Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thumped Right Over the Edge By Spiritual Cliches

Courtesy Mad Penguin Crea
If I had to live through one more person telling me about gold being refined by fire or saying, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” I think I'd be behind bars right now. I woke up every morning, and my first thought was, “No matter what I have to face or endure today, someone else out there is having to gut out something a whole lot tougher. Don't whine.”

That thought was quickly followed by, “Oh, God, can I live through this? How much longer? Will there ever be an end to it?” I'd love to tell you that I always got a gentle answer telling me not to despair. The truth is: a lot of days, there was total silence. Echoing silence. So, I'd recount my list. “We aren't under a bridge. No one is dying. There is a roof over our head and food on the table even if neither are ours. We are all together. This is not permanent.” Every day for over three years, I said those words to myself. 

Harder than the loss of things was the loss of people. I don't know what it is about humans, but we have a hard time going the distance with anyone who struggles for any extended length of time. I think its a rule or something. The person in crisis has about 3.4 months to 'let go and let God' and get on with life. After that, you know you are living on borrowed time. Spiritually speaking, Christians have itchy trigger fingers. If you've been reading long, you know that I think we excel at metaphorical/spiritual firing squads. I should know.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I've done a lot of thinking since last night's blog, and I think the 2 phenomenons are connected. The inability to go the distance with the hurting masses around us (and I am referring to the kind of 'go the distance' that involves more than financial benevolence) couples right up with the inability to do the hard work required to mature beyond the need for milk and pre-chewed spiritual food.

If we have to endure suffering, or walk with someone who is, longer than our comfort zone allows, we have to chew on some hard spiritual truths. They aren't milk, and they aren't pre-masticated for our convenience. We have to make a choice. Do we hunker down and face the fact that some spiritual truths and levels of maturity are hard fought? Or, do we flinch and run to the feel good gospel that assures us life is gonna be great if we just conquer all our negativity and speak only about blessings as if there is no such thing as suffering.

As I mowed grass today, I thought about all those things. I thought about the deep, dark days my family has lived thru. I remembered the story of Gracia Burnham. Her nightmare began just about the time mine began. She and her husband, Mark, were missionaries on an overnight anniversary trip when kidnapped by members of Abu Sayyef in the Phillipines. (Gracia's You Tube link is at the end of this article.)

In those days, I thought of her and wondered what her day was like as mine dragged on toward what would become the loss of our home and our sense of community. I kept thinking, “If she can endure what she is enduring, I can do this.” My nightmare ended long after Gracia's captivity was over. Sadly, the end of her captivity was not the end of her nightmare. Mark was killed during the rescue raid.

If you've never heard of a hard spiritual truth before, chew on the ones Gracia must have had to grapple with when she came home to the US to raise the three children alone. If I did not identify with her enough, I caught a glimpse of her reuniting with her children on a news clip. One of her sons was about the age of mine, and he wore a shirt identical to one my son wore all the time. Oh my fraidy cats.

Gracia has moved on in life as have I. No doubt, we both carry grief and scars with us as we go forward. If I had to guess, I'd say hers are much more resolved than mine because I am, after all, the fraidy cat here. Sometimes I embarrass myself because I am still wrestling with God after all these years. I wonder about her. Is she like me at all?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Before today's mowing got so hard that I thought I was having a heart attack, I found myself humming a hymn. In the midst of all my thoughts of loss and rejection and spiritual maturity, it was as if God whispered a post card in my ear. He is the fount of every blessing. Only God can bring blessing in the midst of and as a result of searing pain.

As I look back over my life, and here in my mid-50's I have enough age on me to comment, I can see the hulks of many a spiritual shipwreck. In lots of cases, the folks eschewed suffering for a Jesus that is like Santa Claus and ended up losing their soul in pursuit of gaining the whole world. Thinking of that reality, another song rang through my soul.


Oh, fraidy cat, I don't know what your searing pain or how you're coping. I just know the world is one big oozing wound about right now. We are often far from family and don't know our neighbors. There's no one to turn to for reassurance that our pain is seen and heard and that we matter. This little spot in cyberspace is, I hope, a respite for all the fraidy cats waiting to come in from the cold. Welcome home. I missed you while you were gone. Love you long and strong. See you soon?                                

                                                         Romans 12: 12 (NIV)
Courtesy B. Creasy

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Hebrews 10: 36 (NIV)
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.


  1. Thought provoking and compassionate. I think the hardest times are when "the heavens are as brass" and it seems God is indifferent to our plight and prayers. I never enjoy the experience, but God has blessed me with it more than I care to remember.

  2. Thanks for the 'thought provoking and compassionate' part. As you know, it is hard to 'hear' how a post is coming across when you are writing. Only one who has experienced the silence can understand. If only we could understand why those times ARE blessings!