high moments atop the mountain. There have been gifts and blessings and prayers and moments in which I have felt finally back in tune with the One who created me. 

But there have still been questions. Stomachaches. Tears. 

And I am trying desperately to turn a corner. 

I am using these last two months of 2011 to evaluate, to identify what exactly the burden has been during my time in this spiritual desert. 

I want to know if it is possible for it to be removed, if I am finally reaching the edge, if water is near. 

There are practical steps to be taken. 

I must pursue community, not just by throwing party after party, but by being a friend. By feeding those I love and those who need a meal. By calling when I say I’ll call. By letting some things slide, by protecting my feelings and giving the benefit of the doubt to my brothers and sisters. Mostly, by putting myself in the other person’s shoes. 

I must repair my church relationship. I don’t know how that is going to look. I don’t know if that will mean pursuing community and worship and fellowship elsewhere. Instead, I just know it needs to mean forgiveness. True forgiveness, the kind that doesn’t turn back, but instead marches forward. 

I must learn to say no to the things I cannot do and say yes to the things the Spirit is calling me to. Often, I have given my yeses too freely, and the result has been a burnt-out, bedraggled mess. People become disappointed; the emails and phone calls and details become overwhelming, and I wind up doing absolutely nothing. That must change.

I must accept and bestow grace. I must see people — even the people who have hurt my heart or stomped on my feelings or spewed sarcasm my direction — as Jesus sees them. I must remind myself that once, so was I. That I have been mean, too. That I say things I shouldn’t say, too. That we are all in utter, desperate need of a Savior. 

I must renew my love for the Spirit and for His Word. I am a rule-follower, a good girl who has read her “Bible through the year” enough times to know it is possible. But I don’t want to just read the Bible through the year because it is my resolution, because it is some rule I cannot break. I do not want this to turn into some panicked, legalistic pursuit in which I am, yet again, disappointed. Instead I want to study and pour over His words because I need to. Because His words offer both the mysteries and the answers I need to be reminded of. I want to surround myself with people who are not afraid of the questions, who seek Scripture not for their truth, but for His. I want Bible study with like-minded people, but people who are different enough to challenge me and help me grow. 

I must not be afraid to acknowledge my weakness, to accept moments of rest. I must listen to the voice inside that whispers: It is time for quiet, for stepping back, for resting in Me.

This life is not meant to be spent entirely in the high places. The deserts, the valleys, the lowest of lows are His, too. 

Almost exactly a year ago, I let the words of a fellow believer tear my heart to bits. I ignored the words, joked about them, and they festered into a wound that has been difficult to heal. 

Like most wounds, this one was forgettable most days. But some days, the pain would become unbearable. Others who didn’t know or understand the hurt would accidentally rip the Band-Aid off, and the wound would become exposed again. 

It has been this unbelievably exhausting process, this healing. 

Lately, though, I have noticed a difference. Less bitterness. Less anger. 

But I am concerned, because I have also noticed indifference. Apathy. Casual shrugs of the shoulder. 

I think sometimes, we think healing means we stop feeling. We associate becoming better with passivity. 

I don’t want to be passive. I don’t want to hide my gifts under bushels or my let my opinions rest quietly on my tongue. 

I want to speak slowly and thoughtfully, yes. I want to give the gift of life and teaching purposefully and intentionally. 

In other words, I want to be me again, but this time, better

Not perfect. But better. 

I want to come out of this desert renewed and rejuvenated, ready to breathe in fresh air and take in the water as if I’ve never drunk it before. I want to have learned something from this seasonal dry spell. 

For now, I am resting. I want to return back to the One who made me whole and ask for His help in restoring me, in renewing my passions and my faith. 

Soon, it will be time to come out of the desert. Time to take a deep breath, and press on. 

I want to be ready.


monster cakes said...

Oh friend. I can relate. I love you. I am here for you (as much as a person across the country can be). You have my e-mail. And honestly? If you needed my phone number, say the word. Praying for you today. xo

Brunella said...

I love this post.
Because is real.
I said yes so many times to lose the boundaries of myself (in the past, in the catholic church - that does not necessarily mean being with God)
I thought God wanted me to be just that, extreme availability to others.
A terrible misunderstood of my mind (and catholic teacher)

I learned many things in this time but if the cup is empty there is not any water.
I think it is for this reason that God leads us in the desert or Getsemani as he went.
And 'this serving questions and thoughts, feedback to people, but the right ones. Not everyone is so careful, people are often more careful to make a good impression to be more than ready to help.
Thank you very much Annie for this share.
Inside my heart I really appreciate what you wrote.

Jennifer said...

I was here not too long ago. It was a very odd season for me. I still have a lot of things that need to finish mending from it. I definitely have issues with connecting with the church when so many things aren't right. Still, Christ died for the (very imperfect) church so I need to love them too. Thanks for the thoughts!

Megan Elizabeth said...

Annie this is great! I think so often we are too worried about keeping busy we forget to acknowledge the One who put us here. Finding balance is really hard. I feel like I'm getting out of a dry spell. This summer was really hard for me, God was important but I never made the time like I should. Thanks for this friend!

denise* paper angels said...

Wow, thank you for sharing, though I can't imagine it was easy for you at all. I can identify with so many of your struggles, and can only be grateful that God hasn't given up on me, and we know he will never give up on you either :) you have a beautiful prayer and i'm sure our heavenly father will be glad to answer it :) He is the great reconciler of relationships, between God and man, and between man and man :) hugs

Becky [This Road Called Vida] said...

This is SO good because it's SO honest. I have been in some ugly [and I mean UGLY] situations in the church I grew up in... and it's so hard to seek God out when you feel like somehow He's choosing to be absent, since He obviously didn't spare you from experiencing that particular issue, [and when I say "you" I mean "me." haha] For me, the answer was finding a new church... but that wasn't the answer from the very beginning... now I can look back and see that God used those situations to prepare me for greater things. He does see us through the ugliness and He's amazing for it. I hope your desert comes to an end very soon, and I hope you can [sooner rather than later] look back and see God's hand over your life through it all. Much love!

Erin said...

such a thoughtful post, Annie! I am praying for you. He will carry you through!

Annie said...

i've felt this way a lot this year, so i'm thankful that you've written and shared this post.

a year ago tomorrow, i got news i didn't want to hear, news from a boy i liked a lot who decided we were better off as friends. and as i sat stunned, staring at the facebook message on my computer screen, i realized i had to make a decision. was i going to let the situation ruin my wonderful day of thanksgiving? or was i going to find a way to be thankful, even in and for that, especially on the day that calls us to be thankful?

and yet, as the pain has gone, in this year of asking why it all happened and still not receiving an answer, i don't want healing to mean not feeling. i want to be grown, but not grown cold. and i am thankful for a God who provides oases in the deserts, who gives us just what we need so we can travel on. and i think those needs include friends at a similar point in the journey, friends who have walked or are walking deserts of their own.

Kari said...

I loved this when I read it but could not comment at the time. I just wanted to say that I understand these feelings. I think a lot of us go through this when we are in our 20s, because that's a time when we are continuing to develop who we are spiritually. Don't be afraid of the push and pull. Pay attention to where it is leading you.

Kelly Sauer said...

Reading, quiet. I know this. I could have written this. A few years farther down the road, I know how this may only be the beginning, how He will find you in the desert, God-Who-Sees, and trust will become the doubting-enough to ask the questions and live within the mess.

I am sorry you were hurt. Oh I wish I could take back words that other people say, but I know how He makes us His when friends turn Him against us.

Look for Him as you've never understood Him, but as you've always known Him. He is the most familiar Voice.