Monday, March 31, 2014

The Desert Prayer

Today I come clean.
I bare an intimate part of my story.
A part that witnesses to the sweet faithfulness of God.

You can't tell me God doesn't answer prayer.

I know He does.

So here's my less than 1,000 words.

Five years ago, my third child was born.
She joined two siblings, neither of which were old enough to begin Kindergarten.

Motherhood was kicking my butt.
My husband and I were adjusting to zone defense at home.
My expectations were too high.
My tools for everyday survival were dangerously low.
The chasm between those two felt like the Grand Canyon.
I was being swallowed up.
Expectation and reality lie at opposite ends of the continuum.
And to add insult to injury, 
I. was. exhausted.
Children do that.
So do transitions.

Our church was transitioning too.
We were without a senior pastor,
leaving my husband as the only pastor on staff.
At the point our third child was born, 
we were entering the second year void of senior pastoral leadership.

Ministry was kicking my butt.
People's expectations were unreasonable.
The tools passed on to us for navigating these uncertain waters were minimal.
The chasm between those two felt like watching an endless horizon while at sea.

This was a time of great darkness.
I was struggling emotionally.
My husband was struggling.
Some people were constantly challenging, complaining, criticizing, thinking the worst.
Nothing seemed good enough. Fast enough. Effective enough.

My husband was getting beat up.
My husband was held responsible but not given authority.
My faith brothers and sisters seemed more like rivals than teammates.
Fingers were pointed.
Trust was breached.
Hurt happened.
Defenses went up.

And I did what any sleep-deprived, ministry wife who had just delivered their third child would do.
I shrank into myself.
I walled my heart up.
I pulled away from relationships.
Relationships were, after all, the reason I was experiencing so much pain.

I couldn't take another blasted second of any of it.
Unable to deal with the demands of three small children.
Watching my husband bleed before my eyes while I scrambled to find a tourniquet.

Each morning, when I'd wake up, I would cringe at having to face the day.
I would pray that I could just face it with my family and not have to see anyone else.
Especially at the church.
Because the church didn't feel safe.
The church was inflicting pain, not relieving it.

I was a mess.
And not the kind of mess that looks bad but can easily be cleaned up in 20 minutes.
That's my kitchen. Or my bathroom.
No, I was a MESS.
Loads of emotional baggage. Years of believing lies and seeing God for who He wasn't.
Shattered illusions of my life lay in shards at my feet.
I was a free-falling, fear-clutching, faith-questioning mess.

And then I made one of the best decisions of my life.
I went to counseling.
I still see that decision as grace.
I was in so much pain I couldn't see straight
but God allowed me to get to a brown leather couch
so I could spill it all.
Everything pent up, shut out, holed up, breathed in, spewed out.

And little step by little step, 
I began to walk through this desert time.
And at some point in the six months I sat on that couch, 
I began to whisper a prayer.
A prayer I didn't fully understand in the middle of my pain.
A hope beyond what I was able to accomplish.
A God-sized circle as Mark Batterson calls it.

Father, give me a love for your people again.

It was one of those prayers you love and hate simultaneously.
I knew it was right. I knew it was the way of health.
I could remember days of feeling the love for those who currently felt like enemies.
I wanted it again.
But to get there?
That would require the hard work of forgiveness.
and self study.
and God study.
It would require a re-assembling of my faith that still felt fragile and immensely private.
But I prayed it anyway.

Father, give me a love for your people again.

Counseling lasted six months.
My desert time lasted three and a half years.
182 weeks of relearning truth and reframing my life with that truth.
1,300 days of heart-wrenching realignment to the One who knows me best and loves me most.
30,660 hours to fall in love with the God I thought I knew but only saw in part.

Slowly I walked with Jesus out of that pit.
Each new statement of belief,
each lie rebuked, 
each day faced, 
each moment lived, 
each fear disarmed, 
each injury pardoned, 
each person affirmed,
formed a step that I placed all my weight upon
and lifted me closer to freedom. 

And two months ago, 
when our congregation was facing turmoil
and transition threatened to resurface, 
and some were revealing the uglier sides of their nature,
I realized something.

Two months ago, 
when my heart for God's church was marked by
I recognized one, singular, glorious fact.

God had answered my prayer.
He had restored a love for His people.
My pain, my hurt, my injury
absorbed by Him
and in it's place...
new love, 
greater love.

My arms were opened for embrace
and not closed to brace for retaliation.
My eyes could see the potential for growth
and not the potential for ruin.

God had answered my prayer.
And I am overwhelmed.
And abundantly grateful.
All for His glory and for His purposes.

No comments:

Post a Comment