Midnight Conversations by the Lake

Photo: Sarah Bessey, Pinterest

Photo: Sarah Bessey, Pinterest

A young woman sits down on a log by the lake at sunset. All quiets down like a halcyon decrescendo. Birds fly into their nests. The colors in the sky fade to those pinky-purpley colors that you have a mere ten minutes to catch before they’re gone. And now the sun’s final curvature has sunk beneath the edge of the horizon. It’s been a long year full of hard challenges and changes. But she is all alone out here and takes advantage of this one-on-one time with the evening stars. She looks up to the Heavens and whispers out loud in a trembling voice, “Are you there?” Silence. Crickets- literally crickets. “What did you expect, you fool?” She tells herself angrily, crestfallen hands covering a face warm with tears. “What do you even want from me, anyway!?” She implores the night sky, burnt out, unsure if she even has the energy to give whatever the universe would request should the universe answer back. She shakes her clenched fists indignantly at the darkness until she notices the soft, glowing moon. An urge from inside causes her to want to release her hands, open her palms, in tune with the warm summer breeze blowing between her fingers. A soft, warm, steady presence enters in.

“It’s me,” the presence whispers. “The same me who’s been here all along. All this time I’ve been begging you to lift your gaze my way, but instead you’ve buried it in your job, you’ve buried it in your calendar, in ticking clocks and reminders. In to-do lists, in fears, in worries, and in a fog that I’ve been trying to get you out of. And so that’s why we’re here. Here out in the open. Where the moon and stars are your only light; where soft breezes blow against tall grasses. I’ve been trying to get your attention and it seems as though this would be the only way.”

“And so you want to know what I want from you, my love? I’ll tell you what I want.

I want for you to start by telling me that you’ll look up at the stars once in a while when you get caught up in your worries and fears about the future. Then tell me how you can possibly feel trapped when the sky is so open, so free?

Tell me you will let yourself fall in love without fear or hesitation.

Tell me you’ll do all the things you’d want to do if you didn’t feel afraid.

Tell me you’ll stop saying how much you hate when others see you cry, sometimes. Because it can unconsciously give others the permission they never needed to feel the most visceral of life’s emotions.

Tell me you’ll be the one to tell all your friends and family what you love about them and thank them for what they’ve taught you- and that you won’t wait for them to do so first. Because some people aren’t used to expressing their truest feelings and your honesty can help them open up the parts of their souls that always wanted to come through into the atmosphere, no longer bound in prison’s cobwebs.

Tell me when you mess up in public or stumble over words that you won’t beat yourself up and remember that in the process, you alleviate others’ fears of messing up publicly because they’ll see it wasn’t so bad and recognize that none of us are perfect.

Tell me that you will believe in the power of doing these things once the sun’s come up, that you’ll believe this conversation actually happened. That you won’t step into tomorrow the same way you did all those hard exhausting days before.

That’s all I want for right now. I know we’ll be back to this place one day soon, my love. Find each other at the crossroads of depleted resolve just before it meets with the intersection of grace and beauty. Or perhaps we’ll find each other out here by the lake in the daytime, at sunrise. You’ll see how all of this mess, all of the hard turns, all of the question marks had to happen. You’ll see how strong you became, how open your heart has swelled, and feel proud of your journey- that you lived the question marks in order to find their sweet exclamations; that they really did create a path, not just a cornered maze with no way out. And when we meet again by the water, you can tell me how well you think you did. And I will take you by both your hands, look you in the eye and say I love you. Because no matter how knotty and twisted the arrival, surely goodness and mercy will follow…

Photo: Sarah Bessey, Pinterest

Photo: Sarah Bessey, Pinterest

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God is Not a Genie ((And Other Thoughts on Healing))

“There isn’t anything God can’t do!” “God the mighty healer!” “God renews, transforms!” “We are made into a new creation- behold!- the old has gone and the new has come.”

Sound familiar?
These are awesome truths about our God.

But they can’t be taught in a vacuum.

Knowing these truths alone won’t change you. Neither will praying them.

Because God is not a Genie.

No. Leave that for the blue guy in Aladdin, who sings “I’m here to answer all your midday prayers. You got me bona fide, certified. You got a genie for your chare d’affaires. I got a powerful urge to help you out.” (Feel free to sing along to the rest of “Friend Like Me,” all you Disney kids of the 90s out there.)

Instead of a Genie, we have the maker of the universe who calls us into maturity, who heals, restores, renews, refreshes our souls.

But how?

How, exactly, does God heal us? Grow us? Change us?

Because maybe you’ve been praying for God to “change you,” to “heal you,” or, perhaps in your most desperate moments, shouted out a dire, “Fix me! [Now!].” And you might still be sitting there. Waiting to “get healed,” “get fixed,” “be whole.”  And you’ve realized that either God’s not who he says he is, and he really isn’t in the business of healing, or he is and you just never got the message that there’s something for God to do…. and there’s something for you to do, too.

You see, we can wish and pray away our desires for healing, for change, for wholeness, while the rest of the world, so it seems, is getting healed, experiencing the hallelujah, walking in Shalom, while you’re off in your room feeling jipped, wondering where your burning bush is, only to realize you’ve been wondering around in the Sahara and there’s no shrubbery in sight. Just you. And God. ((And plenty of sand)).

Why doesn’t God just wave a magic God wand over us and fix us?
That might be nice, and a heck of a lot easier. But it wouldn’t allow us to experience faith.

Not the “if you just believe hard enough, sincerely enough, and pray long enough, you’ll get healed” faith.

But the kind of faith that has to go through something; go through a journey. Because if all we had to do was pray some prayer and our problems would absolve, that wouldn’t really be faith, right? It would be magic.

Why hasn’t God healed you yet?
Because he has a journey to take you through.
Yes, He wants to go on a journey with you.

Will you go?
Will you sign yourself up?

It’s not an easy one, but it’s worth the risk; it’s worth the pain; it’s worth the discomfort.

Perhaps it might look something like this:

First, you might come out from under the covers and ask the God of Light to come walk you through this darkness.

Then it might look like digging back into your past and uncovering the broken pieces that look really scary. I know the edges look sharp, but go on, see what’s really there. You might discover too that, “the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

Because somewhere on your journey, you might uncover all the parts of yourself that you don’t want to see: the part of you that stuffs your emotions, that doesn’t voice your questions, that’s looked the other way for so long because the second you stare at reality face-to-face, your eyes well up with tears of shame. Hang in there. Ask for forgiveness. Not just from God. But from others. Not just from others, but from yourself. And give yourself some grace.

Somewhere on your journey, you might find yourself outstretched on the floor, pen in hand, journaling, and feel a sense of depravity come over you as you are reminded once again that we can’t do life alone. We need humans. And human relationships are messy and vulnerable. Again. Throw on some grace, (wo)man.

Somewhere on your journey, you might cry. Not just those couple of stray tears that sometimes leak when you yawn real wide, but the kind that are guttural, coming from the soul, not holding anything back as you lament into the comfort of Christ’s arms. You might cry in front of people, too. Or in a counseling office. Or in public, on a day when some slight thing brings back a memory, and suddenly you realize you’re in a long line at some store or in some office and people are staring at you and that’s ok; they don’t understand yet because they haven’t tried to explore the deep seas of their insides yet. And when they do, they’ll wish that the people around them weren’t staring, but instead, respected your moment, perhaps showing just a little extra kindness, like holding the door open for you on your way out.

Somewhere on your journey, you might laugh. Seriously. You might be on the phone with that awesome friend, spilling your guts to him or her, and it might occur to you in hindsight how ridiculous something you did actually was, or laugh at the dumb things that used to upset you, or make some joke at your serious circumstance, somehow capable of finding laughter in an otherwise stir-crazy, disheartening, painful situation.

You might sing. Whether it’s something worship-y, like singing “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” at Church one Sunday, grateful for the dimmed lights because the whole time your soul is unfettered in the hands of Christ, moved, free, tears collecting in the corners of your eyes, confident that no matter how rough it gets, you’ll still be there, standing, and so will your Maker. Or maybe you’ll sing “(Wo)Man In The Mirror,” rolling the car windows down, looking at the guy on your left while idled at a red light, and sing out with a hearty key change, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change. You gotta get it right, while you got the time ’cause when you close your heart then you close your mind!”

So there’s some looking back to move forward, there’s divulging all the secret parts that you’d rather leave in their caverns, unexplored. There’s some two steps backwards. There’s some trying again. There’s some rewinding. There’s some tears. There’s some prayers. There’s facing some fears.

But without a doubt, if we take the necessary steps to stare at our hurts, our pains, all without running away… if we poke around at what it was really like growing up in our families of origin, to confess a burning secret to someone you’ve never told, to reach out to that distant person you love so much but don’t even know where to start because it’s been such a broken journey… if we do this dirty work instead of hiding behind our paltry prayers, we will, indeed, experience the great healing of our God and echo along with Joel, that we also know God will be true to his word when he says,

“I will restore the years the locusts have taken.”

Amen.
Allelujah.
We’ve made out better than a Genie.
We’ve experienced Shalom.

Credit: Sarah Bessey, pinterest

Credit: Sarah Bessey, pinterest

The Paradoxical Sting (Prayer of Forgiveness)

Give us clean hands, Oh God,

But, like a child who falls down on hard ground,
scraping his/her hands,
dirt and dried blood disrupting
the smoothness of our open palms,
and learns that part of fixing up our wounds
is that awful, stinging, first aid antiseptic
that cleans our cuts,
accepting that we have to add more sting to our stings
in order for them not to sting anymore,

May we, too, realize
That our hands can only truly be made clean
When feel the sting
of our actions,
When we recognize the consequences
of our mangled webs we’ve trapped ourselves in,
When we feel the weight of what we’ve done
or hurt we’ve caused
Or verbalize all the secret truths about ourselves
we try to repress…

When we confess to God,
To those we’ve wronged,
and to ourselves

When we allow ourselves to hear,
taste, and feel the anodyne forgiveness of our God

When we allow ourselves to humbly take in
and receive grace in the forgiveness
of another human being,
the very one, in fact, we’ve wronged

When we, in turn, let such forgiveness
simmer down deep
into the parts of our souls still drenched in shame,
and finally make peace with ourselves through forgiveness,

Then, and perhaps only then, will we experience
the allelujah of being washed clean
,
Our broken pieces made whole
Our scrapes, healed,
Our hearts, resolved.
Our harried minds, resoluted,
Our souls, in holy peace.

Amen.

copyright MO 2012